Art for Everyone: The Little Known Studio

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Art, Exhibition, Start Ups

This weekend, whilst visiting a friend in Essex, I set out on the Leigh Art Trail.

You’ve still got the weekend to check it out if you’re in the area. From Landscapes on display in Kitchen showrooms to prints in fashion stores and some more conventional gallery spaces showcasing everything from three-dimensional depictions of the Southend Pier to beautifully embroidered pieces inspired by traditional tattoos, (prepare for cliché) there really is something for everyone! But get a move on because it wraps on 19th September!

But I digress. It was here I had the pleasure of meeting the brilliant Andy Downes in his gorgeous little gallery meets studio space on Leigh-on-Sea High Street.

The Little Known Studio is currently presenting Dave Nevard, who grew up in a family of artists, and takes inspiration from artists like Picasso to developing a new and exciting interpretation of modern expressionism. Alongside this Andy Downes, a self-taught artist, shows a selection of his vibrant and experimental portraiture delivering insightful, moving depictions of his subjects every time. This perfect pairing provides visitors with a brilliant array of work combined to create a perfectly complementary display.

Andy’s work has also recently been recognised by the Leyden Gallery in London and is part of their 24th Platform for Emerging Artists exhibit, which is running right now! Visit the Leyden Gallery Website to learn more.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg with Andy. Not only is he a brilliant artist in his own right, but he has a dream… to make art completely accessible to everyone.

Pre pandemic, every month he would provide up and coming artists the opportunity to present their work within his gallery even hosting a monthly mingle to promote and discuss the artwork on display.

Then, as if pre-empting what was to come, on the 22nd March (a day before the lockdown was announced) Andy launched what must have been one of the first lockdown online exhibitions from The Forum in Southend-on-Sea. Check it out on YouTube!

Now the world is opening up Andy is embarking on his most ambitious project yet.

As well as his studio in Leigh, he will be expanding soon into a warehouse in Southend-on-Sea, a much bigger space with beautiful big windows, perfect for workshops and exhibitions.

And Andy has transformed this space himself! A plumber by trade, this once dark and dusty room has been given a lick of paint, received a mass delivery of easels and even had a toilet installed to properly enable the facilitation of classes and arty activities in the future.

He intends on encouraging anyone and everyone to use his space and explore the many wondrous possibilities of art creation. During our conversation he depicted an idyllic scene of a family: Parents and Kids, using his new studio to paint alongside each other, learning new skills together.

He is starting an artistic revolution in Essex by reimagining what a modern creative community should be and long may it continue! Everyone should be following him on Instagram because he is incredibly inspiring, and I can guarantee whatever his future may hold it is bound to be bloody brilliant!

What do you do in your business to create creative opportunities for your local community? Let us know in the comments!

REVIEW: Archie Brennan: Tapestry Goes Pop! | Dovecot Studios

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Exhibition, Reviews

Aug 6-30 | 10am-5pm | Dovecot Studios | Get Tickets


I love tapestry! So this Archie Brennan exhibit had my name written all over it! This collection at the Dovecot Studios contains pieces spanning his entire life catalogue so the diverse range of themes and general witticisms found in his work cater for any audience.

And there’s something I find immensely therapeutic about the creation and incredible attention to detail that goes into weaving every millimetre of a tapestry. I also love the idea of travelling with my own makeshift loom quick to assemble out of copper piping so I could weave on the spotless beaches of Hawaii or anywhere else in the world.

The display is so wonderfully varied with the curation including everything from small scale postcards weaved and sent from his travels to reinterpretations of medieval tapestry reimagined using modern materials.

His experimentation with the art form is fascinating and can be seen through the progression of his ideas, for example, in his series of portraits of Muhammad Ali which nowadays appear to be an interpretation of pixel art but would have been so revolutionary at the time! In his more recent projects, we can see close to perfect replicas of his social media platforms whipped up with thread.

It is his ability to create with humourous connotations which makes all Brennan’s work feel modern and accessible. As part of the Pinterest generation, I assumed comedic tapestry was a relatively modern phenomenon but it turns out, I just wasn’t looking in the right place!


The Arts Business Top Tips:

  • The exhibition has published a gorgeous guide available for purchase. Creating this detailed and tangible merchandise creates additional income for the exhibit and a way for viewers to take home a little piece of what they saw, kind of like a programme in the theatre. It’s also a great quality which although is most likely more expensive to produce gives the purchaser a sense of value for money meaning it is far more likely these will be sold in quantity.
  • Archie Brennan spent much of his working life at the Dovecot Studios, training and refining his craft there as an apprentice and frequently returning despite his amazing worldwide travels. He clearly has a fantastic relationship with the gallery which has been maintained over a lifetime and allowed this fabulous collaboration. So, maintain as many connections as you can and look after your own as the Dovecot has done here. You never know what the future may bring.

REVIEW: Tales of Travel and Trade | Fiery Love | The Nomads Tent

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Art, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Exhibition

Aug 10-15, 17-22, 24-29 | 10am-5pm, Sunday 12pm-4pm | More Info


Having lived in Edinburgh for 5 years from 2007 and spent every summer here since I can’t believe I never knew this place existed!

The Nomads Tent is situated a little off the beaten track tucked away on St Leonards Lane, not too far from the Pleasance Courtyard.

It’s home to tribal art from all over Asia including but not limited to carpets, jewellery and artefacts.

And this Fringe it’s hosting photographic gallery Tales of Travel and Trade and ceramic exhibition Fiery Love from Frances Lichtveld Baird.

Tales of Travel and Trade explores the people and places behind the objects imported by the gallery. It commends the handiwork, commitment and craftmanship from the different cultures and collections you’re surrounded by.

When enfolded in what is essentially an Arabian Bazaar with these images integrated in, an element of immersion is established so you can begin to get an impression of exactly what it would be like to actually be there!

Frances Lichtveld Baird is the perfect pairing for this space as her old studio, Ixora Pottery, was kitted out with rugs and artefacts from founder (and friend) of The Nomads Tent from his travels. The Asian inspiration is clearly reflected in her work. In 2000 she was forced to close her gallery and her artwork has been in storage ever since… until now.

Fiery Love refers to both the high-temperature, high-risk firing process of pottery making and the passionate attitude of the artist. Her work is diverse and beautiful, a highlight being the shimmering fish which lend themselves to ceramics, their shimmering scales glistening in the glaze.

These exhibitions are well worth a visit and the proceeds from Fiery Love will be donated to the Mercy Corps.


The Arts Business Top Tips:

  • When you have a store like this you can really come completely create a life-like environment so integrating photos of where they come from is seriously clever. Everyone loves a behind the scenes look at how things are done which is what The Nomads Tent has done here.
  • Throughout the gallery, there are stories and leaflets to read and learn more about the origins of these exhibits. They have also created tented seating areas to encourage you to take comfort in the shop and ultimately spend more time in there, so if you are lucky enough to have a building think about how you could encourage audiences and customers to spend more time in there, making them more likely to make a purchase
  • Work with who you know. This goes hand in hand with one of my fundamental philosophies: Be nice to everyone you meet in the industry. You never know when those contacts may become opportunities. Additionally, if you know who you’re working with there is already an element of trust, you know their abilities and how they work, so you can be more assured the collaboration will work well.