Interview with Linzi, pompom maker extraordinaire over at The Pompomporium

I am loving the trend for Maximalist Interiors and fashion – it’s always been my personality and vibe. I like clashy, bright, bold and creatively chaotic. It makes me feel like me, in the sense of self expression, it satisfies my need for sensory stimulation and gives me a good old shot of dopamine. I purchased a neon pom pom star a good few years ago, originally for Christmas, but I’ve had it hanging up now everyday since then and it just is one of my favourite singles in the whole world. I bliddy love a pompom.

I tried to make one at The Crafthood’s social, a few years back and let me tell you, it is hard than it looks but is also an addictive craft. My pompom got an A for effort, but a D for neatness. But at least it made myself and everyone laugh at the workshop and Sebastian (my cat) gained a new cat toy he loved (for a short period – fickle gent!).

My love of colour, maximalist vibes and pompoms led me to find The Pompomporium on Instagram – anyone who is as in love with pompoms as I will already know Linzi and her gorgeous business, but for those who don’t – she’s a pompom maker extraordinaire!

Image of a Pompom bouquet made by The Pompomporium

Linzi is smashing it out of the park growing a creative business that works for her and her family; I wanted to celebrate and showcase that. Building a business and being self-employed, has the benefit of being built around the individual, set your own boundaries, your own work pattern, your own working style, which can enable a creative thrive, flourish and simply exist.

I had the pleasure of meeting her at Make & Mend Festival 2021 and I thought I’d follow up with a little Culture Vulture interview, to satisfy and shout about my pompom love and so you can all get to know Linzi a little better.

So first Culture Vulture interview of 2022…. Over to you Linzi!

Image of colourful Pom pom earrings made by The Pompomporium.

First up, who are you?

Hiya! I’m Linzi, I’m 32, have two kiddos and run my business from my home in NE England.

Lush, so what’s your business?

It’s called The Pompomporium (which just gets more fun to say after a couple of drinks) and I make bright, bold homewares and jewellery, almost always involving pom poms.

Image of Linzi – The Pompomporium.

How did it all start?

I think I’ve always classed myself as a crafty person, but I didn’t become a maker until after I was medically retired back in Spring 2018. Prior to that I was a secondary school English teacher, and whether it was lesson plans, wall displays or cunning schemes to make the kids actually care about what some dead white guys had to say – I was definitely creative! I loved my job, it was definitely a vocation, and to lose it overnight could have broken me. I knew I needed something new to keep me busy, but that would fit in around my variable health needs and left me energy for being a parent.

Image of colourful Pom pom stuffed into a letter R made by The Pompomporium.

And the big question….why pompoms?

That’s where pom poms came into it. I had made my first ever wreath a few years before 2018; a Wonder Woman themed wall hanging for my daughter’s fourth birthday. Poms are this excellent juxtaposition of being really mindful in the making but full of excitement and joy once they’re made; I love that. I know they’re a bit silly, but honestly the world is dead hard sometimes and I think we all deserve something silly!

Image of colourful Pom pom in letter T shape made by The Pompomporium.

I made an infamous pompom that is now my cat’s favourite little toy – it was not neat AT ALL like yours, how do you get yours so beautifully and juicily round?

I have two top tips for pom pom making so grab your pens!

Firstly, wrap tight. I use DK acrylic yarns (my favourite are Paintbox and Stylecraft) and know that your pom maker can take plenty of wrapping. The tighter you wrap, the denser your pom pom will be.

Secondly, you need decent scissors. An embroidery pair is always a great shout but if you’re making to sell, I’d also recommend a pair of fiskars. These fluffy little spheres take more trimming than you would think; it will save your hands if you have sharp tools.

Image of Pom pom bouquet being made by The Pompomporium.

How long do your pompoms take to make?

This is tough to answer because a teeny one that I’ll use in jewellery might only take ten minutes, but a very large, patterned pom – such as leopard print or floral – takes much more time, closer to 45 minutes.

Image of colourful Pom pom flower earrings made by The Pompomporium.

I’m a huge fan of your homewares – especially your wreaths – I like quirky, colourful, patterned and bold pieces around me. Do you plan those types of pieces?

Thank you so much! I do plan, I make terrible sketches that rarely see the light of day but they help me keep my messy ADHD brain in check. I’m a big fan of maximalism and more is more, I definitely think that comes across in my work, and I get lots of inspiration from things I love and the things my kids love! The rainbow wreath, for example, was first made for my bright loving son.

Image of colourful Pom pom wreath made by The Pompomporium – next to a fox stuffed animal.

Maximalism all the way! Can you share three other makers or creative Instagrammers that inspire you?

I love @imakestagram, @shittycraftclub & @fatpompoms ✨

So, what products do you sell and where can people purchase?

I will put a pom pom on just about anything to be honest. I make wreaths, banners, bouquets, fairy lights, garlands, hair clips, headbands, earrings, necklaces… I’m certainly missing things out! I sell via Etsy, And So To Shop, Not on the High Street and my own website – www.thepompomporium.com

Image of a bouquet of pompoms made by The Pompomporium.

I know 2021 was a challenge for most creatives, but do you have a highlight that you’d like to share?

People have really responded to the things I make and that feels like proper magic. My Christmas collection in particular was so well received; I love that I get to be part of a family’s traditions in some small way.

Image of colourful Pom pom flower earrings made by The Pompomporium.

And for realness, a low point?

