I dashed back from my holidays and was immediately thrown into the crazy-busy weekend that was the official opening of the ACAVA Studios: Spode Works in Stoke on Trent – the location of my lovely studio room. You might recognise the name Spode. Our studios are located in the Upper China Halls of the former factory of the world famous Spode pottery.
Here in Stoke, aka The Potteries, we are very proud of our city’s former and present achievements (often groundbreaking) in the creation of wonderful pottery and ceramics, so there was a dreadful sense of shock when the Spode factory was closed in 2008. Aside from the loss of jobs and livelihoods, the factory was a central focus of life in Stoke town (the city of Stoke-on-Trent is made up of 6 towns, including Stoke town itself) – the closure left the future looking quite bleak for other businesses and residents of the town too.
That’s why it’s so wonderful to see life being breathed back into the site. The brilliant Spode Works Visitor Centre has kept the flag flying; now the ACAVA Studios are here, and further down the line there will be retail space, student and other residential accommodation, cafes, restaurants, and I’ve even heard talk of a wedding venue. Personally, I feel a real sense of satisfaction to be able to work in such a significant place in the history of The Potteries – my family worked in the industry as far back as the 1820s, when they moved down from Tyneside, making a sideways move from glass to ceramics.
I was so pleased to arrive and see the new sign in place, and the fab little pop-up garden made by my fellow ‘Spoder’ Su Hurrell, originally created for The Lost Gardens of Stoke on Trent, but looking very much at home at the bottom of our stairs – especially as the theme of the garden is the interconnectedness of food and pottery.
There was just time for a quick photo and then it all kicked off, and I don’t think I stopped talking all afternoon , which was very enjoyable but exhausting for introvert me.
On Sunday it was quieter, and I got the chance to do a little work (I had a quilt that needed binding), and go and visit the studios of some of my fellow Spoders.
It felt like an afternoon of interest and inspiration, talking with other creative people, sharing ideas, encouragement, and the tiniest bit of chat 😉 something I’d really hoped for when I decided to take on the commitment of my own space.
As time goes on I am hoping to run patchwork and sewing classes from Spode, including one to one sewing workshops in my own studio. So if you’re interested, do let me know, or if you just want to come and visit, I’d be glad to see you.