Posts Tagged ‘artist studio’

24 Jul

DRAWING & PAINTING – autumn term

classes 2 Join artist Susan Milne for our Wednesday morning art classes. You’ll be introduced to a variety of art materials, practical techniques and processes alongside relevant art history examples. The course will introduce the fundamentals of drawing as a discipline that underpins painting, design, printmaking and other creative work, and will also explore the extent of drawing as an end in itself. There will be objective drawing from still life, including perspective, tone and form and a session of drawing in the landscape. Different drawing methods and materials will be encouraged and individual attention given during the sessions.  The focus of the first four sessions will be based on Drawing. After the break and four sessions drawing, the course will introduce painting with a variety of pastels and mixed media to explore gesture and form. The course is suitable for beginners and the more experienced. Please bring a sketchbook with you.

WEDNESDAY, 10am-1pm

4-25 Oct & 8-29 Nov

£70 for 4 weeks/ £130 for 8 weeks

Scroll down to book ONLINE or t: 01873 811579 e:

Please see Booking Information before making a booking.

24 Jul

BASKET MAKING – autumn term

Basket Making

Artisan Basket Maker and Willow Craftswoman, Mary Zammit, will introduce you to the skills and techniques of this ancient craft. Using locally grown willow you’ll learn how to design and construct your own basket from scratch. The classes allow opportunity to work on your own personal project under the expert guidance of Mary. You’ll need a sharp pocket knife, secateurs and a medium flat-headed screw driver. Suitable for beginners as well as those with some experience.


MONDAY, 10am-2:30pm

2-23 Oct

£120 for 4 weeks


Scroll down to book ONLINE or t: 01873 811579

Please see our Booking Information page before making a booking

24 Jul

POTTERY – autumn term


Concentrating on the making process this practical course introduces the fundamental techniques used in hand-built ceramics. Martin Craddock, our trained potter and tutor will guide you through coiling, slabbing and press-moulded dish making. There will also be plenty of opportunities to throw on the wheel. Participants will be able to work on their own personal projects under the guidance of Martin making items for your home, garden etc.

Suitable for beginners as well as those with some experience.

Includes firing and access to specialist equipment.



22 Sept-27 Oct & 10 Nov – 15 Dec

£170 x 6 weeks/ £305 x 12 weeks.

Our Pottery Autumn Term Course is now Sold Out. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.


Scroll down to book ONLINE or t:01873 811579

Please see ‘Booking Information’ before making a booking.


18 Nov

Diana Heeks – Black Mountains project (4)

Artist Diana Heeks, based in Llanrhystud, West Wales, is developing a project in the Black Mountains inspired by Raymond Williams‘ unfinished novel People of the Black Mountains.

The project comprises four, week-long visits to the region and is funded by a ‘research and development’ grant from the Arts Council of Wales.

PEAK is a project partner and supporting Diana through artist mentoring and promotion. PEAK will announce details of an open studio day and talk with Diana to conclude the project in the autumn.


“Literature has influenced and engaged me since childhood, and this book evokes feelings which I have an almost visceral need to explore in paint. The Black Mountains is a cluster of steep-sided parallel ridges east of the Brecon Beacons, mainly in Wales but partly across the English border. In two volumes this book tells a series of linked stories about the history of the area, from Neolithic times until the Norman invasion, encompassing a grand sweep across thousands of years and tens of generations, offering both a bird’s-eye view and ground-level intimacy. For many years I have read and reread this novel. Its qualities of imagination and humanity, and its sense of the influence of place, attracted me as a painter from the outset, especially as the location has long been a favourite. The stories and evoked imagery have accompanied me whilst working plein air and on walks and explorations in the actual locations and landscapes of the book. I want to attempt an equivalent in oils on canvas.”

- Diana Heeks

“Press your fingers close on this lichened sandstone. With this stone and this grass, with this red earth, this place was received and made and remade. Its generations are distinct, but all suddenly present.”

– Raymond Williams, People of the Black Mountains


First Visit  – 16-23 March 2015

Click here for the first blog post


Second Visit – 15-22 May 2015

Click here for the second blog post


Third Visit - 4-11 September 2015

Click here for the third blog post


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Fourth Visit – 16-23 October 2015

During this last week of the project there have been autumn colours and glorious sunshine, but the nights draw in and at early evening the view from my door at Broadley has darkened. The sweep of hillside opposite shows glimmering pinpoints as outlying farmsteads switch on. The ridge horizon line, along which Glyn searched in the link chapters “Glyn to Elis”, is black against a luminous sky, mauve, orange-pink and deep blue, with arching clouds in flow, until it quickly darkens. Next time I look there are stars.

This fourth and final week has been taken up with organising the Open Studio, which took place on 22 October. This event summarised and displayed my preoccupations and activities over this last year.

