A look back at Creative Share

Posted on the 30th March 2022


Creative Share was a six month project hosted by Pure Innovations at Vernon Park, Stockport. It’s primary purpose was to bring an artist in residence to our ceramics studio to work alongside the artists we support.

Setting up the residency was motivated by the belief that bringing new people into our studios enriches our day to day experiences, broadens our artists network and provides new opportunities to share and learn. Another motivating factor was that many of the people we support are really talented artists. We wanted to provide them with a professional experience that would push their practice forward through skill sharing and mentoring.

Our studio is based in Vernon Park, an inspiring space in a beautiful setting. Ceramicist Laura Negus joined us as artist in residence and took inspiration from the Plant Collectors Boarder, found in the park when producing her work. The border showcases plants brought over to the UK, and the lengths these plant collectors would go to, often risking their lives to bring seeds and cuttings. Plant matter from the border has been used in these pieces, which then burns away in the firing process leaving a thin shell. Laura has been investigating the forms and techniques used by ceramicists in the countries the plant collectors visited, which have been referenced in her work.

In addition Laura has shared skills with the group and mentored 5 of our artists as they develop their own practice. The creative exchanges between the group and artist in residence have enabled us to try new ways and learn a variety of new techniques. The projects funding enable us to purchase 3 potters wheels which Laura and our artists used through out the project, so as a consequence we now have a better equipped, more professional studio. Working together had enriched both Laura’s and our artist’s practice. Sharing ideas, stories, ways of working, motivating and encouraging each other have lead to a number of exciting discoveries.

Exhibiting our artists work is really important to us and our artists. It challenges some perceptions around who is and who isn’t an artist. It also challenges some of those negative perceptions around what people with a learning disability can and can’t achieve. During this project we were keen to make sure there were opportunities to share work produced by our artists with the wider community. We’ve worked with a couple of really supportive partners during the project who shared these wants – Manchester Museum and Manchester Craft & Design Centre.

Heirlooms, our exhibition at Manchester Museum featured work by all our artists and was created in response to the museum’s Heritage Futures exhibition. To produce this work we started with workshops in the museum that allowed our artists to explore the museum’s collections, handle items and study them. We then continued work in the studio, creating drawings and then producing ceramic artworks that were later exhibited.

Creative Share: Excellent, Exciting Endless Possibilities, our exhibition at Manchester Craft & Design Centre featured work produced by Laura and 5 of our artists; Jenny Hinchcliffe, Dylan Yardley, Sam Bradley, James Kingsford and Emma Slater, who were all mentored by Laura throughout the residency.

The team at Manchester Craft and Design Centre, Laura and our artists approached the exhibition in a really collaborative manner. Laura Feltham from MCDC visited the studio on a number of occasions to get to know the artists and learn about their work. Together they made decisions regarding what to show, how to display it, titles and colour schemes.

During their final planning sessions Pure’s artists visited the centre to decide upon a final layout and a title, each contributing a word that they felt represented the exhibition resulting in Excellent, Exciting, Endless Possibilities.

The exhibition at Manchester Craft and Design Centre is brilliant. They've worked closely with James and the other artists throughout this project and it's provided an opportunity for them all to reach their full potential, and for James, a focus that has been good for his mental health. I'm really proud of him and the work he's made and I'm really pleased with the work Pure have done. They've gone above and beyond to support this group to achieve excellent things.

Julia Kingsford, parent

The relationships formed during this project have enabled us to grow as a studio. Laura very much feels like a part of our story here at Vernon and the team at Manchester Museum and Manchester Craft and Design Centre have also formed strong links with our artists. We don’t want this to be our last residency and hope that practicing artists will see Vernon (and Stockport) as a place where they can engage with opportunities. We now have 5 of our own artists who have developed a body of work that strongly carries their identity and they have a clear vision of how they will continue this work. The residency has brought this clarity. We’d like to explore this further and see more of our artists establishing a creative identity and accessing opportunities where they can share it.

We’d like to say thank you to our partners and funders who’s support has made this project possible. Manchester Museum, who hosted Heirlooms and Manchester Craft and Design Centre, who hosted Creative Share, Excellent, Exciting, Endless Possibilities. MCDC are also hosting a one day workshop, produced in collaboration with Pure Innovations, their artists and artist in residence, Laura negus. The workshop was free and open to artists looking to develop their own socially engaged practice. Creative Share is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

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