Category Archives: Meet the Maker

Meet the Maker: Kerry Butterworth

What’s your most interesting item in your studio? 

My sketch book

I spend a lot of my time drawing, painting and sketching. My sketchbook is my diary where I can express my mind.

Who are your craft heroes?

I admire many, however my all time hero is actually a fashion designer, Alexander McQueen.

I love how he used his medium to create wearable pieces of art, the beauty in how he constructs his garments, and how he rebels against the rules of tradition.

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What have you got coming up?

Before I started the cultivated programme, I was really eager to run my own workshops, as it has always been something I have been interested in. I love helping people and sharing my passion. As an emerging designer I see it as my duty to give back to the next generation of makers in the hope of keeping craft alive.

I have recently been sketching some ideas, with the help of Jennifer who has really encouraged and supported my ideas. So watch this space.

Have you got a favourite book? What are you reading at the moment?

Whenever I do get the time to read its something dramatic like The Hunger Games, which really gets your blood pumping.

I live through my eyes.

Although reading isn’t at the top of my to do list flicking through Vogue/ Elle magazine is. Its something I love on a personal level, but it is also fed into my practice by storing visual information and being trend aware.

Have you got a favourite film?

I am a crazy Disney fanatic, so any film that’s Disney is already my favourite film. I couldn’t possibly choose a favourite but up at the top has to be ‘Tangled’. I love her rebellious behaviour, how far she pushes herself to get her dream, and of course the hair! Who doesn’t want her hair? And who wouldn’t love a friend like pascal?

Where would you most like to see your work exhibited? 

I have always looked at the V & A and I recently had the opportunity to work alongside a senior lecturer Jo Horton. Jo is a electro-chemical textile specialist who asked me to design and make some ‘couture beads’ for her garments which will be exhibited next year at the V & A museum.

So although this has given me a taster of what it could be like, if I am successful this will be one of my long term goals.

Here’s your chance to get on your soapbox – is there anything that makes you angry or frustrated within the world of craft?

I love the world of craft and most importantly  quirky characters you come across within it. However what does sometimes upset me the is when/if people don’t understand or appreciate the value of the work. The time, design and hours spent into making the piece by hand are sometimes underestimated.

Do you ever question what you’re doing?

I constantly question what I am doing and always think ‘am I doing enough’ ‘could I be doing more’ confidence is one of my biggest battles. I find reflection time is what helps me battle through these thoughts, something that Iain Perry (print garage) has demonstrated the importance of.

I reflect by picking out the positives, as opposed to the negatives which I find myself doing a lot of. This could be re thinking all the things I have achieved. Focussing on the good qualities in a piece of work, and being more constructive about the areas I don’t like and looking at how I can improve it.

What’s so special about the materials you use?

I see myself as an artist who has taken the path of a jeweller. This is why my work is so experimental and I able to express myself through the marks of my hammer and the unpredictability of the enamel.

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What you do to take time out and relax?

don’t often relax as i am somewhat of a social butterfly. If I do have some spare time it usually drives me crazy because i am so used to being up and on the go all the time.

However my idea of ‘time out’ is out shopping, socialising and exercising. But most importantly going on walks where my eyes are free to wonder, pulling inspiration from all around me. Which is one that never fails to make me look crazy for being over obsessed by that crumpled up leaf on the floor, or some fungi on a tree.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

My greatest achievement so far is being recognised by Jennifer and Iain who have taken me on as a graduate for there cultivated programme.

My degree was a very difficult time for me where I was always left feeling unsure on what I was doing. Jennifer and Iain have given me so much confidence within my work and finding my feet to start growing as maker and not be scared to be different.

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MEET THE MAKER: CHARLIE BIRTLES

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Charlie began her six month placement on the Cultivated programme back in September. She produces conceptual pieces, often wearable, from readymade elements influenced by her interactions with found objects. Two months into the programme, we sat down to find out more about her influences and ambitions.

What’s your most interesting item in your studio?

I couldn’t pick out just one interesting item in my studio, rather a collection of tools and prompts during my making process which I find interesting…

My cutting mat – not for the purpose you’d think. The grid-like structure upon the mat acts almost as a frame for a composition of my ideas; bits and bobs, fragments, and works in progress.

My peg – it shows the marks and scars of craftsmanship. All the marks are individual to the needs of each of my pieces; the right angle to file that down, the right hole to enable that cut.

My ‘found’ shelf – a collection of all the bits and bobs I have found along the way; some directly relevant, others just intriguing, others “naff” and unusual.

