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A look at Basingstoke's thriving art scene

PUBLISHED: 11:18 30 May 2019

Paula Preston with some of her work

Paula Preston with some of her work

Archant

Basingstoke's quietly thriving art scene is finally starting to get the attention it deserves. We meet two artists who are helping to create the buzz

Ruby & Jack Design

"Although I've always had a big interest in art and design, it's only in later years that I've been able to pursue my interest and study three-dimensional design at University for the Creative Arts in Farnham," explains Jackie Denham from Ruby & Jack Design.

Jackie embraced the learning opportunity with full gusto and graduated with a first-class honours degree in 2009. "I then spent a year as artist in residence at the university, helping the students with their sketchbooks and processes. It also gave me the opportunity to carry on experimenting and producing new work of my own."

In 2014, she was able to quit her part-time job as a technician in the Design and Technology department at Cranbourne School to start working on her silver jewellery business, full time, in her home workshop.

"I mostly make sterling silver chains, pendants and earrings, using processes such as shaping and forming, piercing, soldering, sanding and polishing," says Jackie. "I draw my inspiration from architecture, geometry found in nature, the structure of plants and fractals and the world around me. Most of my inspiration is found on my morning dog walks to our local woods and meadow, and colour, pattern and texture greatly inform my work."

Artist Jackie Denham in her studioArtist Jackie Denham in her studio

Jackie is one of around 40 local artists and crafters who have come together to form a collaborative: All Our Own Crafts pop-up shop in Basingstoke's Festival Place.

"Festival Place allows us to occupy any empty units for a short period of time, usually up to three months, and then we move to another one," explains Jackie. "It's been a huge success and we're now into our fifth year. We are currently open until 1 July, opposite Laura Ashley."

Jackie also organises exhibitions with friend and fellow artist, Llinos Gale from Beans and Bees - who makes hand-poured natural wax, essential oil candles presented in vintage glass, clip-top jars and studio ceramics.

"We aim to have a couple of exhibitions a year and source other artists and designer makers. We originally called ourselves 7 Artists, but for our next exhibition in the summer, we have sourced a bigger venue and more artists are joining us so we are now 7 Artists +.

"In the past we have used a small unit at Viables Craft Centre, but this summer we thought it would be good to expand, and have hired the gallery at the Proteus Creative Space in Basingstoke." The exhibition will run alongside Hampshire Open Studios from 19-23 August 2019. 


PJ Preston Arts

Paula Preston is another member of 7 Artists +. She works with watercolours and has a passion for an old photography process called cyanotype.

"It's all dependent on natural sunshine and is as haphazard as it is beautiful," explains Paula. "The deep indigo hues and delicate images that this process captures are so evocative to me. Combining my love of all things vintage with this technique has resulted in some exciting new work using old slides and negatives. I am intrigued by the unpredictability and ethereal quality of the images produced."

Inspired by the mindfulness of creating art, surrounded by the natural world, Paula does a lot of her work in her garden.

"Our tiny garden is a bit of a wildlife haven - in seven years we've turned it from a bare, new-build patch of turf and concrete, into a place visited by frogs, birds and hedgehogs.

"I work outside for the benefits of fresh air, tranquillity and sunshine - not so good in the wind! When creating cyanotypes, I've often had to chase negatives and plant specimens around the grass and pick them out of the cherry tree after an unexpected gust. It's also handy for popping in to make a cup of tea every so often. My kitchen is the other home studio and I have an occult-looking array of jars and pots filled with natural dyestuffs - one of those 'future projects' we all promise ourselves time to indulge in one day."

Originally from London, Paula lives and works in Basingstoke after training in art and design at Bretton Hall in Leeds.

"A degree in art led me into banking, then publishing, and eventually teaching. Primary teaching was an unexpected route back into art. Although it was my subject specialism, I found myself battling the system to get more art into the curriculum. Exploring how to unleash creativity in children enabled me to reconnect with my own."

As well as school-based, after-school art sessions, Paula also teaches privately and has been running skills workshops for children aged 5-12 years in Basingstoke.

"The feedback has been amazing and I am very proud to be a small part of these young artists' creative experience, and to see their confidence grow. Market Chambers Performers Together is the enterprise which has been crucial to providing these opportunities and the space is excellent. Everyone there helps out to keep the building going. The studio will be showcased in the building throughout May, alongside other local artists, as part of the West Berkshire and North Hampshire Art Trail."

You can see some of Paula's new work, including original pieces for sale, at That Gallery in Festival Place, an artist-run art space, which is open for the spring.

"The ever-popular Basingstoke Festival facilitates lots of art activities, and I will be running a Big Draw-linked event during the last week of June as part of the celebrations at Westside Community Centre," says Paula.

In regards to being a part of the Hampshire Open Arts Studios' the 7 Artists + Paula says: "I do love having the opportunity to collaborate with other artists. Fusion happens and inspiration lifts ideas to another level when like minds get the chance to mix it up a little. We are holding exciting workshops and a multi-disciplinary exhibition at Proteus Creation Space for a week from 19 August 2019. Lots of brilliant art work will be on display, including my cyanotypes and watercolours, and I'm running a children's experimental art workshop too." 


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