In this blog post, Steph looks at the importance of supporting artists and small businesses during this time and presents some of our staff picks of favourite artists, makers and small businesses.
With the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent need to think about how we go about our daily lives in order to help others and ourselves, artists and small businesses are going to face quite the challenge, like so many other people in our society. Artists and small businesses rely on the support of their customers and a lack of sales can threaten their business and livelihood. It would be a shame to see our favourite artists, makers and small independent businesses have to close shop permanently and give up making and doing things that make our communities and the areas we live in so quirky and vibrant. We appreciate that during a pandemic, buying something that isn’t food or some other necessity isn’t always the first thing on your mind. However, if you can support artists and small businesses in any way, it will be no doubt much appreciated by them.
This blog post consisting of staff favourites is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the fantastic artists, makers and small independent businesses who produce beautiful, wonderful things but it’s a start! Please note that if you do choose to support an artist or small business, it is possible that there may be some impact on their supply chains, production times and delivery times, so please be patient! Anything you purchase is something to look forward to! Some artists and small businesses are encouraging people to purchase gift cards as a way to help them through this tough period, others are launching campaigns. They’re all doing their best to get through this, just like everyone else, and the care and concern they are extending towards others is truly touching.
Without further ado, here are some of our staff favourites!
Ruth Murray (b.1984, Birmingham, UK) lives and works in Manchester, UK. She graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2008, where she was awarded the Stanley Smith Scholarship to study. Ruth’s work reflects her deep interest in exploring portraiture, identity, and the presence of human concerns in natural settings and the social landscape. Pliable shape and invented masses are rendered in most of her works – her paintings are about the spongy fungibility of matter. Last year Ruth had two solo shows prompted by the life and work of Jean Rhys; ‘The Blue Hour’ at The Old Bank Residency Manchester, and ’Good Morning, Midnight!’ at Elysium Gallery in Swansea, and was also shortlisted for the Contemporary British Painting Prize. Other notable exhibitions and awards include Derek Hill Scholar at British School at Rome, Northern Stars at the A Foundation, Saatchi’s 4 New Sensations, The Creative Cities Collection, the BP Portrait Award and the Threadneedle Figurative Art Prize. You can also now vote for Ruth in this year’s Jackson’s Painting Prize Longlist here.
Ruth’s ‘Blue Rosie’ painting:
Ruth’s paintings are about the experiences of women – most of her paintings are of women in a scene. Ruth’s iconography is developed from everyday stories, places and faces, but also makes use of elements from older visual languages and across the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture. The central piece of an exhibition, ‘Blue Rosie’, depicts two of Ruth’s colleagues: Rosie, with whom she works at the art shop Fred Aldous; and Rosy, who works at the Whitworth. They’re posed in the window of Ruth’s new home in Gorton.
The paintings never fully disclose the hidden thoughts of their subjects. Sometimes the viewer is confronted with enigmatic behaviours (there’s always something private and inaccessible about the subjects); and at other times rituals, symbols and tokens are used to disrupt the reading of the image. It’s not a radical effect: more a gentle skewing. Sometimes it’s the slightest gesture that feels most significant.
The Fox Fairy
The Fox Fairy was opened in March 2015, after the shop I managed closed due to a change in the owner’s circumstances. My artists and I lost our job and, back then, our sole retail space. I had anticipated it a month or so before and I had applied for a space in Afflecks in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Three days after the shop shut down I got an offer, and the next Monday I was moving into the bright Afflecks!
I sell the work of local artists, in exchange of a rent and a tiny commission of 30 percent. I pick illustration artwork, and try to make sure that each artist is really different from the other ones I stock, to make sure everyone is doing well. By buying artwork from The Fox Fairy you are contributing to local economy by giving a fair wage to the artists, and also you know the work is not counterfeit as I work directly with these artists. The shop stocks about 42 artists if you include Wraptious.
The artists are:
Kate Conaghan Jewellery: A fantastic watercolour and ink artist who is also one of the first wood laser cut illustrated jewellery creator. She created the famous wooden bee necklace, and her work reminds me of exquisite cabinet of curiosity and natural history.
Lyndsey Green: who creates animal and fan art illustrations and homeware.
Wraptious: Winner of the gift awards with Katherine Williams for her splatter range. A local collective of about 32 artists
Kendel Nicholson: a tattoo artist you can also get tattooed by at Hatch
Charlotte Hicks: her work is inspired by plants and nature. I’m especially fond of her air balloons print!
Meha Hindocha: who is famous for her Manchester cityscapes. She created one of the Manchester bees for the bee trail!
Sophie Corrigan: who is really famous for her book Lulu is a Rhinoceros
Big Brown Eyes Collective: a collective of three Sisters who create gorgeous fanzines and comics. I fell in love with their Myths comic at Travelling Man.
