Open Studios photo series
I love my workspace at The Island.
As a picture editor and photographer, The Island gives me time and space to think about creative ideas and how to develop and execute them. It also enables me to exchange ideas with fellow artists based in the studio. I have been documenting the effects of the pandemic on people and exploring issues like Isolation, loneliness and the new normal.
The leap into self employment was, initially, a very nerve wracking one, stepping away from the relative security of regular employment. But The Island has been a brilliant environment to work from and has enabled me to meet and develop working relationships with so many people, both Island tenants and members of the public.
Having to close in the spring wasn’t an ideal situation but it was one we managed to get through. Since reopening, I’ve had to make sure the workshop is safe to welcome customers. That has included using PPE and ensuring surfaces and samples are cleaned regularly. The response from customers has been great and since reopening in the summer, we had a fantastic few months. It seems lockdown, and spending more time at home, got people thinking about what’s on their walls. Now, having to close the doors again, we’ve been able to adapt by offering a collection and delivery service and we will also be launching an online shop to sell ready made frames. We’re very lucky that Bristol is such a creative hub and we get bought some fantastic artwork to frame.
The Island is where I spend all my time after work everyday, it is my second home, safe space where I escape from the reality and it is also my personal business. So it is a very important place for me. I have limited the amount of bookings and number of artists I can have in the studio, since Covid hit I am only having one artist at a time and never more than one booking a day. I am still quite busy but I have limited the weekly bookings to minimise the risk. I have finished my new album which will be released on vinyl early next year with a label from the Canary Islands, and I have also worked with a few artist recording their song for different projects (most of them done over quarantine time…)
My studio at The Island is my creative home – it is where I go to produce music, art and new creative project proposals, but it is also the place where I go to be in the right mindset to be able to BE creative. All of my gigs and concerts got cancelled overnight in March. So did all of my school-related music teaching work. My R n B Choir has gone online via Zoom. We meet every Wednesday evening through our living room portals and I teach the group. Then I ask each week for the singers to record their part of a short piece music while we sing live. They then email the recorded file over to me and I layer up everyone’s voices and then send it back as an mp3. This way we are able to hear ourselves as a full-bodied multi-harmony choir still, while getting the social and learning aspect of the Zoom session. It’s been great and a highlight of this crazy time for me.
I refer to The Island as my spiritual home – it is a cultural oasis amidst the commercial horrors of Broadmead and my space to create. It’s held together by a lot of love and bright pink. My work is a mashup of some very traditional practices with the zeal of urban counter-culture, being in a such a free-spirited space gave me permission to make the kind of work I wanted. Also I love feeling the techno music coming up from the ‘Lockdown’ basement. It gives a sense of urgency to those liminal nights in the studio, and directly informed my shibori work ‘Eraser’- which has now been shortlisted for an award celebrating innovation in artisan-crafts in Japan.
Before Covid I ran weekly drawing classes in a residential setting for elderly people which sadly came to an abrupt halt mid March. Then my short course at Bristol Drawing School RWA, was cancelled. Luckily, I signed up for an online painting course which provided a perfect distraction, focus, and something to channel my responses to the unfolding crises of the pandemic. During lockdown the dining room table became my studio but since I returned to the Island I draw and paint on a regular basis. My current work relates to my walks in which I explore movement in imaginary and real landscapes.
My studio at the island means everything to me. I have been here nearly two years an in that time the workspace has allowed me to go self employed and create the best work I’ve ever made. With the help and community of the other artists at The Island, my practice has developed considerably. The physical making of my work and the processes have not changed [during the pandemic]. The Island offers me a stable place to create and develop work. Because of COVID, I have now developed more of an on-line presence teaching photography classes and selling prints. This will help through this uncertain time, but I think it will continue to be beneficial after too.
‘My workspace means everything to me. I am retired, and making art is my life. It’s great to have a space away from home – my escape from reality. Lockdown was difficult, as I share my home with my son, his partner, and my grandchild. I had to set up on a wallpaper table, over the end of my bed!’