My low points are almost always health related. I really love this little business I’ve created and I hate to feel like I’m letting someone down because I’m having a flare up or a hospital stay. I do genuinely have the most understanding and kind customers though; I very rarely have anyone upset because of it.

Image of Linzi working in her creative space.

You’re a disabled maker – Can you tell us a bit about that?

I’m just going to preface this by saying the disabled community is a beautiful thing. You’ll find many, many chronically ill and disabled makers in small biz land because we don’t fit into a mainstream working environment, in the same way that queer creators, parents working around their kids, Black and brown makers who aren’t appreciated in their fields and many other marginalised groups find a home amongst other creatives. So, yes, it can be tough to work from bed with tremors in my hands and having to stop for a nap after every couple of poms, but it’s very worth it for the myriad of ways I’ve been able to learn from those people.

Image of colourful Pom pom hairclips made by The Pompomporium.

If there was one thing, that if you could, you’d change in the creative sector immediately to make it more accessible and inclusive, what would it be?

No more craft fairs in inaccessible buildings please.

Where the magic happens…..Image of Linzi’s making space & office.

Any advice to share with aspiring disabled makers and artists?

You don’t have to hustle constantly, resting is productive, lean on your people and always write down your suppliers.

Image of colourful Spring wreath made by The Pompomporium.

Do you have an upcoming project or collection that you can tell me about?

I have many a plan for this year! I’m mid-design on some pom pommed bunny ears for Easter. I also have a small homeware collection, including cushions with pom pom corners and tassel mirrors, coming later this year.

Image of colourful Pom pom headband made by The Pompomporium.

Do you have a creative or business aspiration for 2022?

Does survival count? Honestly though, this pandemic has been brutal on all of us, and it’s made me realise that my business needs to make me happy – I’ll be making and designing things that I genuinely love and if they sell then that’s excellent, too.

Image of “you are my sunshine” wreath made by The Pompomporium.

Thank you Linzi!

You’re such a gem and readers, please check out The Pompomporium via: www.thepompomporium.com // @thepompomporium – you won’t regret it – perfect accessories, gifts and homey loveliness. I am now thoroughly convinced that I need a full-blown pompom coat – sounds like an essential item for this gal! Or a shift dress? OR BOTH! I want to be adorned in these furry little colourful beauties!

Until next time, Culture Vultures!

Interview with visual artist Bethan Maddocks – paper rainforests, creative anarchy & being a nosy parker.

I’m so excited to share this Culture Vulture interview with you all – this interview is with brilliant, Newcastle based visual artist, Bethan Maddocks.

Bethan was actually one of the first artists, I became fascinated with before the Culture Vulture was even a sparkle of an idea in my eye. She’s a multi-disciplinary artist that works with different types of materials – in fact, I’m pretty sure, if you look up multi-disciplinary artist, you’ll see a picture of Bethan smiling back at you. I found it so inspiring when I was first starting out, to see a fellow creative, confidently working across lots of different types of projects and refusing to sit neatly into a box – Bethan to me was an artist that represented creative possibility, opportunity and the beauty of constantly evolving and growing through projects and collaborating with people.

Her work, projects and sculptures bring to life people’s stories and her own ideas, into technically brilliant, unique visual interpretations. They are often socially engaged too – which in present times, is not only crucially important, it also shows that art has a really powerful role to play, reinterpreting and reframing thoughts, ideas, history and can often enable audiences to see and consider things in a different way.  

Bethan was one of the first artists, that I noted co-creating art with communities in such an inclusive, warm, participatory way and I witnessed, the joy of folx seeing their contributions become a final professional artwork or sculpture! Participatory arts in the community, in my opinion, outside of the art world, isn’t really understood and massively undervalued. Bethan was my first real exposure to not only the positive impact of a participatory arts project but also, that the art work created can end up displayed at a professional exhibition or light art event.

I’ve always been a little star struck by Bethan too, a little bit in awe of her. If you know me – you know, I’m not detail focused, I’m not precise, I’m creatively chaotic and methodical process just isn’t a natural thing for me. Bethan’s work is often so delicate, so precise, made from paper, all about the small touches and detail – she probably represents my polar opposite type of creative! I admire her technical brilliance so much – she creates type of work that I look at in total awe, as she’s so highly skilled, accomplished and brilliant.

So this artist interview has been on my “NEED to interview” list pretty much, since I started out as Culture Vulture. And across the years, our paths have crossed many times and I’ve been lucky enough to support a few projects she’s worked on over the years. She’s an absolute North East gem and a really lovely, kind, open human.

Over to you Bethan!

Visual artist Bethan Maddocks

Hello Bethan, can you introduce yourself and tell my fellow Culture Vultures a bit about your practice? 

Hello! I’m a visual artist; I work with light, paper, fabric and found objects to make large sculptures and installations that audiences can touch, explore or add to. The last few years I’ve become really interested in paper-based work so currently I make lots of intricate paper-cuts.

I often work with archives, communities and organisations to collect stories and make socially engaged, political or site-specific artwork.

Bethan Maddock’s piece – From Junipers Branches Grow

I ask every artist I interview this question; can you tell us about your journey into the creative industries? 

Ever since I was little, my twin sister Catriona and I, were always scavenging things for ‘projects’; bottle tops or bits of scrap metal from outside the tiny blacksmiths in our village. Haberdasheries and DIY stores were our treasure troves. I’m grateful that I’ve always been encouraged in playing, exploring and creating since I was a little kid; probably one of the reasons that workshops and community sharing are such a core part of my practice nowadays.