In his opening chapter of “The Beginning”, the first volume of People of the Black Mountains, Raymond Williams describes the colours he finds in the BM landscape: “From a distance, in good light, the long whaleback ridges are blue. Under cloud they are grey cloudbanks. But from within they are many colours: olive green under sunlight; darker green with the patches of summer bracken; green with a pink tinge when there are young leaves on the whinberries; dark with the heather out of flower, purple briefly in late summer; russet with autumn bracken, when at dawn after rain the eastern slopes can be red; pale gold in dead winter bracken, against the white of snow. Yet black, a cellular black, under storm cloud; a pitted honeycomb of darkness within darkness.”

I enjoyed this passage so much that I simply wanted to list his colours visually and associate them with colour situations in which I was already involved (eg the blacks of Malevich … difficulties around vermilion). They became contained within shapes which I find pleasure in as visual archetypes of landscape, for example a sharply defined cloud shape emerging over a sky line or a field against the plunge of a hillside. In the Open Studio these ideas crystallised into a floor piece which I titled “From a distance, in good light … ”. The work is essentially a piece of collage, with much of it derived from recycling old work, but there is interest and mystery when the cast-off becomes something else.

The pieces titled “Glyn to Elis/Cist” comprise a suite of medium-sized paintings, drawings and collage pieces which are my intuitive response to the book’s account of Glyn’s night-time journey along the ridges looking for his missing grandfather Elis. His search takes him through a landscape in darkness, sometimes moonlit, in which lie the cists and their contents: arrowheads, pottery and the bones of long-ago people which have lain in the dark for millennia. There is a sense of what some Celtic peoples call the “thin place”, where the separation of reality from other worlds is weak.

The larger pieces in the OS came about partly through my need to “brush broad” – maybe as a physical rebellion against my previous small work on Black Mountains themes, or maybe as a response to the broad sweep of RW’s subject matter. For many of the larger pieces I have researched particular elements of the stories, and this research has enriched my experience of them, particularly in the cases of “Bibra in Magnis” and “The Gift of Acha”, both of which I found especially moving. The materiality of paint, the combination of text and gesture, RW’s lyricism and other aspects were also building blocks.

The Open Studio, while an important opportunity to see the work through the eyes of others, could be seen as the culmination of a year focusing on one place and one book, both immeasurably rich worlds with much to teach us. But it is also a beginning, a laying out of a palette of possibilities, a chance to examine and evaluate. Some of the work produced can be seen as exploratory and some as development, but I am aware that only a few pieces have achieved resolution and therefore there is much more to do. The elements which have emerged from this exercise may converge, combine, burgeon or wither. We’ll have to see.

Diana Heeks

October 2015


I have witnessed Diana’s work developing over the past year and I am continually struck by the vitality of colour and form in her paintings. There is an innate confidence to Diana’s work and this is reflected in the way she writes about her experience with uncluttered, authentic language. The work she has produced while resident in the Black Mountains (and further developed in her studio in West Wales) stands alone as an artist’s abstract response to landscape. An understanding of Raymond Williams’ PotBM novels is certainly of interest but not essential in appreciating this new work. PEAK looks forward to continuing to support Diana and several other practitioners who are now discovering or revisiting Williams’ fiction and academic writing to produce contemporary, creative responses to his legacy.

Rebecca Spooner
Arts Development Manager

November 2015


Images: Nathan Morgan & Laura Heeks


For more information about Diana’s work visit:

For more information about PEAK, Contemporary Art In The Black Mountains, visit:

Arts Council of Wales


15 May

Stroud Valleys Artspace (SVA)


Rebecca Spooner, Arts Development Manager, reflects on a visit to Stroud Valleys Artspace (SVA) and Site Festival - a festival of artist-led projects in Stroud and Open Studios across Stroud Valleys. 


Polyrythmic Snarl by Sam Marsh & Ed Lawrenson
Tide Marks by Alice Fox
Alice Fox at Lansdown Hall & Gallery
Open Studio sign at SVA
Studios at SVA
Penny Hallas  meets artist Emily Joy at Stroud Valleys Artspace
Studios at SVA
Penny and Lyn purchase a painting by artist Adam White
Rebecca with work by artist Jo Casling at Stroud Valleys Artspace
Lyndon Davies listening to a poetry collaboration at Stroud Valleys Artspace
Rebecca at SVA Goods Shed

Sunday 11th May 2014

Artist, Penny Hallas and Poet, Lyndon Davies were my travelling companions for the day. We set out cross-country via Ross-on-Wye and Gloucester through rolling Cotswold villages toward Stroud, only one and a half hours from the Black Mountains.

We stumbled upon our first gallery of the day in an empty retail space in a generic shopping arcade. Painter, Peter Stiles presented a large solo show, Ourselves We Find At Sea, containing uniquely shaped, hand-made canvases, depicting beautiful forms and compositions in a Bloomsbury palette, of familiar motifs of west country landscape – waterfalls, shady lanes and rolling hills.

