I was delighted to recently be invited to do some real time culture vulturing around Ouseburn Open Studios for their spring event. Just trumped by Eurovision, Open Studios is a calendar favourite of mine. I had a wonderful time with my pretend paparazzi for the day, professional photographer and lush megababe Marion Botella, who captured my every move as I visited The Biscuit Factory, 36 Lime Street Studios, Northern Print, Jim Edwards Studios and The Kiln.
One of my favourite elements of Open Studios is the opportunity to chat to artists and find out more about their process, passion , pieces…..most of the time, the people behind the art are just (if not more) interesting as the art itself. For the Spring Open Studios, the Biscuit Factory did something extra special in celebration of International Women’s Day; they invited the likes (and absolutely megababe favourites) The Crafthood, All Round Creative Junkie, Trendlistr, Megan Randall and others to host pop ups. Championing Northern artists is what I’m all about so that gets me excited, but championing female artists, well that gets me jumping out of bed in the morning!
Artist Megan Randall
I loved my Spring Open Studios experience and it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with all the pop up artists at The Biscuit Factory especially ceramic artist and maker Megan Randall. I’ve met Megan a few times – she’s been to Culture Vulture events (yay!), works as a freelance participatory artist for the Baltic, hosts amazing pop up sessions at The Thought Foundation in Gateshead, has an interesting practice – all alongside a commission for The Great Exhibition of the North. Her pop up at The Biscuit Factory invited participants to create small, white porcelain flowers which would be used as part of the #getnorth2018 wider project.
Megan is a fantastically interesting artist and maker – her work and passion is multidimensional; it crosses many different art forms. I really loved Megan’s recent 2016 Guerilla Clay Project; a series of installations, interventions and workshops in Northumberland National Park to engage communities, residents and visitors. The project came from the idea of sharing clay artworks with the world in an anonymous way; making things and putting them in public spaces for strangers to appreciate. ‘Guerilla’ anything interests me – putting something pop up, unexpected or starkly out of place in a space really interests me.
I also really like Public Art for the reason of community shared ownership, the ability to view art accessibly without a threshold, stumble across it almost but still able to fully appreciate it. In an open public space – the art belongs to everyone and every individual thinks, feels or connects to it differently.
Megan says this about her work: “In the process of my work I relinquish control, instead of having a predetermined outcome of how the work will be received. I do not mind if the work is stolen, destroyed or rearranged just as long as it is treated with the same passion used to create it.” I find this really interesting – as many artists become so unbelievably attached to their work, almost like a part of them. And even I with my creative projects – I could not disconnect at the point of project implementation and delivery….
I took my Open Studios visit as the perfect opportunity to catch up with Megan and get to know her more….find out about her projects.
Hiyer Megan, it’s been lovely to chat and catch up – can you tell me how you became involved in this Spring Open Studios?
Rachel Brown, Biscuit Factory Gallery manager, invited me to attend the event; I had discussed with her making some work as part of Great Exhibition of the North and she wanted to link that to open studios for visitors to contribute to the project and see me making.
Ohhh so this Biscuit Factory commissioned project is for #getnorth2018 – that’s really exciting! So brilliant to see Northern artists benefitting and securing work from what is going to be an ace summer! Tell me more about the project?
I am making a large installation that will be made up of approximately 14000 magnetic Parian flowers. The flowers are made by a combination of mould making and hand building; they range in size from 2cm to 14cm in diameter and each flower will be completely unique.
During Spring Open Studios, I made with visitors several hundred flowers, all of which will form part of the huge installation, almost a wall of texture. Each flower will be individually for sale except a number (including those made at open studios) which will be given away to distribute on street signs and lamp posts through-out the city.
More Guerilla art, I love it! So where can people see the final piece?
The work will be displayed in the biscuit factory during #getnorth2018.
I love the individualistic nature of each flower and the fact so many Northern folk & Biscuit Factory visitors will have contributed to the end piece. What are you hoping people will think when they view the large piece?
I want people who visit the gallery to be confronted with a wall of texture which is bigger than them and is formed of small delicate components so that it becomes a solid mass of texture. I like the idea of being overwhelmed by something which individually so small.
I know this is a super hard question to answer but I’m going to ask it anyway! Tell me more and your practice?
My practice is a confusing one; I have two strands. The first is Megan Randall (@meg_makes) which is where I make installations using hundreds, sometimes thousands of components. The second is Cobalt and Lustre (@cobaltandlustre) where I make and sell designed ceramics homewares, jewellery and art.
The two practices complement each other; I make the large scale installation pieces because I love playing with spaces, watching people’s interactions with ceramic objects and gifting places with unusual objects. In my own artistic practice I tend to selfishly make for myself, make work which tackles issues which are important to me. This selfish making develops skills, new designs and new ideas which feeds into work made for Cobalt and Lustre; a wonderful platform to talk to people, gauge reactions, and get into the meditative role of making.
Tell me about your journey into the arts?
I got the clay bug at primary school when I worked with a visiting artist to carve a clay robot which is still attached to the outside of the school. This encounter means that now I love working as an artist facilitator and working with schools, collages, families and community groups. I think that art is getting pushed further out of school timetabling which means there is less time to mess and explore materials, which alienates kids like me who were a bit rubbish at English and maths.
I did an art foundation then came to Sunderland University where I studied glass and ceramics at degree level and then went on to explore ceramics as a PhD student.
Favourite project of 2017?
My favourite project of 2017 was being commissioned by art mix at the Baltic to make a bed and ceramic quilt where I collected peoples’ hopes and dreams. It was part of an exhibition called ‘What Happens to a Dream Deferred’ and for me was all about making beds and laying in them. I received a huge response and had dreams ranging from, ‘I want a pet dinosaur’ to peoples’ hopes for marriage proposals and regrets of broken relationships. There is something about anonymity that frees up people to say what they really mean. It’s why toilet cubicle graffiti is so interesting!
Love that you made a project out of beds….One of my favourite venues in Gateshead is the Thought Foundation – what do you do there?
As well as working with the Baltic and National Glass Centre, I also work with Thought Foundation in Birtley. I love the space as a venue as it is so welcoming and inclusive, I sell things in their shop which is beautifully curated and have exhibited in their gallery space. I have also started delivering some workshops from there. And, it also sells an amazing caramel apple cake!
Tell me about your future projects?
In 2018/19 I made a promise to myself to make an artwork each week, which is going well. I’m currently making 365 clay knots, all based around a love hate relationship with clay with is beautiful and malleable one minute and cracks and breaks the next.
I have been working with lots of school groups and applying for funding to instigate a project with older people based around memories. I will be exhibiting work at the Biscuit Factory and Thought Foundation in June. I have made a new range of jewellery for Cobalt and Lustre and have other projects lined up with local creative companies.
Check out Megan’s work Culture Vultures – it’s truly wonderful!