I studied art at college, then Northumbria University and also at a Finnish University for an Erasmus Exchange. After graduating I volunteered on every creative project I could find, till I started getting small projects myself – I think it was easier for recent graduates in the last years of the Labour government as there was more support for young artists and a greater all-round appreciation and understanding of the arts from those in power.

Bethan Maddocks – Floraphone – Photocredit: Colin Rose

Huge congratulations on being awarded the Dover Prize – so excited for you! Can you tell us about the Dover Prize?

I was really lucky (and completely blown away!) to win The Dover Prize in 2019. It’s an amazing £10,000 bursary awarded every two years to a UK-based artist. Its aim is to help artists develop their practice and  comes with the gorgeous ethos to ‘provide the artist with time to think, research, reflect and experiment with new ideas’.

As an artist you’re always applying for things, seeking ways to make your work fit a commission proposal; what’s brilliant about the Dover Prize is that it’s centered around the artist’s own work- the initial application form asks useful questions about your practice and your aims – things I found helpful to reflect on.

In February 2019 I was shortlisted from over 100 applicants and invited for an interview where I got to meet the judges and discuss my work and practice in person. The judges were great, and again asked really helpful questions about my aspirations and inspirations (I even somehow managed to talk about meeting my favourite artist Louise Bourgeois as a wide-eyed 20 year old. I’d like to think Louise was looking down, helping me to win -a sort of artist fairy-godmother!).

The Dover Prize 2021 is now open (deadline February 14th!) and I’d hugely encourage any artist to have a punt at it – it’s been incredible support for the last 2 years. You can apply HERE.

Bethan Maddocks

Can you tell me a bit about what you’ve done with the award these last 2 years?

The Dover Award originates in Darlington; having grown up in County Durham it felt great to focus my practice on a part of the world where I began my journey as an artist. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the history of the area and trying to connect its historic backstory with contemporary politics. Darlington’s schools, libraries and social infrastructures were massively developed by several powerful Quaker families in the 18th century, so I connected with the local Quaker chapter to learn about their ethos of listening, equality and stewardship to help ground some research. Sitting in silence with a group full of kind strangers, waiting for ‘ministry’ is quite something!

I also used the bursary to help fund a residency to the incredible Studio Garonne in Southern France, where I collaborated with designer Remi Bec to make a series of paper and light sculptures and drawings and I also embarked on a research project to Canada to meet some brilliant paper artists such as Crissy Arseneau, Rachel Ashe and  Brangwynne Purcell. I’ve made lots of experiments combining my papercutting work with machine cut elements, and I’m hoping to translate some papercuts into metal this year.

Bethan Maddocks – Book of Shadows

Can you tell me a bit about your relationship with Woodhorn Museum in Northumberland?

I’ve worked with Woodhorn Museum on and off for the last few years often creating large installations in their huge, ex-mining industry buildings. A lot of my work is about exploring hidden stories, and Woodhorn has a great ethos for uncovering Northumberland’s lesser-known stories – so we’ve collaborated together on some really fun projects.

The Programming team often invites me in, to create installations based on brilliant random ideas they’ve had for exhibitions such as ancient forests, homing pigeons and orchid growing!

Even in 2020 they managed to commission a new project for myself and Unfolding Theatre (as well as the ever-brilliant Ruth Johnson, Nick John Williams and Jill Bennison). The Quest of Missing Questions was Woodhorn’s invitation to its audience for its re-opening after the first lockdown. The commission personally was a bit of a life saver, showing me that good organisations can (and should!) support freelancers even in tough times and in doing so create lovely rich collaborations.

Woodhorn Museum

Here, here! You’ve worked with them a few times in the past? Tell me about one of those projects? 

One of my favourite pieces was The Fallen Forest that explored the prehistoric carboniferous forests that existed here 250 million years ago, which formed the coal so key to our region’s economic and socialist development. I spent several months researching fossil records, becoming my own pretend geologist. I did a residency over in Borneo and managed to connect the kind of foliage that you find in modern Asian rainforests with similar foliage from these ancient rainforests. I created giant ferns and cycads and huge 5 metre tall papercut trees- each paper-tree’s surface referencing the bark patternations that you find recorded in fossils.

It was open for 9 months and the audience could attend workshops to make small paper artworks to add to the forest, so that it grew, expanded and then collapsed; mirroring the ancient forests growth and demise.

I love projects like that; I get to obsess and learn so much about random things. I’m always dreaming that one day I’ll go to a (very specific!) pub quiz and know all the answers from all the avid research I do (it has not happened yet!)

Bethan Maddocks – Fallen Forest

A lot of your work involves engaging with communities and community contributions – why are community contributions important to your practice? Why are opportunities to contribute to creative projects important?  

I’m a huge champion of creativity for so many reasons – it’s the great unifier; when you get a group of people making artwork alongside each other there will always be brilliant, eye opening, heart expanding conversations. There’s some magic that happens when people use their hands to make; it sort of frees up their thinking and people reconnect with their inner child.

I love working with other people as it’s always a helpful side-step for my thinking, I can have the best laid plans for what I want to create for an exhibition, and then a conversation or even a throwaway comment from someone, plants these delicious seeds, and sends me in ways I’d never of thought of. It’s an honour to work alongside people from such diverse backgrounds – there’s always so much to learn from other people.

Bethan Maddocks – NHS Celebration Artwork

You often create sculptures/artwork to scale – what is your favourite thing about that type of work? Do you enjoy watching folx take it in?  

