I visited Blackhorse Workshop, London, and Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop in December, and earlier this year I also visited the proposed site for Birmingham Production Space to speak to Ruth Claxton. In the end the visits were a bit more scatter gun than planned but each offered different approaches to make space, and I’m still processing this really. This last blog post tries to surmise the key points, apologies in advance for the equally scatter gun approach.
Blackhorse Workshop presented an interesting case study for open access space and community engagement. BW has wood and metal working spaces available for hire on half or daily rates, available to individuals who’ve attended the relevant inductions. There is 1 full time technician, and other part time technical support and users must attend advanced inductions before accessing some of the larger pieces of machinery and welding kit. Eniola, who showed me round, estimated there was around a 60:40 ratio of (apologies for use of the terms) ‘professional’ to ‘hobbyist’ use. They get approached for fabrication work but don’t take it on due to capacity. The workshops also offer paid storage space for sheet material and works in progress for a daily fee. In terms of community engagement there is obviously the open access space and kit, workshop programme and there was also a café.
Things being built when I visited: exhibition furniture, a boat, furniture, sculpture.
Left wanting to: set up a cafe at PW, start acquiring second hand equipment, do welding.
Dan Brown and Irene Kernan very kindly shared a wealth of information with me when I visited Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop earlier this month. What I took away primarily is ESW’s focus on production, which is consistent through their programming in residencies and engagement activity. The building they inhabit is purpose built to deliver this, and includes the luxury of a loading bay and outdoor work space for hazardous work. Studios have heating and water, but holders are drawn from across disciplines too and can book additional project space against a daily rate. In terms of the workshops, technical staff are present 6 days a week, offering support and running metal, wood, ceramic and mixed media workshops. Workshop usage is open to anyone and is supplemented by an education programme. Dan explained how their outreach activities also enable them to work with young people who struggle in formal education and have a wider societal impact, but they also have a cafe, and hireable spaces.
Things being built when I visited: a public art installation, mixed media sculpture.
Left wanting to: change the world with making and/or sack everything off and move to Edinburgh.
In the summer I visited Ruth Claxton and the proposed site for Birmingham Production Space in Digbeth, not far from East Side Projects. You can read the proposal for BPS here, it makes a very compelling case for the value of make space in the heart of the city, and specifically why Birmingham could be at the forefront of production in the UK. The approach here is very much cross-disciplinary, right through partners to the products, samples and works that would come out of these facilities, but also makes a convincing case in cross disciplinary production and econonmic growth. The funding bids and partnerships behind BPS are ambitious but have been informed by extensive research, including visits, a survey and ongoing dialogue with partners. CAD and analogue processes are earmarked across different spaces in the site of a former college in the project’s initial stages, and artists, designers, architects and much more are envisaged to use the space once up and running.
Things being built: the development for the site is imminent.
Left wanting to: be ambitious, be able to talk to council and professional bods in a language they understand, set up Make Works Manchester, or just sack it all off and move back to Birmingham.
Ruth and the team are also behind Workshop Birmingham, expanding the Make Works model which started in Glasgow and seeks to put artists and makers in touch with industry. This is something to think about more in 2018, and I’ve got some time for planning in January which will help me reflect a bit more on my bursary activity. After this experience I’m keen to build blueprint ideas for production space into the programme at Paradise Works next year, and come up with a longer term proposal which will help communicate our aims to a wider audience so that we can help safeguard to presence of artists in the city.
I’ve left the bursary feeling inspired by the potential for making to create dialogue across disciplines, sectors and walks of life, but of course this experience has also hammered home the importance of facilities in the creative, and professional, development for artists. I also remembered the captivation and frustration of learning a new skill and feel more keenly that working with professionals has a place alongside artist access to facilities. I’ve also left wanting a MIG welder, and I want to be able to play with process in a space where the outcomes, and the facilities, can be shared with a wider community. It all feels a bit blue sky at the moment but how to figure those small steps in the right direction for the new year is very much on my mind.
Thanks for your support a-n, it is much appreciated.