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 facing 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 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 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! 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.
During this pandemic some artists and small businesses are encouraging people to purchase gift cards as a way to help them through this tough period. Some artists are launching campaigns. If you are an artist or you’re just interested in finding other ways that you can help, I would encourage you to look at #ArtistSupportPledge on instagram and twitter started by Matthew Burrows Studios, which not only supports artists but also helps them to help other artists. For more information go to @ArtistSupportPledge.
Without further ado, here are some more of our staff favourites!
Libby Bower Gifts
We are a husband and wife team. Makers of curiosities, established in 2014 and based in Nantwich. We make pull along elephants, animal head wall pieces, mobiles, cushions, toys, jewellery, interior pieces and handmade greetings cards. Neil works with wood, drilling, cutting, routing and sanding. Libby works with the fabric sewing, cutting, felting, embellishing. We use sustainable materials for all our creations; vintage wool blankets and reclaimed or found timber.
We have a tiny shop brimming with our creations at Nantwich indoor market but, as it is on lockdown, we are currently making all items to order and posting out. You can order through our Instagram @Libbybowergifts.
No idea is impossible, we work to commission. “If you require a creative mind.”
My name is Madison Coyle. I am 21 years old and I am a recent film studies graduate.
Since making my first wire armature model a few years ago (a fellow called Little Man) I have been hooked on creating small but soulful characters and items. For me there is a magic to objects of sentiment or history, to miniatures and to hand crafted characters/tactile items that I am thoroughly entranced and inspired by. I hope only to mimic in others what I feel myself upon finding a strange or wonderful object. Most of what I make is led by my own long-standing obsessions with the strange, mythical and unknown parts of our world and the uncanny mix of loveliness and creepiness that defines all my favourite stories and folklore. I make all my things from home in a makeshift spare-bedroom art studio. Creating these little objects is what I love to do more than anything, so any support means the world to me!
Chiara Ludolini (b.1984, Ancona, Italy) is a Set Designer and a Visual Artist based in Manchester. Her work investigates the importance of solitude, self-awareness and bewilderment that prepare the individual for the “outside” world. Her subjects are like memories of innocence whilst acknowledging strife; a Gothic style for the fractured contemporary moment.
Her work has been exhibited internationally and featured in the first compendium of Siege Art Magazine. In 2009, she co-founded the collaborative artistic duo Punta_Spillo, with which she won the First Prize and the Audience Prize at the Metrocubo 2011 Art Competition.
She worked as a set decorator and props designer in theatres in Italy and curated art festivals and exhibitions for the Academy of Fine Arts of Macerata, the National Tactile Museum Omero and art organisation Nikae Factory of which she is a founder member.
I’m Geri Coady, a Canadian illustrator and designer based in the UK. In 2016 I decided to start my business, Geri Draws Japan, as a way to share my never ending love for Japanese culture with other like-minded Japanophiles!
I create original art prints, enamel pins, keychains, greeting cards, stationery, stickers and much more. Lately, my most popular items are my riso Japanese hiragana and katakana chart prints, which are perfect for anyone who would like to get started with learning Japanese.
In September 2019 I completed an artist residency in Tokyo which culminated in a solo illustration exhibition. The exhibition, “Defying Tradition: Japanese Women Who Changed the World” featured thirty influential women in both ancient and modern times. From Murasaki Shikibu, the world’s first novelist, and Komako Kimura, a prominent early 1900s suffragist, to pop culture star Naomi Watanabe, who is rapidly changing the perception of body image in Japan and beyond—my goal was to highlight these important women for the ways they have shaped and will continue to shape their country.
When I originally started Geri Draws Japan, many customers would tell me how my products would remind them of the time they spent in the country either as a tourist or as a long-term resident. Now, with the coronavirus situation, customers are telling me how much they love my work precisely because none of us are able to travel there at the moment. Many of my customers have had cancelled trips, and some are treating themselves to a pin or print as a way to cheer themselves up and keep their eye on a future trip when it’s safe for everyone to travel again. Of course, I never expected such a thing to happen when I set out to start my business, but it feels extra good to bring a smile to someone’s face who may be feeling down about the whole situation.
I often sell at Japanese-themed events in the UK including Hyper Japan Festival in London, and the Doki Doki Manchester Japanese Festival. I hope to do so again in the future when these events return, but until then, all my products are available to purchase on my website GeriDrawsJapan.com, and I ship worldwide.
I’ve always loved drawing and creating and although it’s been a hobby for years I decided to try and turn it into a business after I had my children and gained a different perspective on work/life balance and left my job in Manchester. It’s fair to say that a lot of my designs are heavily influenced by my children – dinosaurs seem to feature a lot which I can only assume is thanks to my two year old son Ted! I love drawing and painting and have found both extremely therapeutic during Covid-19. Some of my new greetings cards designs are specific to the current climate whereas hopefully the others just raise a smile. As well as greetings cards I also create personalised nursery decor and digital illustrations for websites and social media.
