Posy Jowett: my favourite creative onion

Creative people are just like onions…..layers and layers – lots of hidden talents, surprises and so much more than what you see on the surface. The biggest onion I’ve met this year has to be artist, creative and all round megababe Posy Jowett.

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I had the absolute pleasure of working with Posy during Juice Festival – on face value, Posy works at Northern Stage and is a dream working with children, facilitating creative activity.  And then (remember she’s an onion) as part of Juice – Posy had  been commissioned to create re-imaginings in a graphic exhibition showcasing partners, venues and people and it was bliddy fantastic. Jaw dropping amazing – I was blown away! Flash forward to our Juice Festival Culture Camp and Posy drawing an amazing lobster illustration….. it was a really beautiful piece. We all know how furiously jealous I am of people who can draw……

And THEN, it pops up on social media a few weeks ago, sneaky creative Posy was launching her new crafty and creative business; Pocketful of Posy. Posy now sells beautiful hand made product and animals – the attention to detail is immense and I really need more of my friends to have babies so that I can purchase these soft little creatures.

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That’s what I mean about creative people – onions. Posy – working in performing arts and theatre, strong skill set in creative facilitation with children, brilliant graphic designer, naturally talented illustrator and now, a crafty business person designing and sell products. She’s an onion.

So i caught up with Posy recently to find out more about Pocketful of Posy and what is next for this creative onion in 2018…..

Hi Posy, so tell me a bit about yourself?

Well, I have a background in Fine Art – I studied in Sheffield – and have always loved making things. Since moving back to the North East to study for my MA in Cultural Heritage Management, I have worked in a few different roles but missed making things with my hands. I do a little bit of everything; knitting, crochet, pottery, illustration, digital design, lino printing… and now sewing.

Tell me about your brand spanking new creative business – you sneakily launched it and I love the name Pocketful of Posy!

When my sister in law was pregnant with my nephew, Leo, I wanted to make her and her new family a handmade gift. I always over-gift (I love giving presents) and so in addition to the crochet baby blanket I spent hours making I decided to make the new baby a toy. I rummaged through the boxes of craft things that I hoard at home and found a pair of jeans that didn’t fit anyone and one of my boyfriend’s striped shirts that he didn’t wear any more – and they became the first whale.

A mutual friend, Bryony Villiers-Stuart asked that I make her a whale because she loved Leo’s so much, so I made another. This Autumn out of the blue, I had a phone call from Bryony to say she was putting together an ethical makers collective to exhibit and sell work in Hexham this winter, and asked if I would make some soft toys, like the whales, to sell. So I started drawing and trying out designs for my animals, and have ended up with a collection! It’s literally the last week or so that I’ve begun to think that maybe this is a business that I can keep going, so I’ve created Pocketful of Posy.

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I love your products – very lush and special.

I love them too! I am totally dedicated to reducing my carbon footprint and one of the ways I do that is to not buy new clothes. I watched an incredible documentary a couple of years ago, The True Cost, which really influenced the way I think about where I spend my money. I try really hard to shop in charity shops and to buy vintage, and to buy handmade and local where I can. All of my animals are made from repurposed fabrics – I shrink woolen jumpers and scarves in the washing machine to make wool felt for my bears and three of the killer whales are made from a pair of French Connection velvet trousers! This means that there is always a limited number of animals I can make of each fabric. The size of the animals are determined by the clothes I buy from charity shops, and I love that about the pieces. So far I have designed patterns for a snow bear, a grizzly bear, a blue whale, an orca and a fox.

What is the inspiration behind it all?

I think mostly I really adore making things for people. I love gifting beautiful objects to my friends and family, I love making people happy. Particularly at this time of year, I think we all get caught up in buying a lot of plastic rubbish that doesn’t last and is bad for the environment, and I think it’s great to offer an alternative to that for customers. The designs for this collection of animals is inspired by the north and the sea – creatures that survive and thrive in the wind and the snow.

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I’m super jealous about real makers and crafty folk – how did you hone your craft?

I can’t remember learning how to use a sewing machine but my mum always had one and would let me play with it. I became much better when my sister Minty taught me how to repair holes in jeans – I spent hours patching up my boyfriend’s jeans that were ripped to shreds! I realised that it was easy enough to make gentle alterations and mends to clothes, so I became more and more familiar with my sewing machine.

The main skill, though, once you’ve learned how to thread a machine, is patience. I am a very patient person and am able to sit for hours doing really boring jobs. Sewing well, I have found, is all about the preparation – pressing, marking and pinning. If you make a mistake, painstakingly picking out stitches without tearing the fabric is a challenge! When I’m tired or grumpy and rush my work it never turns out as well because I make silly mistakes. I think all crafters will say that the more hours you put into your craft, the better you get. Making your craft space a nice place to work means you will want to put in more hours.

I also saw your amazing design work – I was blown away by your style! How did you learn to do that?