Who are your craft heroes?

I’m drawn to quite a variety of craft practitioners.

The work of Hans Stofer has been key in the development of my own creative practice. Rather than defining himself by his training and skills, he presents himself as a ‘creative thinker’ which ultimately influences his output, whether it be jewellery, objects or compositions. His thought process is the key to defining his practice, creating an intrigue about his odd pieces, which for me justifies ways of working such as my own.

I love the variety of work from Lin Cheung. I recently purchased her new book Tomfoolery, an insight into the making of her portfolio of jewellery and objects over the past ten years; it’s a beautifully inspiring book. The most resonant chapter for me is a screen shot of a series of email correspondence Lin had sent between herself and Caroline Broadhead; the conversations are really quite frank and completely hit the nail on the head with the constant doubts and quibbles you have whilst developing a creative practice.

I also love the work of Stuart Cairns. His visual language between photographic snapshots of wanderings, drawings and objects is so beautifully clear, not to mention his stunning objects – the beauty of the found. I’m taking real inspiration from seeing his work in our current Language of Objects exhibition here at Unit Twelve.

Is there anything that makes you frustrated within the craft world?

I get slightly frustrated at the emphasis on traditional craft techniques. ‘Craft’ is suceedingly more blurred within the boundaries of art and design. The preservation of traditional techniques is important, but I don’t feel craft should be pigeon-holed as being backward-thinking and old fashioned. Traditional techniques should inform the making, but thought is equally, if not more so, important to give integrity to the work.

When I was studying, I constantly read all the papers published by the European initiative ‘ThinkTank’, following on from the exhibition and discussions they held each year from 2005-2010. They held some really prominent yet varying debates on skill, value, time in regards the applied arts. The articles proved as real food for thought for me.

Where would you most like your work to be exhibited?

Although my pieces make reference to the everyday, I feel they work best in a gallery environment. Placing them in such a space, I think, changes our perspective on how we view them – we no longer look at them as useful. I like playing with ways of displaying my pieces, creating compositions and landscapes to show a thought process.


What’s so special about the materials you use?

The majority of materials I use are recognisable, everyday objects, deconstructed and used for a new purpose. There’s initially nothing particularly special about the materials themselves, they are often undervalued. It’s my ability to see past this to their potential, as a newly formed beautiful object or composition, to be able to pose this alternative to the viewer.

Do you ever question what you’re doing?

I continually question what I am doing; playing, reflecting, refining. I read regularly around issues and debates in the art/craft field, which often prompts reflection of my own practice and where I sit contextually. My notebook acts as the format of my reflection, posing questions and marking down notes.

What do you do to take time out and relax?

I think I rarely switch off! I do find myself taking photos of odd things even when I’m out and about just because I think it’s a lovely composition.

Have you got a favourite book? What are you reading at the moment? 

Collecting books is my weakness.

I constantly flick through ‘In Flagrante Collecto Caught in the Act of Collecting’. It’s almost an encyclopaedia of various miscellanea, containing all sorts of intriguing objects and collections. I use it as a source of inspiration in appreciating the wonder of everyday objects.

My favourite novel is a charity shop find, ‘If nobody speaks of remarkable things’. It follows the lives of a whole street of individuals over the course of one single day. The language used within it is so thoughtful, poetic, it really emphasises to the reader the wonder of the mundane. I regularly re-read it; I find it provides an escape from my making process to reflect on my inspiration behind it.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

I’d struggle to pick out one main achievement. I’m very proud of what I have achieved since graduating: exhibiting at new designers, showing as part of the Young Meteors at Lustre, being selected for Unit Twelve’s Cultivated programme. It’s all a journey, and a massive learning curve, so I’m not taking any opportunity for granted.

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

No, it’s all a learning process.

What have you got coming up?

Having just showcased as part of the Young Meteors at Lustre, I’ve now got the chance to reflect upon the experience and think about the future of my practice during my remaining time at Unit Twelve on the Cultivated support programme, the conclusion of which will result in a final group exhibition in September 2016 involving all four of us graduates.

 

You can see more of Charlie’s work, and follow her time here at Unit Twelve, on her website www.cbirtles.com

Meet The Maker: Isabel Moseley

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We recently sat down for a quick chat with Isabel Moseley one of our ‘cultivated’ makers to find out a bit more about what she’s been doing, where her inspiration comes from and the things that are important to her.

What’s your most interesting item in your studio?