When I go to exhibitions, it’s alwayslarge-scale sculptures and installations that I love to see and experience the most; that sense of becoming aware of your own scale – a little like standing at the top of a massive mountain and feeling so tiny in this all-encompassing landscape.

I also love making loud noises in quiet acoustic buildings, touching stuff that maybe you shouldn’t, opening drawers, prodding around, and I want to make artwork that encourages that, where you can be a playful nosy parker! I made an installation a couple of years ago, where there were hundreds of sandcastles inside a tent, all decorated with cocktail umbrellas. We opened the tent and loads of kids came in, all wanting to smash them down but thinking they ‘weren’t allowed’. Watching the first kid (my nephew- ever a proud Auntie!) go and kick one down and then all the other children running forward to join in; it was just absolutely gleeful to see all that work disappearing in joyful, anarchic seconds. I want to create moments like that.

Bethan Maddocks – Everything There Ever Was

What is your role at BALTIC? Have you been involved in any of their online creative work during lock down? 

I’ve worked freelance for the Learning Team at Baltic for about 12 years; they took a punt on me as a relatively inexperienced but eager workshop facilitator just after I graduated and I’ve been working there ad-hoc ever since. I love the range of groups that we get to work alongside and the Learning team’s encouragement to try out new stuff, take over spaces and explore the exhibitions. They were also brilliant at the beginning of 2020 madness (we’ve got to champion the good ones!), paying all freelancers for sessions they couldn’t deliver, and helping support us to do online workshops. I’ve made quite a few online videos since, and it’s a learning curve, but I spent a lot of my childhood apparently critiquing Neil Buchanan for his crafting on Art Attack, so perhaps it was meant to be. You can watch them here and here and here

Bethan Maddocks – Floraphone

How has lock down/pandemic affected you as an artist/freelancer?  

Well it hasn’t been easy for anyone has it (except perhaps for political donators and disaster capitalists…)!? I had a week in March where I had 7 exhibitions and two years of work cancelled which wasn’t particularly fun. It has been difficult being self-employed and I hope the brilliant work that people have done in raising awareness of the vulnerability of self-employed and zero hour contract workers has helped the public to appreciate cultural and hospitality workers better.

On the flip side, I’ve had more time in my studio at 36 Lime Street, which is just a dreamland to work in, a building full of lots of talented, diverse makers in the heart of the Ouseburn – my windows open right onto the river so I get to work to the sound of the water and the ducks and swans flapping about.

I’ve  also loved watching things like #ArtistSupportPledge, Beccy Owen’s Pop up Choirs, Mutual aid support groups and Artists’ Union England’s solidarity fund come together. The arts are a mixed bunch of brilliant, creative, bloomin’ hard working people, and even in all this weirdness, they’ve given me lots of moments of joy and celebration.

Bethan Maddocks in her 36 Lime Street Studio

That made me so teary, I’m so proud to be in this sector with wonderful folx like you! Do you have anything to say about artists being described as “unviable”  ?  

I mean it is ridiculous isn’t it!? Weapons manufacturing, the aviation industry and fossil fuel use aren’t exactly viable, if we want to have a happy, existing planet, and yet governments never seem to pull them up…

I think there are things in the arts that aren’t particularly viable – like reserving huge amounts of funds for top management and the running and upkeep of buildings rather than fair living wages for all employees, and I hope that this can change.

And look at everything that we’ve ever sent into space to be found by future/other civilisations, or any time capsules that we’ve buried in the ground and they are full of the arts – music, literature, artwork, Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man carved on the side etc. Our society is defined by its culture past and present – make that unviable and you have a pretty grey world.

Bethan Maddocks – Frost of Forgetfulness

An answer like that is exactly why I bliddy love you Bethan! I personally believe creative opportunities for all are more important now, than ever – as a process for folx to make sense of what’s happening, feel connected to others, express themselves…… any thoughts? 

Definitely; it’s what’s kept us all sane hasn’t it! As unsatisfying as culture being mostly online can be it’s also opened the doors for some brilliant new ways of engagement and accessibility- I think of all those people with mobility issues, with young kids, with low self-confidence who in the past haven’t have been able to engage in the arts physically, who were effectively blocked from going over the threshold and now they can join in. They can settle their kids, pour a glass of wine and go online and join in on a bookmaking course, or watch a piece of live theatre, or go to a gig on their couch. We’ve got to celebrate that. And when things become more open again, we’ve got to make sure that we keep people with us, that this new accessibility doesn’t stop with a vaccine, but changes the landscape. We’ve got to make this the best learning that we can.

Bethan Maddocks – NHS Celebration artwork

Can you tell us a highlight of 2020? 

I’ve missed live music; there’s not much better than having a dance at a gig with your mates, so I had a particularly brilliant birthday, in amongst this strange year. County Durham based arts organisation Jack Drum Arts, were organising doorstep gigs with musicians and storytellers coming to perform for small groups during the summer holidays. My Mum surreptitiously organised for the legends that are Baghdaddies to come and play in her garden for me and my twin sister on our birthday. We had our own tiny festival- sousaphones, trumpets, drumkits popping out of the flower beds, mojitos in our hands as we “wiggled our bums, our big fat bums…”. That was pretty heady.

Bethan Maddocks – Book of Shadows

Sounds glorious! So, what’s next for you? Can you tell us about a project you’ve got coming up? 

