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.

Digital Makings Artist of the Month November; Lesley-anne Rose

Digital Makings has led to direct exposure to the wonderful world of digital arts and many fantastic digital artists that work in this area. Digital art is a wonderful world that encompasses everything from music, to photography, to film, to animation, to CAD, to creative coding and hacking, to more traditional arts and mediums infused with digital elements.

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Animation workshop October 2016

The thing that I find so absolutely fascinating about digital art is that firstly, my preconception going into Digital Makings was all wrong. I believes that digital arts and traditional arts were quite separate; however what I’m finding through the project of Digital Makings, is that traditional arts still has an integral part to play with many artists using sculpture, drawing, painting, etc within their digital arts practice. In fact, digital art and traditional art are so complementary and where they meet and overlap, there is real synergy that can lead to real creative results.

Secondly, Digital Art is a continuously evolving process of experimentation and learning. If we think how rapidly technology is developing, how often new apps and programmes are constantly being launched and updated; it happens daily. In the midst of designing workshops related to apps, we’ve had their capabilities wildly transform or often, disappear altogether replaced by something newer. Clearly this constant evolution and change will affect Digital Arts and the artists that engage in those mediums. To me, their practice could arguably be described in an exciting state of flux.

Over the recent weeks, I’ve worked with a brilliant North East based Digital artist; Lesley-anne Rose as part of Digital Makings.

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Lesley-anne Rose

Lesley ran an animation workshop on 15th October and a family music workshop on 12th November as part of the Digital Makings activity programme. Both were at Gateshead Central Library and both workshops were amazing!

Click here to watch the animation produced at her Digital Makings animation workshop

Talking to Lesley, I could see we had a lot in common, we were passionate about similar community agendas, both a bit unconventional and in love with the weird and the wonderful. I then looked at her animation showreel, which is absolutely amazing and knew that I had to make her my November artist of the Month.

Click here to watch Lesley-anne’s professional showreel!

Lesley-anne Rose is an Artist and Arts educator who works across photography animation and sculptural platforms. She has a special interest in stop motion animation and model making. She works with community organisations such as We engage and Baltic Stars facilitating creative digital engagement. She has had animations commission by the likes of Channel 4BALTIC and has even animated a music video!

I caught up with Lesley, to get some insight into the world of the digital artists, to find out what inspires her animations and how she overcomes rapidly changing technology alongside participatory barriers to engagement……

Hi Lesley, Tell me about your arts practice?

I work across a few mediums, from photography to sculpture and model making; though my speciality is stop motion animation.

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 Lesley-anne Rose

I am interested in the comic and the banal things in life; I take a lot of photographs of rubbish in bushes for some reason. I have also been collecting film footage of people doing something I am fascinated with, the drag queen from the Black Garter Pub in Newcastle for example. I am not sure what I will do with the filming yet.

Favourite project of 2016 so far?

I think the Art and SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environments) project with Helen Burns at Newcastle University; I liked this project because independent thinking, ownership and agency are central to the experience. Children get to make decisions about their own learning and once that happens you can feel the energy in the room change in a good way!

Can you tell me a bit about your involvement with We engAGE?

I work with Claire and another two Artists facilitating digital engagement to older people and people living with Dementia.

I have met and worked with some amazing people as part of this project! Recently we have been looking at sustainability, working with schools and care homes together; we are hoping to foster long term partnerships between older people and students.

Why are participatory workshops a good means to engage in digital and new types of technology?

In a workshop, you can try applications with someone who can help you navigate complex software in order to make something, like an animation, piece of music, digital drawing or a computer game. Access to digital learning is something I am really passionate about.

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Lesley- anne Rose: Animation workshop October 2016

What do you find are the common barriers to engagement in Digital Arts and Digital in general and how do you seek to overcome them?

Cost, knowledge and confidence are major barriers as well as age and access. There are still a lot of people who don’t have access to any digital facilities for various reasons. My job as a facilitator is to make the equipment less scary and more of a tool for creative use.

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Why did you decide to take the Digital Arts route?

For me it was a means to an end; I wanted to make better animations and saved up to buy the laptop, software and camera that would enable me to take a step up in quality.

I really enjoy the learning process and became interested in a few software packages that are fantastic for any budding creative; Photoshop, Dragonframe, Final Cut Pro-editing software and most recently, Game Maker software.

Even though all artists’ practice and participatory workshops grow, evolve and change – as technology updates, changes and new innovations are launched all the time, surely this must speed up this process for a Digital Artist?

Any smaller, cheaper, hand held technology has the potential to be used as a creative tool. I don’t want workshop participants to just be consumers of technology, I am interested in how creative technology can give a voice to people who can showcase their work across digital platforms like YouTube.

