24 June 2020

Being in lockdown has been challenging for all our artists, but the creation of art has not stopped.

For many it has in fact taken new and unexpected turns, with one to one zoom sessions developing their creative practise in new ways.   We spoke to Louise Hewitt about how lockdown has been for her. Louise has been coming to Venture Art for 18 months. She has autism and practises different art forms, but is most prolific in ceramics.  

Tell us about your art and your influences...

The type of art I like to work with and make is mainly to do with children’s stories because I’ve always been into my books, such as Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter. I find that sometimes, if you’re looking at creative things from a child’s point of view, rather than an adult's point of view, your imagination tends to come out more. I’ve always wanted to work with kids and give something back to the local community, working with disadvantaged kids and bringing stories to life.   So I got an opportunity to work with Hulme Garden Centre on the Garden Monster project. There was one scenario where there were some parents showing their kids round the garden centre and of course the parents were getting angry because the kids weren’t behaving themselves. So I took them to a corner and described to them the certain types of monsters that were in the garden centre. I asked the children to try and work out what kinds of monsters they would be – would they be recycling monsters, would they help out in the gardens? And then we got a bit creative and I started writing up the stories and came up with more monsters.
A ceramic watering can monster
Watering Can Monster

What work do you make at Venture Arts?

I do clay modelling. I make models of characters and recently I’ve been working on a new set called The Wild Bunch. I’ve got a couple of characters that would like to say hello because they’re jumping all over my ceiling at the moment! I don’t know what it is about my art work but it always seems to come to life when I’m in the room! I’ll have a word with three of them and see who wants to come over. Give me a second I can hear them! All right pancake, I only made you yesterday! I only made this little feller yesterday and he’s not even been in the kiln yet.
Screenshot from zoom of Louise making the pancake monster
Making the Pancake Monster
    I first started making them with Sarah and then I got into doing some typographics with Louisa as part of the project. So I’ve got some of them that I’d like to show you.   Basically, I’ve been taking the names of the characters and seeing whether I could merge bits and pieces about the character or the scenery to go with it. They are like illustrations, like titles for a book, how to describe the characters a bit more and what they are into. I’ve made 12 out of 15 of them.
Screenshot of Louise in Zoom holding the banana monster typographic
Banana Monster Typographic

How have you found making this new work?

I’ve found it rather intriguing because Louisa and I are now talking about putting the work I have done into the form of a scrap book. So I’m going to be doing that next. It’s going to have 'Meet the Wild Bunch' on the front. It’s all highly experimental at the moment, nothing is confirmed on it at the moment.  

Has lockdown changed what you have been making?

I do think that in some ways lockdown has restricted me, not being able to go out for my inspiration. Sometimes I like to go out to the gallery for ideas. I like to get my inspiration from the outside world so not being able to get much of that has been really hard.   To be honest, before I did this extra lesson with Louisa I felt really low because I was only having one class a week with Sarah but since I’ve had this extra one it’s been a lot easier.   In fact, I got some good news from my mum and dad yesterday, I finally got the green light to go and see them. That’s been the hardest part, not being able to see them. In some ways, growing up and seeing my dad doing his art was an inspiration to me.  

Have you made anything that you think you wouldn’t have made if you hadn't been in lockdown?

I don’t think I would have explored the typographics to be honest. So lockdown has given me an opportunity to explore that and I’ve quite enjoyed it. It’s something that I would use in future work. For titles and things like that. Especially if it’s going into galleries, to make it stand out better.  

What’s been the impact of having sessions with Venture Arts?

In a way I feel like I’ve got the chance to get to know my tutors more because it’s more one to one based, rather than being in a huge group all together. I feel like they’ve got to understand my style a bit more and how I want to move things forward.   One of the future projects with Sarah is to bring that teapot monster to life and make a proper life-sized teapot and teacup and then test it out with actual tea when it’s all fired to see if it works! I'd like to make something like that so I’ve got my own personal tea set at home. So I don’t think I would have ever thought about making something like that before lockdown.  

What are the good and bad points to working in zoom?

I miss meeting my friends, like Helen, we’d go and have coffee and a cake once a month and go into town. I’ve missed doing things like that.   I have found some of the online exhibitions I’ve visited to be quite overloading. Some of the work I've seen based on lockdown I have found a bit too much in my face. I enjoyed doing my new web pages with Outside In and I would like to get involved in one of their exhibitions, but I need to speak to Katherine a bit more about how to go about doing that. I know that you have to present yourself in front of everyone and I need to make sure I’ve got the right kind of presentation. I definitely wouldn’t dismiss doing something like that in the future though.         Thanks so much to Louise for giving us an insight in to what life as a lockdown artist has been like for her. Hope you can tame The Wild Bunch Louise!    We'd love to hear whether other artists have found pros and cons to the lockdown experience, so get in touch if you'd like to share your story at comms@venturearts.org   #LockdownArt
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