September 2019 sees the publication of Artisan Bristol, a collection of artist profiles looking at some of Bristol’s most creative artists and makers.
The culmination of interviews and studio visits with 25 of Bristol’s finest makers, the book reveals their personal relationship to the city and how it influences their work. Each profile contains a selection of beautiful images capturing the wares and offers an intimate portrait of the makers at work in their studio.
Compiled by Sophie Rees, the director of contemporary design agency Designers / Makers, Artisan Bristol showcases Bristol craft-makers and their work, and is a celebration of the creative spirit of the city.
The book sets out to “reveal the artists’ personal relationship to the city and how it influences their work”. Some examples, Sophie? “Many of the designers are directly inspired by Bristol – its architecture, history, green spaces, graffiti, etcetera – while others are inspired by the freedom and artistic community the city has given them.
“I think the community element shone through the most throughout the interviews: Bristol is a medium-sized, bustling city, but the community of artists and designers feels quite close-knit and supportive, with collaborations taking place all the time.”
Sophie’s working process began by creating a long list of questions for each designer – after which she asked them to elaborate on certain key points relevant to their own particular artistic practice. “After a few months of back and forth with questions, I visited each studio to take the photographs that appear in the book and get a deeper sense of their work, studio and life in Bristol. It’s always fascinating to see how other creatives work and arrange their spaces: some work in organised chaos, others prefer a very minimal space.”
Many of these face-to-face meetings were inspirational. “Every designer in the book impressed me with their passion for what they do and determination to make it work for them and their families. Some have moved to other ends of the country, another ended a successful career at the BBC to pursue a new creative career. Another designer moved to Bristol due to medical complications following an operation, spending the following three years of rehabilitation focusing entirely on her own practice.”
The book also flags up how many artists manage to blend traditional methods with cutting-edge techniques. “Some of the more traditional techniques include hand thrown pottery, loom weaving, glass blowing and cobbling but there are also some practices that are not as commonly seen. Jackey Puzey’s digital embroidery machine combines traditional embroidery skills with digital technology: Jackey combines fur, feathers, tweed and organza with drawings, laser cuttings and digital embroidery to produce her distinctive imagery.”
Bristol is often cited as a city with an enormous amount of creative energy. Has Sophie found, through the making of this book, this popular image to be correct? “The designers in the book represent a small section of the creative talent in Bristol – some of them have lived here many years, others were drawn here more recently by Bristol’s reputation as a creative place.
“I think Bristol often attracts two sets of creatives: those just starting out, such as students, and those fed up of chasing their tails in bigger cities like London. Bristol has its own creative ecosystem that allows designers and artists the opportunity to support themselves and continue their creative practice.”
Artisan Bristol is published by The History Press, price £20. For more info, visit www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/artisan-bristol/9780750989343