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Lesley-anne Rose – Animation workshop October 2016

How does emerging new technology affect your practice as a digital artist?

Keeps me on my toes! I had to learn how to describe a quantum computer in order make a short animation, I watched a lot of explanations online and was thankful for the ever educational online community.

You do work for a variety cultural organisations and community initiatives; from BALTIC, to Woodhorn, to Equal Arts , to We engAGE, to Gateshead Culture Team – what’s it like working for different cultural organisations as an artist?

The work is really varied! I also work with GemArts  and have done some great projects with them working with marginalised groups and learning about other cultures. I am a huge fan of Contemporary Art which of course there is plenty of at BALTIC. I think Contemporary Art is an underrated educational tool; Artists responding to the world around them and asking many questions is something we should all feel able to do.

Can you tell me a bit about your involvement with Baltic Stars – sounds like such an interesting project!?

I really enjoy working on this project; with every group, the process and outcomes are vastly different. This project is funded by Children in Need and the aim is to work with young people with special educational needs outside of school and with their families. Every group I have worked with has had fun exploring ideas such as identity, music, sculpture and photography as part of their creative pathway.

Click here to watch her community show reel of work

You do quite a lot of animation commission work; how do these commissions occur?

Usually, someone has seen my work and recommended me. I do apply for commissions as well and perhaps I am not to everyone’s taste as an animator.

What was it like being commissioned to make an animation for Random Acts on Channel 4 ?

I didn’t think I would get through! Then when I did it was long hours of working with a great team of talented artists. Long long days in a blacked out room; it was worth it though and I am still proud of that animation .

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Lesley-anne Rose – Spatula Head – Random Acts, Channel 4

I’ve watched your various show reels and they are amazing! They seem to be quite dark, a bit Tim Burtonesque….what inspires the concepts and stories behind your animation?

I am inspired by Jan Svankmajer, a Czech animator as well as The Brother Quay. I get a lot of inspiration places as well as people, I think that’s why I like photographing the rubbish in parks, it’s a kind of story of the person who left it there.

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Your work also seems to infuse a lot of traditional arts (what you call as analogue skills – really like that term!) – from sculpture, to drawing, to puppet making, to photography – do you have a particular traditional arts “specialism”?

I don’t think I have a particular specialism; I use drawing a lot in my process even though my drawing skills are not that great. I am fond of the drawing process and anyone can do it. You just need something that can make a mark and somewhere to put your mark, even if it’s a signature, it’s a way to tell the world I am here!

Can you tell me a bit about the animation process?

Stop motion animation is essentially a mix of photographic skills and model making. I make a set and puppets and plan out what needs to happen in that sequence of photographs.

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Lesley-anne Rose

Some scenes are made up of hundreds of photographs, some shorter scenes may be 50 or 60 shots. I work with a really talented post production artist who removes out any rigging (mechanism that holds the puppet in place) and tweaks the photos so that the animation looks good.

What are you plans for 2017? Any exciting projects that you can share with us on the horizon?

Other than trying to master the basics of game design, I don’t have any big projects lined up for 2017. Animation wise, I have an animation in production that requires me to figure out how to lip synch, making loads of tiny replaceable puppet mouths that I am hoping to complete by this time next year.

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Lesley-anne Rose

Thank you Lesley – I’ve loved working with her so far on Digital Makings and I hope our paths cross again soon. Good luck with the Lip syncing!

 

Well hello there Digital Makings…nice to meet you!

Have you heard of Digital Makings yet? No….well you’re certainly going to. Digital is EVERYWHERE now; it is simply infusing and permeating into every possible area of Arts and Culture. There is no escape.

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For those, like myself, who feel a little bit uncomfortable as soon as someone says “digital”, Digital Makings is going to be a learning curve and hugely exciting and for those who embrace digital and we first adopters well, you’re going to love it!

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Digital Makings is a collaborative Arts Council funded project between Gateshead Council Culture Team and Gateshead Libraries. It’s an on-going year-long programme of participatory digital arts activities, full of opportunities for workshop attendees, school groups, library users/borrowers, community groups, artists and even the digital industry to experiment, explore and learn.

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Gateshead Central Library (above, with Storm Troopers…)

There is lots coming up for all ages and abilities – including talks, residencies and lots of events to enthuse about all things digital. There are two key strands running through the project; the first strand sets to expose and explore creative digital mediums so expect everything from animation, to film making, to stop motion, to Quinn Draw, to photography, to music, to image manipulation.

Examples of Quinn Draw by some Young People

The second strand focuses on engaging with participants, library users, communities, artists etc through quite traditional arts, library and cultural activity and focus on digital opportunities and how digital means can be brought in to enhance not only the activity but also trigger learning.