I have an exhibition ‘Finders Seekers’ that has just ‘opened’ at Greenfield arts (although currently no-one can visit it!). It was a lush commission to create artwork around ideas of possibility, changing perspectives and inquiry.

The exhibition is made up of a series of paper installations of trees, mushrooms and lichen combined with objects such as ropes, ladders and magnifying glasses – tools of investigation and elevation.   I spent most of Christmas hand-painting and cutting 300 paper oak leaves to thread onto a ladder!

I wanted to create a fun, celebratory, optimistic exhibition; artworks interconnected like an ecosystem, where the viewer enters a childlike world, a paper-made forest full of metaphor, imagination and elevation.

Where can we keep in touch with you and check out your work?

I’m currently reworking on my website with the brilliant Branded by Naomi and I’m hoping to have a snazzy new launch of it early this year www.bethanmaddocks.com. Or if you want to find photos, drawings, papercutting videos and the occasional lycra-clad leg kick you can find me on Instagram bethan_maddocks.

Bethan Maddocks – Christmas Carol Lit & Phil

Thank you Bethan! Interviews like this make me feel so certain that I’m in the right sector, working and collaborating with glorious humans and that the power and potential of art, is that it can change the world and make such a difference in people’s lives.

That’s all for now Culture Vultures……until next time!

Make & Mend Festival 2019; A feast & a festival for creatives, crafters & makers…

Well the festival season is fully upon us now and I don’t know about you, but I’m SUPER excited. There are festivals out there to tickle everyone’s fancy; food, music, film, South Asian arts, LGBTQ+, design and even craft!

Make & Mend festival is a one day festival on 7th July at Preston Park in Stockton all about celebrating colour and championing creativity – it’s a day in which you can take the whole day just for you to have a go at different crafts during workshops and take part in Big Makes, watch demos, meet fellow makers, buy creative product lushness from independents and just absorb the creative atmosphere. It’s also a day which invests into wellbeing – so there are wellbeing talks with experts (in this busy world, we all need a bit of advice and empowerment to help us be our best selves), yoga sessions, time to explore the grounds of Preston Park and lush foodie options to purchase through-out the day to keep that creative fuel high!

m15

Tickets are flying now with their only being one week to go and some workshop slot are sold out and others about to….but there is still time to get your ticket (Starting price £10). Visit website for tickets and here to check out the line up on the day to whet your creative appetite!

I heard about Make & Mend festival last year – I didn’t go and I had a SERIOUS cause of FOMO. One of those events, that everyone who went and everyone who took part in it, raved about and the festival decorations were so innovative – insta worthy x a million. If you’re like me, well you’ll hate missing out too. So this year, when I heard it was happening again, whilst chatting to fellow creatives at Thought Foundation, again everyone was raving about it and how excited they were and I vowed to go!

m14

Well low and behold – how buzzing was I when Rachel and Lyndsey, the imaginers behind the whole festival got in touch and invited me along on the day to do some live social media taking over their channels to chart the event and all the happenings. One of the things, I always said when I started out with Culture Vulture, was that I’d only work with and champion things that were part of the culture vulture ethos and after chatting to Rachel and Lyndsey, I can confirm they are fearless good eggs with big ambitions for this festival…..

m1

As that has become tradition on this blog – well I thought I’d catch up with them and interview them to tease out from their perspective why Make & Mend festival is the craft festival you’ve been waiting for and to give the full low down….

So over to Rachel and Lyndsey….

Right let’s start at the beginning…..who are you?

Rachel – We are Make & Mend Company, two friends Rachel & Lyndsey who wanted to set up in business together after redundancy from our day jobs. We combined our passions for making and well being to create a company that celebrates the positive benefits making and in particular sewing can have on your mental health.

The Culture Vulture – As a passionate advocate in the mental health agenda, that sounds right up my street. I advocate the power of drama and writing and you sewing…..basically being creative and having creative opportunities are essential to a balanced happy mind!

m11

So tell me about the festival?

Lyndsey – We have a strong belief that making is good for the soul and the festival basically shares this passion. It will be a fantastic day filled with lots of creative opportunities, in a relaxing environment with other like-minded craft addicts – what’s not to love?!

A fun day of colour, character, positivity and wellbeing and we hope people will leave feeling inspired and rejuvenated. There will be the opportunity to enjoy workshops ranging from embroidery to aromatherapy; floral watercolour to bookbinding. There will be artist demos in weaving, letter press and printing from expert makers. We are offering inspiring talks from wellbeing experts which will give you tips on how to integrate more positivity and self-care into your life. There will also be yoga classes where you can unwind for a while and a maker marketplace where you can buy some beautiful handmade products and supplies from some fantastic local makers and artists.

The festival is basically an opportunity to take some time out in beautiful surroundings, relax and unleash your creative spirit!

The Culture Vulture – I’m a firm believer that everyone has a creative spirit bursting to get out!

m19

Tickets have slightly changed this year from last….tell me about the ticket options available?

So this year we have a few different ticket options;

  • Entry only which gives you access to the full festival site, drop in workshops, craft demos, makers market, talks from well-being experts and access to the well-being garden area for delicious food and relaxing in the sunshine!
  • Then you have the option to add 1 hour workshops into your day with our team of expert crafters making something to take away and learning a new skill and the ticket options include entry +1 workshop, entry +2 workshops and entry +3 workshops (which is our best value ticket).

m10

Why are crafting and creative opportunities so important?

