picture by:- suzie devey
01/12/2019 text by:- suzie devey
Suzie Devey Q and A

Creative Factory is an idea. By putting artists and creative thinking at the core of our approach, our factory will make new opportunities for Middlesbrough, where artists are not only welcomed, but listened to, nurtured, developed, supported, and given a much wider perception of success and a broader understanding of what a long term career can be.

The Creative Factory Q&A is a short informal look at an artist’s practice and current work.

  1. Where are you based and how long have you been there?

I am currently based at Chop Gate since moving from Navigator North Studios about a year ago.

  1. Where do you work? Studio, home, kitchen table, cafes, elsewhere? Tell us a bit about your workspace / work habits, etc.

I moved my studio to home because my eldest daughter had left and her bedroom was unused. I’ve made that into a small printmaking studio. I like being at home and able to work at anytime but I miss having the company of other artists close by.

  1. What does 'success' mean to you?
    It depends… if the rent is due and I haven’t got it then I don’t feel very successful so I guess it’s partly about money. But if a person tells me they have been inspired by my work or by taking part in a creative activity I have run then I feel truly successful.
    Do you earn a living from making art? If not, or only partially, what else do you do?

I try to. But I’ve had to launch my art as a business for financial reasons in order to keep receiving Universal Credit. I’m trying not to chase the money but to work towards projects that are different ways for me to undertake my practice. I sometimes teach and am considering structuring that as a more viable income, but as a further way to develop the purpose of my practice rather than as a direct income stream.

  1. What makes good art?

To me good art is a superb cultural experience, one that stimulates creative conversations.

  1. What have you been up to recently? Tell us about any recent exhibitions, projects, residencies, etc.

I’ve been touring a miniature printmaking studio in a red phonebox, called Two Tin Cans, having bid for and received Arts Council Funding. I’ve spoken to over 2,000 people since July as a result of the box and witnessed over 1000 prints being made. At each location I create new artwork based on the theme of that location, so I have also develop 32 miniature prints in the same timescale. The box has popped up at festivals, libraries, beaches and street corners around Tees Valley and North Yorkshire. It’s opened up many opportunities and I’m excited about how I can develop this concept with and for other artists.

  1. What have you got coming up, exhibitions, residencies, studio etc?

I will be at more pop up locations with the phonebox and seeking further funding for wider engagement. I have an idea for a large-scale public art installation and am exploring opportunities for that.

  1. What, if any, are the main barriers you come across?

People wanting my art and my time for free. When people see I have Arts Council Funding they assume that it’s available to them for nothing. Alternatively, some organisations expect me to explore, develop ideas and write funding bids for project ideas… so they can come in once it’s all done. Again, that is all time for free. As an independent artist, working alone, every minute is valuable.

  1. How do you feel about the current and future state of art in Middlesbrough / UK

I think it’s an exciting time. As our perception of commodities shifts and traditional shopping centres disappear as a direct result of the internet, spaces and places are changing. I often wonder if these spaces will fill up with cultural experiences as future retail opportunities; “culture shops”…. How fabulous would that be? What a wonderful way to re-think art and what it is. I’ve also been pondering whether art should have a purpose and this question is being explored by much more public artists than me! I’m using Two Tin Cans to tackle issues around loneliness and I firmly believe that art has power to instigate change in people’s lives, that means it can also change entire communities because they’re simply structures made up of individual lives. The shift of art out of the curriculum could be liberating, if creativity opportunities were developed beyond the realms of the classroom for all children, not just those with parents who are aware of how enriching the arts can be. So, maybe the high street will become an art playground… for adults and children alike? Art in Middlesbrough is a vibrant, supportive and welcoming community. Mima’s Art School development is interesting but might just be new clothes for the emperor! However, I hope it becomes as vibrant and opportunistic as the rest of the town.

Suzie Devey

I am a printmaker based on the edge of the North York Moors. I am intrigued by how random encounters can lead to creative conversations, so I seek out collaborative opportunities where printmaking can be used to engage with others. The work I produce re-tells the stories of these encounters in the creation of hybrid prints using linocut, drypoint, collagraph and contemporary methods such as laser cutting. I play with scale and proportion in the re-telling of the stories sharing them in public spaces, often reproducing collaborative work in unexpected places. I am currently touring a pop-up printmaking studio in a mobile red telephone kiosk so people can engage with printmaking in unexpected places and discover ways to come together as creative communities.

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