Thank you! When I was studying in Sheffield I was part of an exhibition curation team, and we designed an exhibition called Fabricate held at Millennium Galleries in the city centre. We had reached a dead end with designing a flyer so I made some drawings and scanned them in. I opened them on Pages (Apple’s version of Word) and somehow figured out that I could draw a line and bend it, like you can on Photoshop.

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I have never had Photoshop on my laptop, but I found I could make these drawings on my computer using this free software. It’s basically tracing — I take an image that already exists and draw shapes on top of it to make a digital image. Again, patience is the skill — the drawings can take a long time to create and you have to just be able to work away at it and not get bored.

Who/what inspires you?

People that work from home! I’ve found it hard to get in a routine and not be distracted by house jobs. And it’s quite isolating – not like when you go into work and get to see and talk to all different kinds of people. So to the people who have figured that out: I have loads of respect for you! I think social media is hard work sometimes but I find loads of inspiration online – there is the world’s community of makers showing you that it can be done. Closer to home, I’m really lucky to know a few talented makers who don’t compromise their values and still manage to make some money. Hurray!

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What does 2018 hold for you Posy?

Scary question. Well I’ve got a busy few weeks making softies for Graft pop up in Hexham (open until 22nd December!)  I’ve hardly thought about next year! I do feel like there is potential here to continue making these little animals, which would be amazing — I feel like they are my thing that no-one else does. So I suppose there will be some research time — I think I need to figure out how to work from home, or else find a studio; as well as searching for opportunities to sell my work. I have another small business, Grow to Glow, which makes and sells natural skincare products — my business partner Pia has just gone on maternity leave so I will be looking after that project for a while too. I’ll be doing some design work for packaging and working on a range of healing balms — so I think 2018 is all about making and creating.

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Posy Jowett – creative onion and megababe. Posy – artist, creative, designer, maker, graphic designer, crafter, illustrator and also skin care brand creater….

Posy my absolute favourite creative onion of 2017.

Check out her new business, show her some social media love and until next time Culture Vultures.

Artist Jim Edwards & Craig David Pub cat…..

Two weeks ago I attended Ouseburn Open Studios and was a true Culture Vulture– I took myself around all the galleries and called in to lots artist pals and of course chatted to lots of new creative folk and other attendees. I had a blissful conversation with an artist about the 90s and owning a type writer when I eventually own my own house (I want everyone to be able to type a message when they enter/visit).

Ouseburn Open Studios is such a fantastic vibed weekend – I also like to make sure I buy lots from artists and creatives whilst grabbing a drink in many of the lush bars and independents along the way. Hence my purchasing gets more and more along the way…….

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And I always finish (it’s traditional for me now!) in Jim Edwards studio on the Sunday afternoon and promise myself that when I’m grown up, I’m going to buy myself a Gateshead themed Jim Edwards painting. I love Jim Edwards work – it’s colourful, enthused talent and I always view it with a huge smile on my face – as every single piece to me, looks and feels like home. He depicts many lush scenes from the North East – some iconic, some comfortingly familiar and some perfectly stylised.

One of my favourite pieces of his – depicts Craig David. I imagine – 50% of you reading this, know exactly what I’m talking about and the others, probably think I’m talking about actual Craig David (even typing that makes me call out “can I get rewindddd!”). Craig David was a lovely pub cat – he was a regular lurker at the Free Trade Bar and his spot was on top of the Jukebox. He’d often swagger in and make himself at home or you’d go in for a bev and he’d be in his spot snoozing or watching the world go by……

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Craig David died this year and of course, there was an outpouring on social media. And when he died, I suddenly thought of Jim’s painting – which depicts a quiet Free Trade afternoon with Craig David absolutely in pride of place checking out the view of the Tyne. He’s forever immortalised in that picture. It reminded me why I love Jim’s work so much – real scenes, with real goings on filled with real detail. I love that painting!

So I thought I’d take Ouseburn Weekender as the perfect opportunity to catch up with Jim Edwards – find out more about him, his work and his style.

Hi Jim – right tell me about your journey into the arts?

I’ve always been interested in creating artwork. As a child, it was always the enjoyment of getting lost in a creative practice, and also for the praise that came from making a strong image, and being regarded as good at art.  I had two older brothers who were also good at art, and so the competitive nature between siblings challenged me to become better.

I concentrated on art throughout school, art foundation and a degree in illustration. After I graduated, I wasn’t sure how to continue a career in the arts.  I attempted illustration for a while, but it wasn’t for me.  Whilst working as a picture framer, I started to sell small paintings and drawings at a market on Armstrong Bridge (Jesmond Dene, Newcastle) on Sundays.  I tried out all sorts of work, abstract, surreal, figurative, but the thing that really took off were paintings of Newcastle.  I gave up becoming a picture framer, to give more time painting cityscapes, and I’m still a professional artist 18 years later.

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Tell me about your practice and your strong recognisable style?

I mostly paint contemporary cityscapes and landscapes, centred on the North East.

The style has slowly evolved over time. When I started, it was quite naïve in style.  I worked a lot with biro, with washes of acrylic paint.  I then used hairspray to bleed the biro colour through the paint.  It was an interesting affect I stumbled across by accident, but I stopped this method because it wasn’t good for my health.