My 1930’s repeat pattern book. I found it in a throw out box at an antique fair – I think it is very useful and still relevant today – I can’t imagine why anyone would want to get rid of it.


Who are your craft heroes?

The bookbinder Keith Smith is great for inspiration as he is so maverick and original. I also really admire Marthe Armitage for her pattern design and print making – my dream would be to work as her apprentice! But I find inspiration from a wide range of subjects – at the moment I have been researching Issey Miyake’s techniques for creating texture in fabric and also the amazingly beautiful bus stop designs of the Soviet era.


What have you got coming up?

I will be visiting Switzerland later this year where I hope to gain inspiration from the beautiful scenery and people. I think travelling and meeting new people is very important as new environments can act as a great catalyst for ideas. In my experience change is a kind of food for creativity. Also in March I will be showing some work at The Brindley and of course in September I will show work alongside the three other artists taking part in the Cultivated program here at unit twelve.


Have you got a favourite book? What are you reading at the moment?

I’m a big fan of ‘Great Expectations’; I love the idea of a grimy Victorian London. I love to read about how people lived and survived during different eras and in different countries – at the moment I am reading ‘The Pillow Book’ which is a kind of diary written by a lady in waiting during the 10th century in Japan – I find it comforting to know that even a thousand years ago in Japan people had the same thoughts and worries as we do now.

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Have you got a favourite film?

It is very difficult to choose – I like old films where directors have had to be creative about achieving the special effects. Older films are so much more physical and full of texture I especially enjoyed ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ staring Boris Karloff as the monster, the lighting and costumes where brilliant.


Where would you most like to see your work exhibited?

At the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice! It’s my favourite museum as it’s so gloomy and atmospheric and is more like an archival house of art and design than a museum. Like many buildings in Venice it has been allowed to crumble and reveal all the layers inside which I find fascinating. Mariano Fortuny had a wide and eclectic interest in the arts and created among many things, a new lighting technique that allowed the stage to look as if it were experiencing all different kinds of weather.


Here’s your chance to get on your soapbox – is there anything that makes you angry or frustrated within the world of craft?

Coming from a Fine Art background I am aware that sometimes the word ‘craft’ can have some negative connotations and crafts people are considered differently to artists but I think the crossover between art and craft is huge. We can learn a lot from each other regarding skills and ideas and the two worlds are merging constantly. Last year I visited ‘Collect’ at the Saatchi Gallery, which showcased artwork by some extremely talented crafts people and designers – it was very inspiring and I hope to reach that calibre one day!


Do you ever question what you’re doing?

Of course, at every turn. But questions often lead to interesting solutions.


What’s so special about the materials you use?

The reason I love paper so much is because it won’t last; it is fragile and easily destroyed, it will always show how old it is and the strain time has taken on it. In that way it is a very honest material.

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What do you do to take time out and relax?

I like to walk – anywhere really through cities or through the countryside. It helps me to leave behind things that were worrying or stressing me and just be in the moment.


Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Yes of course but I think it’s essential to accept he decisions you have made so far and not be too hard on your younger self. After all you learn from your mistakes and it’s equally important to know what you don’t want to do, as it is to know what you do want. Everything I have done so far has impacted me positively and I try to learn as much as I can from new experiences.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

Living and working in Florence for two months last year was a very challenging experience as I didn’t know anyone and didn’t have a firm grasp of the language, which made things very difficult. I had worked in Italy before but this is the first time I really had to engage with locals. I learnt a lot from my placement at Il Papiro where I assisted with binding books and making marbled paper and I’m grateful for the experience. I don’t like things to be too easy and enjoy taking on new challenges in life, even if at the time it can seem quite stressful.

You can see more of Isabel’s amazing work at http://www.isabelmoseley.co.uk/ or if you’re on Instagram follow her there: https://instagram.com/brontidebooks/

And her work will be showcased later on this year as part of the ‘cultivated’ exhibition at Unit Twelve 3rd – 26th September http://unittwelve.co.uk/exhibitions.htm

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Meet the Maker: Aimee Bollu

We spent a bit of time recently chatting to one of our ‘Cultivated’ makers, Aimee Bollu. Aimee joined our programme in September and has settled in nicely – gradually filling her space with lots of unusual items; some weather beaten and broken, some lost and now found – all of them inspiration and soon to be part of her work.

What’s your most interesting item in your studio?
The most interesting object I keep in the studio is my Aladdin pink paraffin container. I like it because of the subtle colour and the charm and character it holds. I enjoy having objects around me that have no use other than to be enjoyed visually.