Peter explained about the relative ease of acquiring an empty shop, assisted by a lease template produced by SVA, who act as a go between for artists, the council and retail landlords. Landlords benefit from rate relief while the empty shop is occupied and artists gain access to a large, neutral space with good footfall. We picked up our Site festival programmes and headed for the next stop.

Alice Fox’s exhibition, Tide Marks, in Lansdown Hall & Gallery presented works on paper and cloth responding to coastline. Thin, skin-like shrouds hung from the walls, stitched, dyed and printed with rust and tealeaves. The show was part of the Select Trail – a showcase of Stroud International Textiles. We were getting a feel for the quality of the artists involved in Site and started to get excited about potential for exchange with artists and makers in the Black Mountains.

We headed for SVA, which “provides studio space for professional artists and presents a year round artistic and educational programme with the Site Festival as an annual highlight.” The festival orbits round this central hub of creative energy. Writer Keith Mitchell, who has a long association with the venue, told us more about the history of Stroud and its prosperous textiles industry (the town produced red coats for the military) and the derelict warehouses it offered up to artists, ripe for renovation.

I spoke to Neil Walker, a founder member and Co-Artistic Director (alongside Jo Leahy), who explained how SVA gradually developed over the past 18 years from a maggot infested shell to a site of over 20 studios, offices, café bar and brand new gallery space. SVA is one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations and receives around £70k annually towards core costs, as well as support from Stroud District Council. Local press reported that Site Festival contributes an estimated two million pounds to the local economy.

SVA Studios are offered at a subsidised rate from £108 per month. The standard of artists in the studio was high and I assumed there was a tough selection process. Neil put me straight – the only condition for artists applying for a studio is that they get involved. Artists proactively organise events, talks, open studios and gigs. Spending time working alongside good artists breeds more good artists.

A successful organisation like SVA doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Neil tells me there is a well-regarded Art Foundation course in Stroud College, which primes students for Goldsmiths, Central St Martins and the Slade. A proportion of these post grads gravitate back to Stroud for its close proximity to Bristol and London, and for employment opportunities. Damien Hirst’s Science Ltd studios once-upon-a-time employed up to 200 artists and Pangolin Editions, specializing in casting bronze sculpture, is a regular employer for artists.

I tried to relate the SVA model to the Black Mountains. I’ve met creative practitioners (writers, musicians, artists and makers) who’ve located here to deliberately work in solitude. That suits some practitioners but not all. Again, art is not created in a vacuum and whether we actively get involved or not we all benefit from being connected to other creative people.

Clearly there are differences between the arts scene in the Black Mountains and Stroud. For me it’s about recognising and making use of the distinct resources we have available; the incredible landscape, the excellence of our creative practitioners, the community spirit of our towns and villages, large festival audiences and a strong tourism infrastructure.

One of the most exciting aspects of SVA is the artist-led activity it encourages. This way of working, a more DIY approach, could be embraced in the Black Mountains. Artist-led projects have the potential to create a freshness, playfulness and a sense of artistic ownership in a way that activity generated by organisations – and particularly local authorities – find difficult to achieve.

Penny and I considered the need to develop studio space that is sustainable and based on demand. Is there a need for creative studio space in the Black Mountains? Do practitioners have adequate studios in their spare rooms and sheds at the bottom of the garden? You tell me – comments in the box below please. The empty shop model is certainly intriguing. In a town centre location (Talgarth, Abergavenny or Brecon for example) a retail space could provide an opportunity to experiment with a temporary studio and a related series of public workshops, events, exhibitions, screenings, etc.

We continued ticking off venues from our Site festival guides. After being led a merry dance by the programme’s dodgy map, we finally discovered SVA’s Goods Shed – a large, old warehouse near the railway station (similar in scale to g39, Cardiff). We enjoyed five billboard size film screenings of work by John Wood and Paul Harrison. We chuckled as we stood detachedly watching a model car plunge, slow motion, into a constructed woodland lake; and smirked as a perfect scale, pier building was consumed by flames. We were hopeless to intervene in these pathetic disasters. “Isn’t it fun being an artist!” said Penny.

- Rebecca Spooner

Stroud Valleys Artspace (SVA)

With thanks to Grace Davies, Regional Development Co-ordinator, Visual Arts South West

Information about setting up artist studios can be found at the National Federation of Artists’ Studio Providers


PEAK is an initiative devised and delivered by Arts Alive Wales, seeking to research and develop platforms for the creation and presentation of contemporary art in the Black Mountains.

During summer 2014, PEAK will visit rurally based arts organisations across the UK to establish partnerships and opportunities for artists and audiences.


Arts Council of Wales





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