Clare Holdstock StudioBook 2017 a-n Bursary


Since returning to my hometown of Hull at the beginning of 2015 after completing a degree in painting at Camberwell College of Arts in London I have worked as a self-employed practitioner on various exhibitions and projects in Hull and the north of England. Working in Hull as an artist during the UK City of Culture year is extremely exciting and fulfilling but I am still keen to foster networks and connections further afield. As an artist, finding the money to pay for the travel to Manchester as well as the accommodation would have been tricky. I am consequently grateful to be receiving one of the five a-n bursaries for artists living outside of Manchester attending Mark Deveruex Projects’ StudioBook 2017. This is further to some a-n funding that my artist group Hack & Host, also based in Hull received earlier this year. The generosity and real impact of such a-n bursaries on the continued practice of artists is laudable. I was thrilled to be selected as one of the twelve artists participating in the two-week intensive professional development programme to foster necessary links beyond Hull. The fortnight of professional development will be followed by a group exhibition featuring StudioBook 2017 artists to be held in Manchester in November 2017. As an artist who has never exhibited in Manchester, this will be a fantastic opportunity to show my work to new audiences.

Since graduating from university in 2014 I have been involved in many projects as a self-employed artist.  These have ranged from community-based projects, including workshops and engagement sessions; to temporary outdoor sculptures for festivals or public trails; to exhibiting gallery based work supported by grants and commissions. My involvement in each of these projects has brought about several broad learning curves. Professional development for an artist wishing to make a living in the real world simply wasn’t touched on enough during my time at university. The most useful instance of professional development advice that I received during my degree was given by the artist Doug Fishbone, who provided many insightful and humorous glimpses into the career of a professional practicing artist. Doug’s key piece of advice went something along the lines of ‘keep hustling, even when you believe that you have managed to hustle your way to success, you will learn that you must continue to hustle’. This is by no means a direct quote, but the advice appears on many levels to be the consensus among artists.

This was not the sole piece of advice given, but most other professional pieces of advice came in a short burst towards the end of the degree. One came from a recipient of the Artquest sponsored, University of the Arts London (UAL) ‘LIFE BOAT Residency’ which entailed the provision of a studio space for a year at Vanguard Court in Peckham. The speaker stressed a need to find sustaining and fulfilling art-based work alongside a personal practice, and to balance this with regular applications to opportunities and a healthy studio practice. This was brilliant advice, which I have always remembered and implemented as often as possible in the early stages of my career.

After reading about keynote speakers who have worked at spaces ranging from TATE Liverpool, to The Hepworth Wakefield, I am excitedly anticipating Mark Devereux Projects’ StudioBook 2017 programme. This is a great opportunity to reflect upon the projection of my work to audiences, as well as a chance to network, to meet peers and the professionals running contemporary art spaces in the UK. Three years after graduating from university I am at a point where I am eager to reflect on and to discuss my experiences as a professional practitioner. I am hopeful that the advice and experiences of all of the speakers, as well as the valuable networking opportunities that StudioBook will provide, will give me the confidence and the tools to take my professional practice to the next level.

StudioBook 2017 Selected Artists


Post-StudioBook 2017


Astoundingly, it has been over three weeks since the end of the StudioBook 2017 fortnight. And so, now is probably the time to write my third blog post, to document post-StudioBook 2017 thoughts before the actuality of the experiences and conversations begin to become less clear.

I am excited and relieved to be back in Hull. Hull is the UK’s City of Culture for 2017, there is currently such a buzz here. It’s incredible to see the reputation; landscape and attitude of a city develop, grow and flourish within such a short space of time. On some level, because of the excitement and constant agitation of events, exhibitions and interventions here, it is easy to feel that what’s happening in Hull is a brilliant part of a wider art world. Living and working in Hull, I am constantly busy with part-time work as a gallery assistant at the exciting new Humber Street Gallery, as well as working in the studio to develop a body of new sculptures for an upcoming solo show in the city this November.

Saying this, I am aware (and participating in StudioBook has confirmed this) that working in Hull, UK City of Culture or not, I am somewhat isolated from the larger art world, in particular I am working at a distance from artists at a similar career level, and whose work explores ideas related to mine. StudioBook has made me realise that studio visits and trips to other cities with lively art scenes, and artist-led spaces such as The Royal Standard may be pivotal in early career-development.

In writing this third blog post, I also thought that it might be useful to document some reflections on week two of StudioBook 2017.

Nathaniel Pitt, interestingly the only male speaker of the fortnight programme, stood out to me. Nathaniel gave a talk on what it means to be represented. His talk was more of a personal account of his attitude towards how Marxism might be used as a curatorial thread throughout the exhibitions of a project space (Division of Labour, London), as well as how artists negotiate less savoury elements of the art market. Nathaniel’s talk was pithy and amusing, and I really respected his ideas and his honesty in sharing them with us.

Alex Hodby was the second speaker on the same day as Nathaniel and covered managing your finances and budgeting as a self-employed artist. This talk was extremely useful on a practical level. Reading back over my notes has led me to reassess my digital accounts, as well as to plan to take the step to set up a separate bank account for my practice.

On day three of week two, Susan Jones opened her talk, ‘Negotiating better – how to improve terms and conditions for artists’, stating that her life goal is to influence arts policy. Susan was director of a-n until 2014 and helped to secure a-n’s artist insurance offer. In her talk she argued that negotiating was not just about money but about an exchange of value. Further to this, Susan broke elements of the negotiating process down to easy, digestible points. These included looking at ‘things you must achieve’, ‘things you intend to achieve’, and ‘things you would like to achieve’ when negotiating with an outside party. It was really inspirational hearing about Susan’s achievements whilst working for a-n, and brilliant to receive advice and tips on how to successfully negotiate from such a qualified person.