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Who are your craft heroes?
I’m slightly obsessed with Stuart Cairns, a silversmith who combines found objects with precious metals. He creates artefacts, that hint at the function of tools and domestic objects and does the most beautiful drawings with watercolours. I love following him on instagram, I get to see where he goes walking for his finds and wish I was there too.
I also respect hugely the other makers that I graduated with, they inspire me and are so forward thinking in their approaches to making – the cohort of graduates from Decorative Arts are a real community and I’m excited to be part of a fresh group of craft heroes of the future.

What have you got coming up?
Most of the shows I was included in this year have come to an end and I’m now focusing on developing the collection I graduated with specifically for my time at Unit Twelve. I am creating a collection for the Cultivated exhibition next year that will be exploring scale and objects found solely on the site of the studio and gallery. I’m really interested to see what happens to the aesthetic of the work based on the vernacular of the surroundings.

Have you got a favourite book? What are you reading at the moment?
I find it impossible to read a book more than once normally, but Wabi – Sabi by Leonard Koren is a beautiful book I dip in and out of all the time. To quote the book ‘Wabi – Sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional.’
Im currently reading about Kintsugi, a Japanese technique of repairing broken ceramics with a lacquer filled with real gold, to add value back to something that may be perceived as waste. This is something I recently explored in my own work – instead of precious materials such as gold I continued to use non-valued materials such as latex to promote the breaks in the vessel.

 

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Have you got a favourite film?

Dancer in the Dark – a striking film about Selma (played by Bjork – who I adore) who is slowly going blind. During her day to day life, which is filled with boring, mundane tasks, Selma day-dreams and imagines the ordinary circumstances and people around her erupt into elaborate musical theatre numbers. Most of the songs are Bjork’s and feature the use of a noise from daily life such as factory machines buzzing. The film appeals to me creatively and also comforts – I don’t think I’m meant to work in a job that doesn’t stimulate me. A job that just goes through the motions, this film captures that beautifully.

Where would you most like to see your work exhibited?
Since the Decorative Arts graduation show in June, the Hoard has had a really exciting tour through different UK and international venues which I am really proud of, but I think something I am really excited to make happen is to see my work exhibited in locations other than galleries – the spaces in our landscape that have been forgotten, abandoned and left into disrepair.

Here’s your chance to get on your soapbox – is there anything that makes you angry or frustrated within the world of craft?
No not really! I do feel there is a strong amount of negative connotations relating to the word ‘craft’, and ‘decorative arts’, which I’ve encountered a fair amount of bad representation for in the past few years, but I believe my practice is what I make it and doesn’t have to fit in the paradigm of traditional connotations of a label. Why do we need to label what we do? Can we not exist in different contexts simultaneously?

Do you ever question what you’re doing?
Always! It’s an integral part of my process of making. It can mean I can be counter-productive though. The first seedlings of my practice came from questioning why we make, what purpose it has in society and why we feel the need to decorate or create beauty.

What’s so special about the materials you use?
There is nothing special or valuable in the materials I use – they are conventional and mundane but utilised in an exciting fresh way. I value the found objects I collect but the real beauty comes from the combinations of the found and the made.

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What you do to take time out and relax?
Find. Collect. Gather. Bathe. Sing. Sleep. In this order, and then repeat.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?
This question is so difficult to answer! I don’t view my life by the scale of my achievements that peak at the top as ‘the best’, I view my life as a long linear path. I’m moving forward with momentum, each step builds to the next success and I learn something from it, even from the things that went wrong. Every achievement adds to where I am now, so I can only say I’m proud to be here, in the now.

You can see more of Aimee’s work here and you can also see her growing collection of work in her studio space at Unit Twelve.
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Meet the Maker: Emily Notman

We kick off a new series, ‘Meet the Maker’, where we buttonhole one of our makers or exhibitors to reveal a little bit of themselves via some good old Q&A.  Starting us off is Emily Notman.  Emily graduated from the University of  Cumbria in 2011 with a 1st Class BA Honours Degree in Contemporary Applied Arts – specialising in Ceramics, Embroidery and Printed Textiles and has already set up in business as a freelance maker, renting a workspace at Unit Twelve.

You can view more of Emily’s work via her website and purchase items from her online shop at madebyhandonline.com

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What’s your most interesting item in your studio?

