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 Vernon/Pure to work alongside the artists we support. This happened in our ceramics studio, a studio that at the time of the project starting was fairly new.

Setting up the residency was motivated by the belief that bringing new people into our studios enriches our day to day experiences (clients and staff), broadens our artists network and provides new opportunities to share and learn. We don’t want to be an insular studio, we want to grow and challenge ourselves and our artist to try new things.

Another motivating factor was that many of the people we support are really talented artists who needed some kind of professional experience to really push their practice forward. Every client we support in our ceramics studio benefitted in one way or another from the residency but 5 of our artists were mentored by Laura and consequently  exhibited at Manchester Craft and Design Centre so for those 5 people that specialist guidance has resulted in significant achievements.

Finally, we wanted a residency because we have a great, inspiring space in a beautiful setting. It’s a great location for a residency and is used by a group or really talented, creative people, so sharing that somehow was something we had been thinking about for a while.  As the studio was pretty new it also helped us establish the space. 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.

Sharing work produced during a project such as this is really important, it’s also something that our artists want and value.  We had 3 exhibitions as a consequence – Laura’s exhibition at Vernon Park, sharing the work she produced during the residency, and exhibition at Manchester Museum and an exhibition at Manchester Craft and Design Centre.

Here’s what Laura had to say during the project:

Artist in residence Laura Negus has been working closely with a group of ceramicists at Vernon Park. The creative exchanges between the group and artist in residence have informed this body of work and have enriched Laura’s practise. Sharing ideas, stories, ways of working, motivating and encouraging each other have lead to exciting discoveries.

This work has been inspired by walks around the park, and an interest in the ‘Edwardian Plant Collectors Boarder’. 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 these works.

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

It was really good. It was nice to see everyone. I think they were impressed by my work. I'd like to exhibit more in the future.

Sam Bradley, artist

The outcomes, the exhibitions and the experiences

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 it was important to us to have a couple of opportunities to share work, and for everyone attending to the studio to be able to engage with this if they wanted to.

We’ve worked with a couple of really supportive partners during the project who shared these wants – Manchester Museum and Manchester Craft & Design Centre. The museum exhibition included all our artists and was created in response to the Museums Heritage Futures exhibition.

This work started with workshops in the museum that allowed our artists to explore the museums collection, handle items and study them. We then continued work in the studio, creating drawings and then producing ceramics works that were later exhibited. Pre-Covid this was intended to be inside but post-Covid we changed this to the window on Oxford Road for maximum visibility. Consequently the exhibition was seen all hours by thousands of people. We did a series of trips with our artists so they could see their work, all of whom were really pleased and proud.

Everything you need to know about Heirlooms is here.

The team at Manchester Craft and Design Centre have approached their exhibition with us in a really collaborative manner. Laura Feltham from MCDC visited the studio on a number of occasions to get to know them and learn about their work. Together Laura and the artists (Jenny Hinchcliffe, Dylan Yardley, James Kingsford, Emma Slater, Sam Bradley and Laura Negus) made decisions regarding what they will show, how it will be displayed, titles and colour schemes.

During their final planning sessions Pure’s artists visited the centre to decide upon a final lay out and a title – Excellent, Exciting, Endless Possibilities, each contributing a word that they felt represented the exhibition which they then arranged to form this title. The final outcome for this work is the workshop mentioned above.

Hopes for the future

The relationships the project has enabled us to develop have become really strong. 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.

I don’t want this to be our last residency, I’d like practicing artists to see Vernon (and Stockport) as a place where they can engage with opportunities. We’ve now got 5 of our own artists who have developed a body of work that strongly carries their identity, they have a clear vision of how they will continue this work and a platform on which to showcase it. The residency has brought this clarity. I’d like us to explore this further with other talented artists who access Pure’s services. To see more of our artists establishing a creative identity and accessing opportunities where they can share it.

Thank you to our partners and funders

Our partners have been Manchester Museum who hosted our Heirlooms exhibition and Manchester Craft and Design Centre who are hosting our Creative Share, Excellent, Exciting, Endless Possibilities exhibition.

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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