Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Interview with Sonya Viney


Can you tell me a little about your work

I use objects that are usually considered rubbish to others and employ many processes to develop ‘found’ mass produced pieces. Everyday containers are transformed; cast in ‘white gold,’ commonly known as porcelain. Often pieces have precious inclusions, which create unique marks in the firing process or are explored in Pâte-de-Verre glass, raku and smoke firing.
I explore the notion of ‘still life’ within ceramics. My work is inspired by multiples and repetition, whether it is an accumulation of everyday objects inside a kitchen cupboard or an ordered display in a museum.

What have you been up to since you graduated from De Montfort University last June?

Following the degree show I was selected to exhibit at New Designers, London. A  few weeks later an ambitious plan came to fruition when I was part of a group of seven DMU graduate ceramicists who presented themselves as ‘ De Montfort Emerging Talent’ at Art in Action. The feedback we received from the general public gave us lots of encouragement; we all really enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to talk about our making processes.

I believe you were selected as ‘Young Meteor’ for Lustre, Contemporary Craft Market 2011, what was it like having a stand alongside longstanding makers?

It was really exciting to take part in ‘Lustre’ the building had been newly refurbished and it was a lovely space to exhibit in. The other makers were really supportive and it felt very professional. I was thrilled because I sold a lot of my work during the weekend.

Have there been any other opportunities since leaving university that you’d care to tell us about?

I was involved in The British Ceramics Biennial 2011 (BCB) where I was selected amongst its complement of 40 ‘Fresh’ ceramicists from the last two years.  Myself and two other DMU graduates won places to exhibit at ‘Fresh’ at the original Spode factory site last year. Consequentially an image of my work appeared in Craft magazine Sept/Oct2011 in an article by Tristram Hunt who debated the future of Stoke and the ceramic industry.

So what are your plans for 2012?

The year got off to sharp start setting up ‘Designer Crafts’ at The Mall, London in the first week of January.
I’ve agreed to be part of ‘The Collective’ in March at the The Atkins Building in Hinckley, which is becoming an annual event of Design Craft graduates from De Montfort University. 
In June,  I am exhibiting at Earth and Fire 2012, Rufford and I am currently developing work for my first solo exhibition ‘Fragile’ which will be at the Wallner Gallery Lakeside Arts Centre Nottingham between July and August 2012.
And this week have just received an invitation as part of ‘The Ceramic Collective’ to return to Art in Action this summer, where Rebecca Fraser, Aimee Fisher, Katherine Staples and myself will exhibit and demonstrate making processes in the Ceramics Tent!

It must be very exciting to have a solo exhibition, how did that come about?

Yes, you are right I still can’t believe it! This came about by kind invitation of Lesley Beale Craft Co-ordinator and curator of ‘Lustre’. She felt that my newly developed framed ‘still lifes’ would be suited to Wallner Gallery. This gives me the opportunity to play with the scale of work and at the moment I am planning a large focal still-life as part of the ‘Fragile’ exhibition.

Thank you Sonya for agreeing to be interviewed.  Good Luck with all your events this year, and hopefully I will be able to come and see you at a few of them.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The story of the first Corby Open Exhibition

The Corby Open is an exhibition that is a long time coming.  I moved to Corby in the early 80's just in time for the local bookshop and local woolshop to close.  There seemed to be nowhere, apart from W H Smiths to buy anything remotely like art materials.  I think this is probably why my own work has developed in the way it has due to the lack of access to materials.

I don't ordinarily apply for Open exhibitions, but at the very last minute I had a change of heart.  I like so many other artists in Corby have struggled to find a placement for my craft and to link with the rest of my creative community.  This opportunity has brought out so many like minded people, which I never knew existed in my own town.  I'm remembering one of John Lennon's songs 'Power to the People'..... how true.  I am so glad I decided to submit.

Helen McKay, a local artist was the driving force behind the Corby Open and I wanted to share her story....

How did the Corby Open exhibitions come about?

The Corby Artists Facebook group way back in October 2011 had started a bit of a rant about the Corby Cube's failure to deliver a gallery that artist’s in Corby had been under the impression they were getting.  Some people were annoyed they had been let down; others took a more diplomatic approach and examined the reasons why this had happened in an attempt to diffuse the tension.    

After numerous comments it was clear that the real problem was not that the Cube had not delivered, but that artists were generally frustrated by the lack of space to show their work locally.  This is where I chipped in with the idea that if we wanted it so badly then there was nothing to stop us doing it ourselves.  Nothing is handed to you on a plate, especially not in the art world.  You have to make your own opportunities.  So we tossed the idea around, decided it was a good idea and held a meeting. 

At the meeting we discussed what we wanted to achieve, who should do what to make it happen.  I agreed to co-ordinate the efforts.  We then identified who would select the work, discussed some possible venues and how we could promote it.

Thanks to the people at that meeting a venue was found very soon after and once that had been agreed to there was no going back, the Corby Open 2012  was going ahead! 