Daniel Nelson: our youngest but amazing artist who creates colourful illustrations! I have high hopes for him as an illustrator.
Sian Ellis: She creates beautiful ghost inspired illustrations and I’m a huge fan of her ceramics.
Libby Elements: She joined us a month ago and creates beautiful paintings on book pages. They are usually inspired by the book it is painted on! She recently published a cookbook!
And finally, me, Elisabeth Neveux Illustration: in the first 3 years I made maybe 2/3 pen and ink illustrations, but in 2018 I did 31 linocuts in 31 days, and did it again in October 2019! It was even more foolish that year, as I did it on hard lino and twice as large! Lots of coffee and donuts from Shop Shop were involved! I’m currently working on a totally linocut book named ‘Hazel and Batcat’, a story about a very quiet witch who rescues a very mischievous bat-winged cat. This meant that I finally did my first two print fairs at the lovely @Manchesterprintfair and @Dublincomicarts in Ireland!
Now I print and carve daily in my shop when the shop is not too busy!
The coronavirus and current closure of Afflecks made me worried sick about my artists and the future of the shop. I’m going to open an online shop but I cannot take everything home. I will also sell gift vouchers to our lovely customers and might organise pre-orders for prints, just in case I run out of paper/ink, and if the post office shuts down. Once everything re-opens I will ship everything with a little surprise in every parcel!
I want to thank all of my artists and our loyal customers who have been so supportive over the past 5 years, without you the shop would not be what it is! I hope we get to celebrate the 5th year anniversary once the virus situation is sorted!
Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones! I will keep up social media posts, with videos of me carving and maybe painting!
I’m an illustrator with a background in zoology and science communication. I gave up my day job in 2015 to focus on my growing business but nature and environmental education are still really important to my work. I create prints, greetings cards, stickers and gifts based on my detailed watercolour paintings of wildlife. They’re often created with children in mind.
As I’m in an at-risk group, I’ve been self-isolating for a few weeks already and I’m incredibly grateful that I can continue running my small creative business from my home during this time. I’m based in Southport, on the North West coast so I’m also feeling extremely lucky to have beautiful beaches and wild places on my doorstep.
Jess Rachel Sharp
A lot of my work focuses on mental health and wellbeing, as this is something I have struggled with throughout my life. From Greetings Cards to Enamel Pins (and lots of other things in between) I try to make and design products that have a positive message and can act as reminders when you need it most.
Moving between painting, drawing, installation and assemblage, my works are intuitive and sensitive responses to my inner and outer surroundings.
I am fascinated by the rhythms, structures and cycles that underlie all living and non-living things. Within my paintings, I am searching for something elemental and primal, an essence of something seen and felt. Recent paintings reflect on my experience of pregnancy and motherhood, the relationship between body and land and the fluid exchange between inner and outer worlds.
My name is Grace Igoe, I am a Ceramic Practitioner and Designer based in Sale, Greater Manchester. Clay as a medium has given me a voice, allowing me to question and consider my relationship with my practice, enabling me to express my experiences and feelings through this limitless medium.
In my series “Traits of Perception” I use heads as a vehicle for expression, because the face tells us the most about an individual’s mood, personality and state of mind. The use and application of colour, pattern and surface treatment reinforces these ideas, using techniques such as; hand-forming, press-moulding, pierced carving and texturing with final applications of coloured slips, body stains and glazes.
Through this I explore the common traits and behaviours associated to a condition called autism, expressing insights in difficulty expressing emotion, struggling managing changes and a strong sense of not fitting within self or society. Some of these traits are expressed through a collection of small tactile ceramic pocket heads called “Handle but don’t Touch.” made to be touched and handled to help release anxiety.
This explores the relationship between the onlooker and the autistic trait of not wanting to be touched, as the distorted forms and colours attract people to want to touch and fiddle with the pocket heads, the trait of autism is then frustrated by being touch translated by the distorted shapes, rough textures and colourful cracks.
The pocket heads have also developed into a collection of sensory tactile jewellery, allowing the person to twiddle while they wear and ceramic sensory bowls all created to be purposely tactile in calming and soothing a person’s sensory overload, as well as being a functional bowl. We all might recognise some of these characteristics, so although coming from an autistic perspective I aim to challenge perceptions, leading towards a better understanding of the autistic condition.
These pieces, like the ceramic bowls, are currently exhibited at Technically Brilliant Art, and can be seen and purchased at the gallery in Warrington, Golden Square. Smaller works can be purchased getting in touch with the artist via website http://www.igoedesigns.co.uk or by Instagram @igoedesigns.
*Technically Brilliant Art is currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic at the time of writing but you can keep up to date with what they’re doing through Facebook.
That’s all for now folks!