The Art Insider: February '19

 

Ruthie Collins gives you the lowdown on arty happenings around Cambridge in February 

February arrives, bringing with it fresh energy for 2019. Now is the perfect time of year to reinvigorate your life with art or creative expression.

Artists who work with clay, ceramicists, potters or perhaps those that simply want to try something new – check out Kiln Cambridge, a new addition to the city’s arts infrastructure. This is a well serviced, open access pottery studio, with three kilns, plenty of natural light and space to work. It’s a resource that’s long been needed in the city, so it’s no surprise it’s flourishing.

“Kiln Cambridge was set up towards the end of 2018 by my partner, who’s a part-time potter, and myself,” explains painter Stephanie Hemming. “He was looking for a studio and the thought of working alone hit him – the reality of that. So to have a space with other potters that’s open and light, with decent facilities, is amazing.

“We had our open evenings in November and December and virtually everyone who came signed up. We had a party. I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved,” she continues. “We wanted to create a beautiful space and give the community access to it. A studio has a high start-up cost, so not everyone can do this for themselves.

“The only thing people won’t be allowed to do is fire the kiln; there’s a technician who does that. Otherwise, it will feel like their own place. People who are stuck get support and coaching. The place has a lovely feeling, it’s not competitive like a gym might feel. People are good to each other.” 

The initiative has really taken off, with evident demand, but Hemming says the plan is to grow membership and plans slowly. “We intend to limit membership so there will always be a wheel if someone wants it. We want everyone to have a great experience. We’d like to build things up slowly but surely and eventually host masterclasses, getting a well-known potter in to do specialist classes; glazing, or maybe throwing with porcelain. We will be running at least two exhibitions a year, too.”

Hemming continues: “Kiln Cambridge feels a great place to be – we’re getting really positive feedback. For some people making things with their hands is really important; pottery can get you hooked.” 


“Kiln Cambridge is a safe place for artistic exchange. All ideas are welcome”


Technician and artist-in-residence Tarragon Smith, educated at Central St Martins School of Design, says Kiln Cambridge is “a safe place for artistic exchange”. He adds: “All ideas are welcome. We hope and trust it will turn into a place of fruitful productivity.” 

Kiln Cambridge has given potter David R Stonehouse what he describes as ‘that freedom to explore’.“You can learn from each other instead of working alone at the end of the garden! To start the year with a new space is exciting.”  

Those seeking a new read to get stuck into this spring, let’s hear it for the long-awaited release of the first in Gytha Lodge’s murder mystery series, She Lies in Wait, published by Harper Collins. With ‘Six friends, one killer – who can you trust?’ as its punchy hook, this seems like the perfect read for a book club. Cambridge, itself, seems to produce an alarmingly high number of crime writers – myself included, ahem – so for anyone out there penning their own, it’s great to hear Gytha’s encouraging words.

“I used to think of writing novels in terms of overnight success,” she tells me. “It’s only gradually that I’ve realised overnight success doesn’t really happen. Writing, like everything else, is a craft, and you learn it, you work at it, and you build opportunities for yourself. For everyone who’s struggling and feels like giving up, don’t. It’s taken me 20 years to even get this far. Keep writing.” 

I first met Gytha (left) at a night by experimental art collective SHINDIG. Her story-to-publication journey is a total must-read for any artist needing encouragement (read it on her blog imperfectsingleparent.blog). Or check out wattpad.com/GythaLodge – where she’s had six million reads of her young adult/kids fiction.

It just goes to show that sometimes the most tenacious thing you can do as an artist is diversify into new territories. Keep going.

So, if you’re getting that instinct to experiment, why not take up throwing a pot? Or go in a new direction? As novelist Elizabeth Speller, who teaches creative writing at the University of Cambridge, said to me recently, talking about the various art forms there are – ‘they’re all connected’. All part of the fun. Whatever you do, have an inspiring and experimental February, all!