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That’s what I mean when I say Digital Makings makes me feel a bit uncomfortable; the activity involved is going to be different and exciting, not necessarily using artist mediums or equipment that I regularly use and I’m going to feel outside of my comfort zone – which of course, I love!

The Digital Makings project has just announced its two main residencies; we are delighted to have local artists Ben Freeth and Karen Underhill on board. We also have a mini residency by Sheryl Jenkins. With all three artists, a Digital Makings programme of activity is continuously evolving (I promise you, it’s mint!). Such activity will be taking place across Gateshead and Gateshead Libraries, so keep an eye out for that.

Similar to Sculpture 30, I will be writing a feature on each artist – but I’m going to let them get a little settled into their new Digital Makings roles before interrogating them. However, I can reveal that their work and engagement will culminate in a final exhibition towards the end of the project. And after reading their proposals and plans, I’m really looking forward to it. We’re in for a treat!

For this current season, we’ve been working with digital artists and We EngAGE to run workshops, we had a Digital Arts Zone at eDay5 and we’ve got Shipley Lates: Digital Makings coming up on 26th November.

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If you fancy a night out with a difference, then Shipley Lates is for you – there will be a bar, digital arts, crafting in the beautiful surroundings of The Shipley, lovely company (Gateshead Culture Team will be there and we are a cracking bunch) and, did I mention there is a bar? So why not come join us with a troop, have a G&T and get all digital. That’s my plan for the evening anyway!

So, as I mentioned Digital Makings is a collaboration between Gateshead Culture Team and Gateshead Libraries. We’ve been working closely with Jacqui Thompson, who is the Community Learning Officer for the Libraries and creates and develops a wide range of ICT courses, code club and has an enviable digital network. If you want to get in touch with someone in the Digital sector, Jacqui is the one in the know!

I caught up with Jacqui to find out about her involvement in Digital Makings and beyond!

Hi Jacqui, can you tell me a bit about your role at Gateshead Libraries and within the Digital community across the North East?

I am most proud of being the originator of eDay; this year was our 5th event! eDay is a celebration of exciting new media and digital technology. Local makers and companies come together for the event to encourage members of the public to fully engage with changes in tech and art.

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Developing eDay from the idea stage to reality has allowed me to form a wide range of successful working relationships with local and regional businesses as well as third sector organisations. Further extending this aspect of my work I champion Coder DojoNE here in Gateshead Libraries and this has given me the opportunity to work and connect with the fantastic expert volunteers who give up their time to support young coders and makers.

Can you tell me a bit about your involvement with Digital Makings?

I was involved in part of the bid writing suggesting possible partnerships and events. Once I found out the Arts Council bid had been successful, I was then able to add new activity and workshops to the likes of eDay and Coder Dojo as well as launching a new weekly code club.

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In addition, I’ve also had input to the programming of activity, whilst supporting upcoming events such as Shipley Lates: Digital Makings and Culture Camps.

Who is the Digital Makings project and activity for?

Looking at the fantastic programme that has been pulled together so far, there really is something for all ages and abilities to get involved with. It is for people who have not really engaged with Digital before, to people who are already really engaged and proficient. Moreover, there is a family aspect, so more and more, we see children with higher tech capabilities than their parents – so creative activities within Digital Makings, will enable families to collaborate, create and learn together.

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We are really lucky to have the project and programme of activity in the region and at the same times as SnowDogs!

Why has “Digital” become increasingly important?

Well there’s no getting away from the growth of digital in our everyday life and so digital has been added to the creative and cultural mix as a way to further engage people and to help them get hands on with new tech and understand its wide range of uses as well as to make better use out of the devices they already may own.

One of the highlights of Digital Makings so far has been eDay5…can you tell me a little bit about the day?

WOW eDay5 was a great day! 350 people plus attended and got hands on with tech and digital – everything from VR, to Makerspace, to Minecraft, to 3D printing.  From participants comments on social media and our evaluation forms, a great time was had by everyone and fingers crossed for eDay6.

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We also had a Digital Arts stand this year; we had digital artist John Quinn running animation sessions and green screen movie sessions alongside Hannah from the Shipley Art Gallery introducing Quinn Art using iPads. Both of these activities proved to be highlights of the day as did the Amateur radio group.

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Well thank you Jacqui! With Digital Makings now firmly underway and set to continue until September 2017, I hope I’ve wet your appetite for it. Over the coming months, you’ll get to know the Digital Makings artists in residence and I will be shortly sharing some of activity programmed.

Current book-able Digital Makings activity can be found HERE!