I’m very concerned about how the human race treats the other creatures that we share our world with. I’d like to change the way even the least loved beings such as slugs are treated and highlight their frailty and vulnerability. To hopefully change people’s opinions of them and sow a seed of kindness.
I just love the tactile experience of working with clay in three-dimensions and especially like to play around with its textural qualities. I hand-build every single piece working with clay quite intuitively and don’t mind when the odd finger-print lingers and like to encourage the odd crack/rough-edge to appear. I believe that the Japanese refer to this as ‘Wabi-Sabi’, making each piece totally unique. Our sense of touch is undervalued, especially as cultures become ever more digitised, and now sadly, socially distanced. Yet for me it is the sense that most connects me with the world and makes me feel alive. Clay literally re-connects us to the earth.
I’ve always felt art should be fun and I’ve always sketched to underpin my practice and develop understanding of form. It was a natural progression for me to develop my drawings into light-hearted, amusing, illustrations. It has also enabled me to start to develop a range of more affordable products. The ethics of production are extremely important to me; I have started to source a range of fabulous productions partners who are small UK companies. I am doing my best to ensure that the companies I use take their approach to sustainability and ecologically minded production seriously. So I have 100% recycled greetings cards, 100% recycled acrylic pin badges, t-shirts and bags from sustainable, organic cotton sources (I’d like to be able to source them from Textile waste too). We all have to do our bit but companies should be leading the way and making it easier for consumers to make sustainable choices.
I first studied Fine Art at Bretton Hall College (1996-1999) which was an experience so rich in art across so many genres it literally rocked my otherwise small town world. Many will now know it as the site of the awesome Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It remains three of the best years of my life! I can’t over-estimate how much I learnt and I’m very grateful to have had such an experience. I spent three years on circles considering perception and my place in the universe! Careers advice wasn’t great, well pretty much non-existent, so I left without a clue about what would be next.
I joined AN and did my best to find opportunities to work as an artist. This was quite tricky with dial-up internet in my parents’ bedroom that didn’t work if someone was on the phone! But I managed to find a few and started to get my work about. I took a part-time job at a care home for the elderly to provide some much needed cash to fund my endeavours. Eventually I was offered a scholarship to do an MA in Fine Art in Farnham (2000-2001) at what was The Surrey Institute of Art and Design. So of course I snapped it up.
This was again a baptism of fire where I had to totally up my game to a higher academic level! I read psychoanalysis and feminist theory like never before and made work to express my alarm and anger towards patriarchy. It made me see the world in new ways and also made me a little short-sighted too! After which I found some great opportunities to perform my live art pieces and show my film works. I worked closely with a dancer friend, which was a fabulous way of combining efforts to get seen and stretch creativity. But I also found myself back at my parents’ home, cash-strapped.
The inevitable occurred and after leading numerous very temporary workshops and courses in various settings, I took a full time teaching position at Portland College (2002-2004); a desk full of paperwork dating back to 1983 and thrust into a world of learning plans, targets, drool, hope, despair and so many laughs! I credit these years in forging my love for clay with links to the beautiful Rufford Abbey (the then home of Earth and Fire the International Ceramics Fair) and an especially lovely lady and incredible potter, Rachel Wood.
I fancied a change and somehow ended-up taking a position teaching art at Loughborough High School for girls (2004-2017). At which point I became ‘Miss B’ jack of all trades, box carrier, furniture mover, decorator, counsellor, umpire and somewhat of a Cindy Sherman dresser-upper! But I also had to learn to teach pottery (and textiles eventually, but that is another story). I got married, did lots of travelling and had my babies whilst teaching at Loughborough High, it became the welcome constant in my life, especially when I lost loved ones and my house was set on fire! I started to get ‘itchy-feet’ then met the fantabulous Emily Notman Mixed Media when she came to be our artist in residence. She inspired me to start making my own work again and of course it had to be clay.
In 2017 I said goodbye to thirteen years of toil sharing my love of art and set myself up working from home as Sara Budzik Making. And though there is so much I miss, especially the day to day comradery, I don’t regret it for a minute. It has been and still is a steep learning curve but I’m really enjoying the new challenge and the variety of places it is taking me. I have a tiny studio space tucked at the back of my house; we call it ‘the workshop’ (because my husband uses half of it for his projects). In fact the house was previously owned by a locally known potter, Jack Gregory, it was just meant to be. We also share a home office (well, I let him use a bit of it) where I do all of my clean work. I have a nice spot by the window, overlooking my back garden where I can sit and draw in the morning sun.
That’s all for now folks!