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  • Frances Arnold

From tipi to print studio:Reflections on Creative UK's Challenge Fund by artist Frances Arnold

We are delighted to share another in our series of blogs which share process and learning from our 2022 partnership with Creative UK and North East Cultural Freelancers.

Morpeth based artist and Creative Producer Frances Arnold was one of the artists successful in her application to Creative UK for Challenge Grant last summer.

Frances attended The Big Culture Northumberland co-working day via zoom and worked up her application after that. Championing a hybrid approach to both in person and online attendance for workshops and events means rural artists and creatives feel they are able to stay connected to other rural creatives in our vast geographical area here in Northumberland. More than that, those who are juggling childcare commitments, balancing their work/ life balance for other reasons such as access, neurodivergence or illness are welcome to attend Culture Northumberland events both in person or online or a choose a mix of both.

Here at Culture Northumberland we are passionate about understanding the barriers to creating work and we are actively trying to support freelance artists and creatives to share space and co-work. You can read more here.

You can read other blogs which follow up from the 2022 Creative UK Challenge Fund from Trina Dalziel here and Claire Venus here.


Photo credit: Marion Botella

Prior to receiving a grant from Creative UK, my search for a studio in Northumberland had stalled.

Creative spaces near my home in Morpeth were at capacity or designed for rent to retailers. The lack of a studio space was becoming a barrier to expanding my screenprint collection; I’d outgrown the kitchen table and materials rested in storage. The investment from Creative UK supported me to test a model of temporary studio hire in Northumberland and create new artwork inspired by the unique landscape.

In October 2022, I hired creative space in Shilbottle (Creatively Conscious), Felton (Gallery 45) and North Broomhill (The Old Bath House), plus desk hire in Morpeth with November Club. It created a valuable opportunity to network with other creatives in the county.

Ellie Davison-Archer’s studio at The Old Bath House

Daily studio hire enabled me to access suitable and affordable studios on the specific days I worked. Sole use of screenprinting equipment for a day was also invaluable.

From tipi to office, via two print studios The variety suited the different work I was doing each day and each had a wonderful atmosphere. Combining sketching outdoors with an afternoon warmed by a log burner was magic. As Claire Venus from Creatively Conscious puts it “the tipi is like outside inside”

An afternoon translating sketches of Alnmouth into refined drawings at Creatively Conscious’ tipi, Shillbottle

I felt part of a community of creatives A welcome reconnection with the arts sector after maternity leave. I forged links with artists I’d never met before and invested time with people I knew well. In part due to visiting creative spaces at people’s homes and larger gallery, studio or office buildings that bring people together.

Travelling to each studio gave me the freedom to visit locations nearby as inspiration for new drawings I created a series of plein air sketches of Alnmouth, which became refined drawings and mono-screenprints back in the studios. Wrapped up in thermals and a with a flask of hot coffee, working outdoors in Autumn wasn’t as chilly as I’d imagined!

Sketch of Alnmouth in Diana Fitzpatrick’s studio, Gallery 45

Understandably, more admin time was spent on logistics and I carried my materials with me each day. The transience I experienced made difficult to create a screenprint using my usual process. I improvised to create a couple of mono-screenprints that gave me a rough idea of the colours, composition and a method for printing visually interesting skyscapes.

Preparing to mono-screenprint at Ellie Davison-Archer’s studio, The Old Bath House

Studio holders reflected on the benefit to their practice of income generation and many intend to continue hiring out their studios. Ellie Davidson-Archer commented: “I would definitely consider more solo studio hires and find it sustainable.

“It makes sense that other artists could utilise the space and equipment, as well as creating additional income that would go towards covering rent or utilities.”

For me, it’s highlighted the significant benefits to hiring a studio in Northumberland on a daily or temporary basis. The Creative UK grant has been a brilliant way to test a the viability of this idea. Now, I’m really excited to now be planning to hire creative space(s) in Northumberland on a daily basis in 2023, in order to continue to develop creative network and create a new series of Northumbrian landscape prints.

Walking from home to work in the office at November Club, Morpeth With thanks to North of Tyne Cultural and Creative Investment Programme and Creative UK.

North of Tyne Culture and Creative Investment Programme North of Tyne Culture and Creative Investment Programme offers a combined package of financial and business support. It is open to freelancers and businesses working in the culture and creative industries in North Tyneside, Northumberland and Newcastle. The programme is delivered by Creative UK and is funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority.

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