Lisa Bailey and
Lisa Bailey (on left) – My work at the Island mainly involves delivering sewing and pattern cutting classes, which includes advice and guidance about university applications, portfolios and professional development. I really enjoy teaching others and sharing my skills. In my view there’s nothing better than helping people learn new skills, seeing peoples confidence grow as they learn and also seeing their faces when you show them pattern cutting techniques such as dart manipulation; it’s like they have just observed an amazing magical trick and the look on their faces is absolutely priceless. You can sign up for updates on courses planned for the new year through my website here: https://lisamariabailey.weebly.com
Justine Voit (on right) – I found out about The Sewing Room at The Island by looking for a sewing course and decided become a member of the studio as well as attending the classes. In the past I did sewing in my bedroom but it’s so much nicer to have the big space to work in, with high cutting tables and the industrial machines. I graduated in 2019 with a Bachelors Degree in Interaction Design in France but I always wanted to work in the fashion industry. Following on from my degree I taught myself basic sewing skills and made several garments but wanted to learn more professional approaches to designing and making clothes, so it’s been perfect for me to work with Lisa who delivers the classes. I have completed two pattern cutting courses and have learnt to use the industrial machines.
As I haven’t had much photography work over the last 6 months, I’ve found other ways to keep my lens in hand. I’ve explored a bit of self portrait, turning the lens for a change, looking inwards instead of out. I’ve offered my portrait photography services to pregnant friends, helping them document their experiences of pregnancy during lockdown (from a safe distance). And I’ve taken my camera with me as I’ve explored the countryside and surrounding towns, playing with landscape and street photography. My workspace at the island is my get away from other life demands, where I get to choose what I want to work on, focus on things I need to work on, and have access to the thoughts of other creatives I share the space with.
I have been working on my first children’s book illustration for a book written by some friends. I’m also developing a new light art installation. Its a concept I have been wanting to work on for the last couple of years so I’m finally now experimenting with that. My space at the Island is my den – its so important to have a space to work and create outside of home, that’s big enough to store all the materials I need, and that gives me the freedom to experiment. Also I find separating a workspace from home is so valuable for my mindset. I had Isuri in August which has made working much more challenging, so things progress much slower than they used to at the moment, but I’m slowly learning to balance mum and artist life!
My workspace at the Island is my second home and my slug cave where I actually focus. Am totally absorbed and lose track of time. Being able to have all my tools, slime and bits of neon in one place AND so central makes all the logistics of installations and events that bit easier. Of course that was pre-Covid. It was pretty devastating with the first lockdown being unable to access but since the studios opened, I have spent more time there than at my work and home. Preparing for ‘SLUGLY Antifashion show’ which overcame a lot of hurdles, was the best thing about 2020 for me,
I love this crazy old building. Each square foot is used for some form of creative activity, there’s so much variety. Working here has its challenges but it’s never boring and I get a lot of satisfaction knowing I’m supporting people’s creative endeavours. Getting the building ready for people to return safely was a lot of work. It’s been great to see people using their spaces again.
Covid has changed the way I work in so many ways- taking on responsibility for keeping the tenants, artists and the building safe. In my community dance work I am now working online, creating content, and co-running weekly zoom sessions from home. The Island, throughout this period, has given me human contact with a lovely bunch of people which I really appreciate- when I’ve not just been working on my own!
I’ve been based in the office more since the first lockdown finished which has definitely made it easier having a base to work from. I was looking after the building while we were closed and installing the bits that were newly required so we could reopen post lockdown. Since then, I’ve working toward getting the first stage of the large electrical work underway. I also look after one of our other projects, The Arts Mansion at Ashton Court, so have been managing the bookings there again since we reopened in August.
Deputy Centre Manager
For the 1st 4 months of COVID lockdown, I was on furlough. As restrictions lifted I was able to return to work in situ at the Island. Updating Risk Assessments, reading government guidelines, attending webinars and zoom meetings to learn & discuss the new ways of working become the new normal.It has been a welcome relief to see artists, musicians, dance and circus practitioners flowing back into our complex.I have loved working with artists through these changing times, the determination to continue to produce work and public attended events through rapidly changing circumstance has been in itself inspiring. We are a small strong team and as we endure another lockdown we continue to work hard to make sure artists are supported and have safe access to their spaces.