For a while my style even went a little bit abstract, but the cityscapes started to become too unrecognisable; I like to play with colour and over exaggerate the light in my nightscapes, I have to build up several  layers of paint to get the desired tonal effect, making the city glow.  A slow process, but rewarding.

My work is strongly rooted in memory, how we remember a place, rather than a straightforward representation. I like to reimagine the cityscape, even if certain elements are forgotten or altered.

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What’s it like being on the Ouseburn creative scene at the moment? Your studio is beautiful!

I’ve been working in the Ouseburn for most of my career, hopping from one studio to the next. One of the earliest was at the Biscuit factory, followed by the Mushroom Works.  Then after a brief 8 month stint in Northumberland, I came back to 36 Lime Street, before taking on my own place at 59 Lime Street.

I couldn’t imagine having a studio outside of the Ouseburn, it feels like my creative home. It’s quietly paced, and feels like an escape from the city, even though it’s quite industrial.  Renowned as the cultural hub of Newcastle, it’s crucial to be here for the numerous open studios events that take place throughout the year.  This is where all the creative venues join forces and open their studio doors to the public.  Whether it’s the Ouseburn Open Studios or The Late Shows, both are valuable to my work.

It’s quite a lonely profession being an artist, which I don’t mind, because I love my own space. But it is beneficial to mix with other like-minded people, to work together of bounce ideas off each other.  So I’m often over at 36 Lime Street having a cup of tea with friends.

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How did you go about securing that studio space?

I spotted it was coming up for rent, so jumped at the opportunity to get it. It’s a huge jump in rent, to what I was used to at 36 Lime Street.  But the increase in visitors to my studio, with having on street access, has more than made up for it.  It’s a small, intimate space to work in.  And sometimes I don’t know if the space is a studio or a gallery, so sometimes it struggles to function as both; as long as visitors don’t mind the creative clutter when they pop in.

Any new work or projects you’re working on?

I’m currently working on a few paintings, trying to get them finished before Christmas; including a large canvas of the Ouseburn. I have a huge to do list of paintings, mainly because the ideas come far quicker than I can actually paint them.  And so I’m looking forward to making a start on some paintings of Cullercoats and the Lake District in the New Year, before getting round to everything else on the list.

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And what does it feel like – people coming into your studio and looking at your work?

It’s quite a strange one. It’s always amazing selling paintings, really spurs you on to paint more. Especially being able to meet the buyer and talk about your work, which you don’t normally get in a gallery situation.  The rhythm of creating a painting gets thrown, whenever someone comes in.  It’s surprisingly disruptive, and I probably produce a lot less work these days.  But I can’t complain, it’s important for my work, and I want people to pop in.  And if they buy something, even better!

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Next year – it’s the Angel’s 20th Birthday and also Great Exhibition of The North – obviously, your pieces champion the North East and landmarks – do you see an opportunity for yourself next year?

I’ve got an Angel of the North painting on my studio wall, right now. Hopefully the birthday celebration will encourage it to sell.  Who knows what will happen during the Great Exhibition of the North.  I’ll see if I can tie in my paintings somehow.  There may be an Ouseburn Open Studios event during the event.  I look forward to it, and hope it benefits the creative industries in the Ouseburn.

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One of my favourite pieces of yours is The Free Trade depiction with Craig David in it….. as a Free Trade lover and prolific cat cuddler – it always made me smile and I’m super happy his legacy lives on forever in that piece.

I do like The Free Trade painting too, reminds me of the lazy days spent in there, before children, enjoying a pint. And yes, Craig David pubcat lives on in the painting.  I also like the window view, almost giving a painting within a painting.

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You manage to have successfully develop what I’d class as a commercially sustainable practice – do you have any advice for other artists currently trying to?

I think it’s crucial to know how to position yourself, to know if there’s a gap in the market, and can you create something to fill it. When I was a picture framer, I gauged the sort of paintings people were buying, and I thought there was a lack of cityscapes and landscapes in my style of painting.

You’ve also got to be stubbornly determined in your pursuit; have a fire in your belly to see it through, and not be too distracted by what others think or do.

What’s next for Jim in 2018?

Lots more art and getting through that to do list of paintings. Exploring more, and painting places in the North East I haven’t got to yet.  I really want to get round to painting more of Durham and Hadrian’s Wall, when I have a free moment.  Ouseburn Open Studios returns in March, and the Late Shows in May, plus other events through the year.

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Well thank you Jim – lush to catch up with you! Jim’s Studio is located at: 59 Lime Street, Ouseburn, NE1 2PQ and open Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 4.30pm and Saturday, by appointment – it’s certainly a must see for Culture Vultures and check out his work online too via his website – I just love it so much. And if like me you can’t quite afford a big picture painting – there are lots of prints and greetings cards you will be able to afford!

And of course, big love to Craig David pub cat – the cultural scene misses you!

Till next time Culture Vultures!