Lyndsey – We set up Make & Mend because we recognised the importance that craft and creativity has on improving our well-being and we wanted to share this with the world! For us, crafting is a way to relax and unwind; we find it very therapeutic and it is our way of switching off. Everyone is creative (whether they believe it or not!) and doing something creative regularly is a way of exploring your individuality and expressing yourself, giving you freedom to explore new ideas. It’s also a great antidote to sitting at a computer or being on your phone – there’s nothing better than creating something beautiful by hand!

m4

Advice to someone who has never crafted before but fancies coming along to the festival?

Rachel- Just get started! There can be a real fear that ‘I’m not arty’ or ‘I can’t draw’ but guess what neither can I! It is as much about enjoying the process as it is the end result plus there are so many brilliant crafts out there, that if you don’t get along with one, then just try another! Buying a kit is a great way to try a craft without having to spend a lot on buying materials and equipment.

The Culture Vulture – Oh gosh – I hear you. I was told all through school I was “bad at art” meaning I couldn’t draw…but I’m actually one of the most creative people I know…. I just REALLY can’t draw!

m5

If you used to craft all the time, but you’ve just got out of the habit or stopped having the time – what’s your advice?

Lyndsey – Same as above – just do it! Start somewhere – it doesn’t matter what the outcome is; it’s about developing confidence again and getting back into the habit. I think we sometimes put high expectations on ourselves about the outcome which can take the joy out of something, but it’s just about enjoying the process and seeing where it takes you. And if it all goes wrong, who cares?

The Culture Vulture – I totally agree with you – I attended a Crafthood event many moons ago and made a red nose day pompom…..it went totally wrong and provided much hilarity for myself, my mum and the gals from the Crafthood, but actually I had such a good evening and loved having a go at something new. Also Sebastian loves chasing it around my kitchen to this day, so everyone was a winner!

m6

Favourite type of craft?

Rachel – My favourites are all things textile, love a bit of needle felt to stab the stress away, plus embroidery of course!

m9

Why do you think crafting has come back into fashion?

Lyndsey – It’s great that things seem to have come full circle and there is such an interest in craft again. I think people have realised how beneficial it is to our wellbeing in terms of it being a way to relax. It’s also an anti-device activity! We spend so much time on our phones and on technology that I think people are craving something practical that they can do with their hands. Obviously the interest in sustainability and recycling has had a big impact as people are seeing the value in making and mending again.

m13

What gave you the inspo for the festival last year?

We run smaller workshops and really enjoyed sharing our ethos with more people and figured why not do something a bit bigger. Our backgrounds are in event management and outdoor festivals so it seemed like an obvious next step. Plus we couldn’t find anything nearby to go to ourselves and it felt like a good time to start celebrating making again!

The Culture Vulture – They say not to put on events for yourself, but actually I’m same, when I see there isn’t something out there that matches what I want, it usually signifies a gap and opportunity!

m3

So, this is year two for the festival, tell me what’s new for this year?

Lyndsey – We have new workshops such as macramé, bookbinding, printing, aromatherapy, origami and floral wreath making. Our artist demos are also new – opportunities for people to watch the experts and learn a new skill. We also have an artist in residence this year – Raquel Rodrigo who creates beautiful large-scale cross stitch installations. She will be creating something special for us this year at the festival and will be holding workshops where people can get involved and learn more about her techniques.

m17

One of Raquel Rodrigo’s pieces on a building in Barcelona

Many of last year’s visitors raved about the decorations – where did you get the inspo for them?

Rachel – It’s really all about the colour for us, anything bright and colourful we love! It always starts with a Pinterest board and looking for inspiration online, we create everything ourselves as we are working to a really small budget so we keep it simple and luckily we have a beautiful venue which helps!

The Culture Vulture – The best decorations are done on a budget, it gives the opportunity to get REALLY creative…I LOVED the umbrellas from last year- they are so simple an idea, but yet I’ve never seen it before and it just looked amazing!

m7

How did you select your list of workshops/facilitators for this year?

Lyndsey – We look at crafting trends and integrate what is current – for example, macramé is hot at the moment! We spend a lot of time researching local artists and finding out what skills are available locally. We always try and keep to local artists where we can.

m16

An embroidery hoop design you can have a go at one the day with Make & Mend Co

For the more avid crafter, what’s unique about this event?

Rachel – I think it is the range of different workshops on offer and they are such a high quality; we have selected the best makers we can find to teach the workshops so there is bound to be a new craft to learn.

m19

If YOU were attending as a punter – what activity or workshop would you be most excited about doing yourselves?

If I was coming I would be desperate to make a macramé pot hanger, an origami lampshade and I would love to make a floral wreath (sorry that’s three!). Also really interested in learning more about aromatherapy and the benefits of essential oils.

The Culture Vulture – I have seen the macramé pot hanger and I’ve seen it modelled with a bottle of prosecco in which obviously spiked my interest….crafty, lush AND functional for my Friday feeling vibe…I want to have a go at macramé too!

m22

You’ve united crafting, making and mindfulness and well-being together….why did you make this connection?

Rachel – I guess the connection has always been there for me, in stressful times I have always turned to sewing to help me, same as some people go running, do gardening or cook. It was always my way to relax and switch off so making people more aware of the mindful benefits of sewing was always something I wanted highlight – that’s why in our embroidery kits we give instructions on how to sew but also on how to appreciate the process and make it a mindful experience.

m2

To a complete creative nut slash workaholic like myself, I’m actually the most super excited about the talks…can you tell me a bit about them and how you curated them?

