An artist perspective - Ad Gefrin Design Challenge
Guest article by Felton based artist Becca Poremba.
'Ad Gefrin' is a whisky distillery, which is in the process of being built in Wooler.
As well as making their own whisky the project also aims to provide various opportunities for the local community. Part of that is to give local artists the chance to sell their creations in the gift shop.
The Ad Gefrin design project came at just the right time for me.
I completed a Fine Art degree in July 2021 and when I heard about the competition, I felt that, after having a few months off, it seemed like great timing and the perfect incentive to get creating again.
My art practice is all about working with nature and sustainability and mainly inspired by people and place in Northumberland. As well as art, my massage and yoga work aims to engage the local community and so I thought my work fitted the Ad Gefrin brief pretty well.
The Rural Design Centre Innovation Project is working with Ad Gefrin on the project. They seem like a great team of people who are creating opportunities for small businesses, like myself, to network, build and thrive, which is just what we need after the last few years.
When reading the application form, a huge part of the appeal was the fact that alongside the project there were to be three workshops, each a fortnight apart.
With a one year old and other work commitments, I thought it seemed achievable and that it would push me out of my comfort zone just enough!
The workshops have been held near Stannington in a place called The Rivergreen Centre. I really enjoyed connecting with the other artists in person, especially after lacking social interaction post pandemic and post maternity leave!
Sometimes being an artist can feel a little lonely and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to communicate and bounce ideas, show my work to others, explain my process and network with the other people in the group.
In the group of eighteen participants, there is a diverse range of talents including a sculptor, basket weaver, metal worker, carpenter, photographer, print artist, graphic designer, home ware designer and chocolatier to name but a few!
Some of the artists are well established and some are just starting out.
The environment felt inclusive, kind and inspirational, with everyone being quite different in their practice, it's never felt like a competition.
I have been working with creating paint pigments from earth and rock.
I’m always out walking in the Northumbrian countryside and I collect rocks from various places in the landscape, including the Cheviots hills and the coast. There is a beautiful pink shade of sandstone near Wooler so I have been working with that a fair bit on this project.
It feels really grounding to paint with local materials, especially earth and stone, Northumberland is without a doubt my home but this process reinforces a sense of belonging and taps into ancient times and wisdom.
I am constantly developing my methods and I feel like I am on a continuous learning curve, but I don’t think that I will ever tire of finding sustainable ways of using nature in my artwork.
I have found the competition extremely motivational in gently pushing me forward artistically, it is so important, now more than ever, to have events where creative people can meet and share their ideas, supporting each other in person.
I have already signed up to another creative day through Rural Design Centre Innovation Project called ‘Make the most of the Coast’ and Ad Gefrin have indicated that there will be more projects and opportunities in the future, which is exciting news for our Northumbrian artistic community.
Becca Poremba is a visual artist living in Felton. You can follow her on