Introducing my new sewing studio

Earlier in the summer I had the opportunity to move from my lovely studio 27 at ACAVA Studios: Spode Works to a bigger space (2.5 times as big!) in the same Studio complex. Although it’s a scary prospect (2.5 times bigger means 2.5 times the rent!) I feel increasingly sure that I want to focus on teaching, so it makes sense to me to have a space where people can come and learn with me in my studio.

I am very gradually settling in, and I’m not done yet, I need a few more bits of storage, another table and some chairs for starters, but it is increasingly beginning to feel like home, so I thought I’d share some photos of the work in progress. First up on my wall were my selvedge mini-quilts, made for Love Patchwork and Quilting about 18 months ago. I am so glad I decided to keep these!

Mini quilts on the wall in my studio at Spode

I was also glad to get all my ATCs and mini-hoops into position on the window sills. I have two lovely large windows, but I don’t get the sun until the late afternoon, which is so much better for sewing and photography purposes! My old studio used to get uncomfortably warm on sunny days.

The window sill at Studio 5 Spode Works

This is my main sewing area. The windows are quite high, so fortunately I can’t get too distracted by what’s going on outside.

My work space at Studio 5 Spode Works

My succulents are doing well in their new home – and I am gradually acquiring vintage Spode china to put them in. This pattern is one of my favourites – Chinese Rose:

Succulent in Spode china cup and saucer

This is my favourite corner of the studio. I am on the look out for a nice comfy armchair to put next to the lamp for those times when I am sewing binding or doing a bit of English paper piecing. It’s great to have a finished quilt on the wall too!

Favourite corner of Studio 5 at ACAVA studios Spode Works

Here’s a view from the ironing board of the entire space:

Studio 5 the home of Very Berry Handmade at Spode Works

Lovely isn’t it! I’m very lucky I know. No doubt I will be sharing more photos as time goes on – I love to rearrange furniture until I have everything just right. And if you fancy a day at the studio, I am planning stitchy retreats and small class teaching in the studio – do get in touch if you might be interested.

My Sewing Room at Spode

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.

spode_entrance

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.

spode-1995
This is the site in the 1990s – all the central area of the picture forms the Spode works – you can see how huge the site is.

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.

sus-garden-at-spodeI had left my studio in a terrible mess before I went away, so the first thing I had to do was try and get it all straightened out before our visitors arrived.

my-studio-at-spode

 

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.

ali-b-studio
Hard at work in the studio! Or, trying not to laugh whilst having photo taken…

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.

Very Berry has a new home

Getting a place of my own to work in, rather than operating out of my bedroom, has been a dream of mine for a long time. We talked about converting our garage (but where would we put the 25+ years worth of junk?), and I looked at various places that were way out of my price range. Recently, ACAVA (the Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual Art – an educational charity) has worked with Stoke City Council (I live on the edge of Stoke) to develop part of the old disused Spode pottery factory into 43 studios for artists.
Spode works

Because the spaces are brilliantly competitively priced, I decided nothing ventured, nothing gained, and, 3 weeks later, I have my own space! Working in the pottery industry goes back generations in my family – right back to the late 18th century – both my granddads, and my dad, and my uncle worked in the Potteries (my uncle actually worked at Spode for a while) so it feels really great to be – kind of – following in their footsteps. The site is amazing – incredibly evocative, a real higgledy-piggle of buildings. I have got lost several times… and you can’t imagine how hairy it is to drive my car round through narrow roadway to the studio entrance… but I love being somewhere which is so part of our city’s history and my family history too:

My Studio at Spode

My room is small – but epically sized in comparison to the corner of my bedroom! – and has two windows (double aspect for the estate agents out there), so is full of light. My views are definitely industrial chic… verging on the gothic. See what I mean about the crazy mish mash of buildings, staircases, roofs and windows? And check out the creepy chairs on the roof:

view from my window

It’s very quiet as yet, I got in really early, with just under a quarter of the studios let, and only a couple of other people have moved in so far. This guy is my most lively neighbour, and he’s not exactly working hard.

my neighbour

My space is still a work in progress. I was very glad to salvage the office desk, which was already here when I arrived – and the plan for that big, empty wall is a proper design wall – which will be brilliant.. There’s also room in the bigger communal areas of the building to baste my quilts (there are some huge spaces), if no one minds!  That will be so great because my only existing basting space is our hall floor.

my studio 2

I saved the best pic for last. Got my mini-quilts on the wall, and the ironing board in place, and the radio on! Definitely feeling more at home there every day, and wonderful value at £83 per month. If anyone out there reading this is up in our neck of the woods, then there are still available studios in all kinds of sizes, and there is an Open Day on 17 May.

my studio 1