Lyndsey – We’re super excited about the talks programme too! We have huge interest in self-care and improving our wellbeing and think that these talks will offer lots of valuable tips which people can integrate into their everyday lives.

We’re wellbeing addicts and are always buying books and attending courses as it has made such a huge different to our lives and helping us to adopt a more positive and resilient attitude. We have been really inspired by our speakers – we either follow them on Instagram, have done their courses or read their articles. We think the topics they will be covering can really make a difference in terms of supporting people to look after themselves and improving their mind-set.

The Culture Vulture – One of the things that I’m learning as The Culture Vulture, is that barriers exist, stopping people being creative or jumping at opportunities – the whole, not having time, feeling guilty for taking time out, lacking in confidence at trying something new etc – so I think with your talks, you’re hitting the nail on the head. I’m really looking forward to live tweeting them!

m20

What do you want people to take away from the festival?

Rachel – We want them to have fun, make something, relax, meet new people, enjoy a little time for themselves and leave feeling inspired to try and include a little more making in their lives!

m18

Well there you have it – a colourful day with a festival vibe of making, creating and taking time out for yourself awaits at Make & Mend Festival on 7th July at Preston Park in Stockton. Tickets are still available but they are selling really quickly now with one week to go, so don’t be like me and spend the rest of the year with FOMO, get your ticket now!

And if you’ve already got your ticket – then YASSSS- make sure to use #makemendfest on the day so I can spy on your creative shenanigans.

(Credit given for the majority of photos used above to Clare Bowes Photography)

Ouseburn Open Studios 17th & 18th March; the ultimate Culture Vulture weekend.

One of my absolutely favourite weekends of the year, a true weekend full of Culture Vulturing, is Ouseburn Open Studios. It’s a weekend full to the brim of everything the Culture Vulture is all about – supporting and championing artists and independents, seeking out the unfound and hidden talent in the region, spending time in one of the creative hearts of the region, experiencing different artistic mediums and going into artist studios and creative spaces.

open1

Ouseburn Open Studios is a bi-annual event that takes place in March and November every year, and celebrates art, craft and design in the Ouseburn Valley and offers other culture vultures a rare insight into the working world of artists and designer-makers. It all started modestly in 1995 with a few artists from 36 Lime Street opening their studio doors; over the years, Ouseburn Open Studios has grown and grown and now is one of the highlights of the cultural calendar; showcasing the work of more than 100 artists, designers and makers working across the Ouseburn Valley.

open8

One of the many creative delights in Ouseburn Valley

This year, Ouseburn Open Studios returns on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 March – 10am-5pm offering a unique insight into the working world of artists and designer-makers whilst signalling the start of the new Spring creative season with venues and artists taking the opportunity to announce new projects, new product lines, workshop programmes and events.

This Ouseburn Open Studios, five venues from across the Ouseburn Valley – located a short 15-mnute walk from Newcastle city centre – are taking part in this spring’s event including: The Biscuit Factory, Kiln, Northern Print, Jim Edwards Studio and 36 Lime Street.  Ouseburn Open Studios is open to the public and is free to attend.

I was recently invited to meet project coordinator and general manager of The Biscuit Factory, Rachel Brown, to find out more about the 2018’s Spring Open Studios.

Rachel Brown said: “The spring event has a laidback vibe, and being smaller in scale means that visitors can take their time to explore the different venues. Whether that’s discovering the freshest of work being created from within the studios, enjoying a newly launched exhibition, dropping in to a demonstration or booking into a workshop. It means that visitors can personalise what they want out of the weekend.”

open5

Handy map of venues

So, for 2018, the spring programme includes:

  • The Biscuit Factory – Inspired by International Women’s Day, the gallery is spotlighting inspirational women in the creative sectors with a weekend that celebrates local female entrepreneurship with pop ups, workshops, demonstrations and open discussions. How absolutely up my street is that!?
  • Kiln – The workshop and kitchen welcomes back its monster making drop-ins; get to grips with clay and make whatever comes to your imagination.
  • Northern Print – The gallery will showcase the work of Japanese artist Katsutoshi Yuasa. Using Mokuhanga – the traditional Japanese woodcut process – his work reflects on photographic and digital images and the time spent in making these hand carved works. And as always, I’m sure there will be print making opportunities for people to have a go at!
  • Jim Edwards – Jim will showcase his new collection of large Nightscape biro drawings of the River Tyne, reminiscent of his sketchbook work. As always Jim will be lurking in his creative workspace and on hand to chat about his working practice.
  • 36 Lime Street – 22 artists and makers will open their spaces over all five levels of this listed building. The theme in the street level gallery is Change, inspired by the centenary of the first votes for women. Visitors can also buy raffle tickets to raise money for building works: covetable miniature prints designed by members and printed by Lee Turner of Hole Editions. I’m building up quite the collection of these raffle tickets! Hannah Scully ones are always beauts!

As always the line up above is amazing but if that’s not enough to persuade you to visit, well I thought I’d gather my top hints, tips and reasons why you HAVE to visit.

  1. You can go inside artist studios.

This is one of my favourite elements of Open Studios. Every single studio is so different and individualistic and they open their doors to the wider public. It’s an opportunity to see works in progress, watch demonstrations, view and take in their work, find out how they make things and about future projects alongside being able to buy lots of lush pieces, prints and cards.