The penultimate day addressed marketing. Catherine Braithwaite, who has worked as a cultural communicator for Tate, The Southbank Centre, The Whitworth and The Hepworth Wakefield covered publicity and marketing as well as writing a press release. Catherine gave really great personal anecdotes about campaigns that she had worked on, including those that were more and less successful. She addressed the ‘hierarchy of effects’, an advertising concept which claims that the public need six reminders a day to remember or to be engaged by something that they would otherwise be uninterested in. Catherine, like so many of the StudioBook speakers, was very open to conversation. Over lunch we had a great discussion about national galleries and issues around successfully engaging with the public within a gallery context.

The final day of a long but incredibly interesting, useful and engaging fortnight consisted of a Strategic Planning session with Mark Devereux Projects. This final part of StudioBook 2017 was so amazingly useful. Mark talked us through several steps over a roughly five-hour session (the length of the session at first seemed daunting). The ease and simplicity of writing this plan became apparent as the day unfolded, and was incredible. Writing and being talked through the plan in this way, broken down into such simple steps, was like therapy. I already had a lot of respect forMark and Liz and what they do, but after this session my respect for them increased tenfold. This MDP ‘Strategic Planning’ demonstrated Mark’s skill in his brilliant ability to see complex, and to most people very daunting things, clearly and calmly. This session alone would have made the fortnight worthwhile.

Thank you MDP and all of the StudioBook 2017 speakers for an incredible fortnight! Writing this has reminded me to reassess my notes and write a list of action points. I feel as though StudioBook 2017 has given me the tools and momentum to move forward professionally with my practice, as well as a great new network of interesting artists, and an invaluable insight into the minds and motivations of those working professionally in the arts sector. I’m excited to reconnect with the group in November for the install of our StudioBook 2017 exhibition at Old Granada Studios.



First Week of StudioBook 2017


The first week of Mark Devereux Projects’ StudioBook 2017 surpassed my expectations. I arrived in Manchester on Sunday night at Islington Mill, the incredible space that I and two other StudioBook artists are staying in for the StudioBook fortnight. We started the week with twelve short presentations given by each artist about their practice. I had researched each artist before the start of the programme, but it was brilliant and so insightful to hear them speak about their own work. I had expected the fortnight to be a great opportunity to network but hadn’t foreseen the supportiveness and genuine interest in each other’s practices that has been displayed so far. The opportunity to discuss work and to share experiences has been so helpful and extremely exciting.

The speakers of the first week of StudioBook have also surpassed my expectations. So many varied and amazing stories and experiences were shared by an array of people coming from vastly different places. Each of the speakers shared an openness and generosity that I couldn’t have predicted.

Kitty Anderson from the Common Guild in Glasgow was a wonderfully kind, sensitive and ambitious woman. Hearing about her projects with Carol Bove and Steven Claydon, two artists whose work I really admire, was fascinating. It was particularly interesting to hear about the importance of studio visits in building relationships over years between artists and curators. Hearing about Kitty’s projects with local artists, as well as her focus at the Common Guild on round table discussions with early career artists, was also lovely to hear about. For the second part of the morning the tables were reassembled and we experienced our own StudioBook round table discussion with Kitty. This discussion felt so genuine and honest. There was a real exchange of experiences and ideas between the twelve artists as well as Kitty which was very insightful and useful.

Another speaker that I particularly enjoyed was Eleanor Clayton from the Hepworth. Eleanor was completely different in her manner to Kitty but equally fascinating in what she discussed. In her talk she presented the nominees of the Hepworth Sculpture Prize as case studies of how to make the most out of a space and an exhibiting or commissioning opportunity. Doing so, she gave an in-depth view into the logistics of working with established artists working at advanced levels both conceptually and technically. I loved this talk as I had visited the prize and found the works of each of the nominees incredible.

On Wednesday we had a presentation cum creative writing workshop from the lovely Laura Robertson. Laura tackled the problem of the artist statement and worded aptly through the amusing sound bite: ‘as my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and therefore full of deep significance’. She was so funny, entertaining and passionate and really injected energy and enthusiasm into the group. Laura Robertson co-founded the Double Negative and writes for Frieze, Art Review and Art Monthly. Laura stressed the importance of stories and using exciting language. She really was a pleasure to spend an afternoon with. Laura wasn’t the only speaker to stress the importance of stories. This, and the idea of building narratives around art work and a practice seemed to be an overriding theme in week one.

Ann Bukantas spoke to us on the same day as Laura. Hearing Ann speak was very interesting as she is used to working with early to mid career artists as well as artists on a more international scale. She for example, edits the John Moores Painting Prize catalogue as a part of her role as Head of Fine Art at the National Museums Liverpool. On Wednesday afternoon I had a one-to-one session with Ann. This was probably the most useful conversation that I had in week one. Ann had really done her research on my online presence and the way that I was projecting myself on my website and social media. Based on this she gave me so much real terms advice. Lesley Taker, curator at FACT Liverpool who I had a one-to-one with earlier in the week had also been fantastic for this, recommending appropriate opportunities and artists for me to research and explore.

We are now almost midway into week two of StudioBook 2017. I am excited to meet the rest of the speakers that will be joining us this week. On Friday we will be writing our three and five year plans. StudioBook has provided us all with plenty to move forward with. I am looking forward to returning home to digest this fortnight of information, stories and advice from many brilliant different people; to recuperate and to begin to make the work for the StudioBook group exhibition in November.