I have lots of things in my studio that I treasure; these include things I have collected over the years. The most interesting items are probably shells, jars and tins that I use to store my haberdashery. I have a rusty set of fish jelly moulds that I brought from a vintage fair once – I love them. If the studio was on fire I would grab them first and probably my knitting needles!


What have the highs been so far? And have there been any lows?

Jennifer Collier asking me to exhibit my work in the ‘Spring Loaded’ exhibition at Unit Twelve, which led to running workshops and seeing my pieces next to some of my favourite makers. Definitely being selected for madebyhand.com, I was that excited I ran around the house.


Who are your craft heroes?

My Mum and my Aunty Yvonne – both had small craft based businesses, without them giving me scissors and glue at an early age I probably wouldn’t be a full time maker now.

I would say these people changed how I perceived craft as I was studying so in my eyes they are my heroes: Manon Gignoux, Anna Dove, Elizabeth Addyman, Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

I will always see Jennifer Collier as a hero for Unit Twelve, which has shaped my future as a maker and for being an amazing mentor as well as an inspiring business woman.


What have you got coming up?

I have got a busy Christmas season coming up: I will be at the Country Living Christmas Fair, Harrogate, the first weekend in December. I now have an event every weekend up until then and hopefully will take some time out from orders in January to develop some installations and a ceramic range.

Why did you set up at Unit Twelve?

I met Jennifer Collier at the BCTF, it was by chance that my family where just moving back to the Staffordshire area and after graduating I did too. I had already visited and fallen in love with the place. It was such an inspiring galley and embraced everything a gallery should be, it was a far cry from the galleries I had visited whilst studying. Not only did it exhibit the county’s leading makers it is also a working studio space. Luckily within a month of moving home after graduating, a studio space became available. I knew I wanted to make full time and take a risk at starting up a business. I moved in and gave myself a year, now – ten months later things are busy. I still pinch myself every time I open the door to the studio or walk through the gallery to make a cup of tea.


Have you got a favourite book? What are you reading at the moment?

My favourite books are Alice in Wonderland, Wuthering Heights, Where the Wild Things Are and 1984.

At the moment I am reading One Day by David Nicholls. I don’t get much chance to read; I am either knitting or stitching in bed – reading is a treat!


Have you got a favourite film?

I couldn’t choose just one! The Piano, Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, Control and Across the Universe.


Where would you most like to see your work exhibited?

I would love to see my work in Selvedge magazine, I used to read Selvedge when I was studying at Leeds Art College, I was the only student in my group that was interested in Applied Art rather than print so I would bury myself in the back issues of it. Selvedge was the first place I found makers like Manon Gignoux and Anna Dove that inspired me to develop colour theory and mixing mediums.


Here’s your chance to get on your soapbox – is there anything that makes you angry or frustrated within the world of craft?

I think it is important for people to understand the difference between being inspired by a maker and copying their work. It’s heartbreaking to see one of your designs being produced and sold by someone else when it is your livelihood. The making community is competitive but also very supportive close knit group of people, we all interact through social media and at events so it’s key to push your own ideas down a different route to existing/established crafts people in order to be fresh, ground breaking and succeed.

I feel a true artist is someone that comes up with their own ideas and not copies someone else.


Do you ever question what you’re doing?

I don’t ever question making but I do worry about being able to earn a living from it. I don’t ever doubt that this is my dream career but the thought of my mortgage depending on it is scary. Our audience at Unit Twelve are very supportive but sometimes when you are at an exhibition or event people’s comments can upset you, you just have to have faith in what you are doing and understand that not every idea can work out – I suppose that is like any job.


What’s so special about the materials you use?

I mix found objects and materials that I collect. It’s the contrast of textures and surfaces that I think makes the materials so special. For example knitting with wire and wrapping shells with bleached fabrics. This is now something I teach in workshops because I think the diversity and manipulation of materials is so interesting and key to a piece.

 

What you do to take time out and relax?

I don’t think you can ever take time out from craft, it’s a way of life as well as something I do for a living. If I’m not making, I’m researching, collecting and visiting fairs, shows and exhibitions.


Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

I wish I had done a business course sooner that I did, it was invaluable. I also wish I had developed what I wanted to at university, I spent a lot of money on materials at university and since being at Unit Twelve I have realised the most exciting and interesting can be found or collected.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

Moving into Unit Twelve, it’s presented so many unbelievable opportunities and now I am in a place that I could only have dreamt of this time last year.
There was a point where someone pointed at my work from afar and said ‘I’m studying her at college’ – that was a wonderful feeling.

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