The first task was to decide what we wanted from our artists and what the outcome of the exhibition should be.  From its origin on Facebook it was clear that the outcome needed to be proof that there are large numbers of artists connected to or local to Corby. These included artists who have been showing their work elsewhere or who in some cases had never shown their work because they didn't know where they could do so locally.  

It was then important to make sure that a standard was set.  I didn't want this to be a show where everyone in Corby who made art could be exhibited; it had to be an exhibition that would stand its own in any gallery anywhere in the country and that local artists could aspire to.  

The call for artists went out and I waited for the work to start flooding in. 

Did you receive many submissions?

Initially there was only a trickle of entries and I started to worry that perhaps the general opinion was right and that there are no artists in Corby.  But I knew they were there, there were 170 people in the Corby Artists Facebook group and I personally knew of at least 15 people so I didn't give up hope that we would get the response we needed. 

My initial deadline had been New Years Eve and it soon became apparent that was quite a silly deadline.  No one had the energy to fill in my hefty application pack or spend the time reading the terms and conditions, they were too occupied with the festivities. Artists! 

So we had an emergency meeting and agreed to extend the deadline.  It was felt that it was more important to do it right rather than rush the process.  

After a discussion with Natalie at Watch This Space  Gallery she suggested we hold a 'show and tell day'. The idea behind it was to encourage those who weren't familiar with applying for exhibitions and the forms you have to fill in to come along and get some help.  We held it down at ‘Watch This Space’ from support from Lorraine Dziarkowska and I we took around 10 applications in one morning.  Along the way, local paper, The Evening Telegraph had been publicising us and Corby Radio  had been featuring us on the voice and word seemed to be slowly but surely creeping out. 

Just to make sure my hair turned nice and grey there were a few people that left their application until deadline day or who had to be poked and prodded to apply (naming no names Phiona!) Finally though the deadline came and we had enough work to put on a show. 

Did you manage to secure any funding?

We were extremely lucky to have received funding from the Corby Borough Council and Northants Community Foundation.  The latter involved a frantic day of running up and down the stairs at Corby Community Arts because we'd only realised we could apply to for funds on deadline day.  Thanks to successful funding we had enough money to put on the exhibition and have some money to help some of our artists with limited means to frame their work.  That would help us put on a professional show as well as making sure that people with no spare cash weren't excluded from exhibiting. 

The selection panel which consisted of me, J Devereux from Corby Borough Council and Lorraine Dziarkowska from Late Developers and CorbyCommunity Arts, sat to decide who fit our criteria.  It was actually a heart wrenching experience.  Having met some of the artists at the ‘Show and Tell’ day where they shared their passion for art, to then turn some of them down was horrible. 

I had to stick with the vision and aim of the show as I've said was not to cover everyone but to show the high level of excellence in Corby and to do that we had to be a bit ruthless.  

Following the selection process, was there much left to do?

From selection time it all gets a bit blurry as things sped up to unprecedented speeds at this point.  Here began hours every night at the laptop chasing artist’s agreements, confirming dates, documenting artist's details and writing to do lists. Then there was thinking of floor plans and how best to set out the exhibition and the list went on! 

Once this was all organized, I had to concentrate on presenting the space.  So armed with tools, emulsion and filler and we were just about to move into the venue and get stuck in when disaster hit.  The venue we had secured in October was withdrawn with 4 days to go.  I dreaded telling 41 artists that have signed agreements left right and centre with you that you now have to change everything at the 11th hour!!?

How did you cope with this disaster?

Fortunately, all the artists involved in the exhibition are a fabulous bunch and I did not get one whinge about the sudden change of plan.  All I received was messages of support and thanks and I'll be honest without it I may have collapsed in a heap and given up! 
The search began for a new venue and it was fortuitous that Paula Boulton had been enquiring after the old Corby Library for a long term space for the arts.  The timing was perfect and with a bit of bartering and moments of hopelessness followed closely by moments of hope we got the go ahead from Northants County Council to move into the space straight away and hold the Corby Open there! 

Only one week behind I had to turn the engine back on and get everyone back on board at short notice.  We went up there, got our paintbrushes out and just 4 short days later the space was ready for the work to be hung!! 

The volunteers that came along to help were not all artists in the show, we had quite a few that just wanted to help us out and I can't thank them enough for all of their efforts.  The team we have had in there have done a truly fantastic job and the old library is now a convincing gallery space. 

The catalogue and posters are now printed, the work is hung, the advertising has started, the name tags for the art have been sorted, the much sought after blog will be finished shortly  the wine is bought and the cakes are organised so that is the main thing! 

So, how are you feeling now it's nearly over?

I am so excited by the exhibition and that is kept me going.  And all being well the next step is to keep it permanently, which will mean that the exhibition has achieved its aims and the Corby Artists on Facebook will no longer be frustrated about the lack of space but rather overwhelmed by having suddenly too much of it! 

Thank you Helen for sharing your experience of organizing and managing your very first exhibition, may this be the first of many.  Roll on Corby Open 2012

The Corby Open will be open to the public from Friday 9th March to Saturday 31st March at what used to be the Corby Library, 9 Queens Sq, Corby.  Opening hours are Wednesday to Saturday 11am to 4pm.