I spend ages just lurking and pottering about – going from studio to studio. For me, it’s a great opportunity to meet new artists and catch up with Culture Vulture favourites. I love hearing about what artists are up to, what commissions they are working on and their creative journey and inspiration.

open2

  1. It’s a lush opportunity to visit a new venue or space.

Even if you’re an Ouseburn Open Studios regular, as artists are always evolving, moving on, moving in and spaces in the Ouseburn are converted and transformed, there is always something new to see, discover and experience. It provides a great opportunity to finally visit a venue or independent, that you’ve been meaning to but haven’t got round to yet.

I’m super looking forward to FINALLY going to The Kiln; yes can you believe that I’ve not properly been yet? Every time, I try to visit it’s either too full or closing (I swear it’s a conspiracy) so I am making it my firm priority to go and really looking forward to it.

kiln

The Kiln – Ouseburn

  1. It’s ace for boozy Culture Vulturing and supporting independents.

We all know I’m a big fan of the #SundayClub and Ouseburn Open Studios is perfect for this. I love going with a friend, planning a lush lunch somewhere (often Ernest) plotting our route, visiting the galleries and venues, and stopping off on the way at many of the independent bars for a drink. As you can imagine, the more stop offs, the bigger the purchases get…..one minute I’m buying some nice print cards, the next a small print, then a chopping board and suddenly I’m putting a deposit on a coffee table commission. It can be a beautiful blur.

And that’s also the beauty of Ouseburn Open Studios – there is a misconception that purchasing art is mega expensive and it’s really not. A lot of work and pieces are really affordable alongside pieces that I like to label “aspirational” – one day! Open Studios is like my version of walking around IKEA; I pretty much know exactly all the art pieces, the commissions and token creative bits that I want for my own house. My house will be full of bespoke pieces by independents, full of colour and total mis-match – representative of my personality.

The Biscuit Factory and in many of the individual studios, there are often a wider selection of bespoke gifts, prints, cards created by artists and creatives etc – by purchasing those, you’re equally supporting independents and creatives and they are super affordable . Last Christmas, every card I sent was from the last Ouseburn Open Studios – each very different, lush and unique. I like the idea of giving someone their own mini artwork.

open7

The Biscuit Factory

  1. Ouseburn Open Studios is super accessible.

If you’re a Culture Vulture, have a family of mini culture vultures, creatively curious or looking for an ace afternoon out with your friends, family or on your own (I often go it alone and love it!), then it’s absolutely for you. The vibe and atmosphere is amazing, everyone is always having a lush time so I always get chatting to people. As so many different types of artists are involved, you may go into one studio and think it’s not quite for you or to your taste, then walk into the next one and love it and so on. For me, I’m less about the florals and more about the abstract, or the graphic design, the colourful, the big and the bold, the obscure and the artistically intricate.

And for families, there is always lots to do too. Many of the venues or artists have child friendly activities for your mini culture vultures to have a go at. But the families that I watch going around, because each studio and space and space is so lush and different, for kids it’s like a new discovery behind every turn and they often can’t wait to show their grown-ups what they’ve just seen in another studio.

open9

  1. It feels like home.

My creative soul feels like it belongs in the creative quarter of Ouseburn. I love the industrial surroundings (not so much the student accommodation!), the graffiti, the lush independents, the vibe and the creativity that is going on all over the place. For me, it’s as much about the outside as it is the inside, taking in the river, popping along to the Tyne Bank Brewery, going to check on the little boat behind Seven Stories and seeing all the small pieces of public art hidden around.

However, true nostalgia and it wouldn’t be an Open Studios without it, is visiting Jim Edwards Gallery Space. You may remember I wrote a recent blog post on him – I’ve been a super fan for a while. I love his work, his depiction of Northern cultural scenes and his representations of views that we all know and love. I was also a super fan of Craig David Pubcat (if you know, you know!) and visiting Jim’s gallery is like a little homage and nod to his memory. I bliddy loved that cat and I love that Jim has captured Craig David in several scenes showing how much he was a part of the fabric of the cultural scene for many.

open3

Jim Edwards featuring CraigDavid Pubcat

  1. It’s not just about looking at things.

Lots of the artists and creatives put on demonstrations or continue their creative practice so you can watch whilst they are engaged in a new project or commission. There is a lot of opportunity to chat and ask questions. But many run drop in workshops across the day – which is a brilliant addition.

This year The Biscuit Factory is doing something a little bit special and very up my street to complement their brand new Spring exhibition (can’t wait to see it – I’ve avoided going so it’s all a lush surprise); they have several artists from the exhibition on hand to chat about their work – a meet the makers type of thing. They have also assembled a creative programme inspired by International Women’s Day with some of my fave female creatives and artists – including The Crafthood, All Round Creative Junkie, A Woven Plane, Trendlistr and Megan Randall (who I haven’t met in person yet – so yey!). If you want to find out more about the line-up well head on over to the facebook event page – as some activities and workshops have specific timings and charges.

open6

So I hope that’s enough to get you excited – I will be out culture vulturing across both days – so if you see me, make sure you say hello! I will also be popping my creative adventures on social via facebook, insta and twitter so if you want to follow that you can.

Facebook: @TheCultureVultureNE

Insta: @horts27

Twitter: @reettinker

For more information on Ouseburn Open Studios visit their website: http://www.ouseburnopenstudios.org

Until next time Culture Vultures!

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.

p10

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.

p5

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.

p7

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.

p6

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.

p3

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!

p4

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.

p1

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.