Inspired by The Bowes Museum

Meraki – [Greek] What happens when you leave a piece of yourself (your soul, creativity, or love) in your work. 

My name is Alice and I’m a young artist living in County Durham. There isn’t just one medium that I have stuck to, but rather, as my favourite artist Miranda July, writes; ‘the creative art of moving between the media is my process.’*

On rare, early mornings, too early for work, walking to Café Bowes; I would reach into my apron pocket, grab my order pad and pen and start sketching the Museum in front of me. Walking through the door, by 10.00, that page would be flipped over and used purposefully, to sprawl breakfast orders, coffees and cakes. I loved working at The Bowes Museum. From finding artefacts in the basement storage to serving canapés opposite a Canaletto. This wonderful museum, acting as a portal, provided me with an opportunity to step into a world of art which otherwise might have felt so out of reach in this little market town in the North East. 

The summer before I moved away to university, was the summer of the YSL exhibition at The Bowes Museum. Working through opening nights, exhibition launches and private events introduced me to a world of art, that I couldn’t wait to be a part of. I made the irrational decision to rush off to university and study fine art, in an attempt to avoid feeling left behind by everyone else leaving. The experience was not what I had hoped, I didn’t feel part of an art community and found difficulty feeling passionate or excited about my course. During the year, I visited a friend who was studying at Goldsmiths in London and I instantly felt the excitement and sense of an art community there that I was seeking. After sticking out the year in Cambridge, I sent off my makeshift portfolio of photography, video art and painting to an already full Design course at Goldsmiths and miraculously, was offered a place. 

My three years at Goldsmiths were filled with fast paced and exhilarating design projects. I wove thirty meter spider webs on the college green, attended alien conventions and made a motorised Brixton windmill out of lollipop sticks – all in the name of design. My confidence grew as I learnt to experiment as much as possible. This meant failing, often over and over again, using every project that didn’t quite work out, to fuel the next one. We were always given a challenging and broad brief to solve with design. The starting point, an inhabited location, an obsessed fan, something we hate, would soon become an intervention or designed artefact. 

It was during my final year, that I left London to spend lockdown with my parents in the North East. Without access to the university’s design studio, I knew I’d have more space at home to carry out a design project than in my tiny room in London. Previous projects were grounded in first hand research and social experiments, all of which, we were unable to access anymore. Suddenly I was raking around my nostalgia filled arts and crafts box, trying to collect materials for my final, most important, design project, that I would now be finishing from my childhood bedroom. I decided to write down the materials I had access to at home.

Sewing machine, 

fabrics, 

kitchen appliances,

washing machine?

Instagram.

I imagine it looked something like this. Because from there, using those five materials, I built my final project about heroines. There was an Instagram account for Jane Eyre, handmade laundry bags and a very confused dad trying not to ask too many questions on why I was attempting to dismantle our washing machine.

Being at home gave me an opportunity to revisit my hobbies and remember what I really enjoy making. Although I never stopped painting, (I have had to leave the majority of my paintings at my uni house, because they wouldn’t fit in the car home) I probably hadn’t used a sewing machine for 5 years until that point and now I haven’t gone a day without it. Having had the chance to develop my skills, I have now started my own small business making and selling prints, paintings, quilts and cushions. So far, these are available on Etsy and I have also been taking custom orders. I am currently making every day in my studio, preparing to sell at upcoming Christmas markets like The Bowes Museum Christmas Market and on my online Etsy shop. 

Instagram/etsy: @merakialidesign

alice-redfearn.squarespace.com

*The Guardian interview with artist Miranda July by Elizabeth Day, Feb 2015

Blog by: Alice Redfearn, Goldsmiths Graduate

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