Saturday, 13 June 2009

Come on in...

A review of The Jamaica Street Artists Open Studio via Suit Yourself Magazine.

Like many on the Gloucester Road to City Centre shuffle, I trudge by the unobtrusive mass of the Jamaica Street studio nearly every day. Despite its size, it’s easy to pass its scarlet and green frame and abundance of windows without realising it’s the diamond in Stokes Croft’s creative rough. Sometimes a paint-covered overall with a fag and a cup of tea in hand reveal its secret, but you’d rarely guess that inside this discreet building there’s a frenzy of activity as a community of artists go about their creative business.

Last weekend’s open studio was a chance to wander through this usually unseen warren of art, natter with the artists about their work and purchase their skilfully crafted wares. Selling in a mid-recession market has been tough for many of the studio’s artists, but economic downturn hasn’t affected the incredibly high standard of work found within these walls nor the overwhelmingly friendly atmosphere.

After venturing up the narrow staircase beside a decidedly rickety-looking iron elevator, punters were met with room upon room of treasure-filled studios. The range of media that the building houses is as varied as it is impressive. The hidey-holes of more traditional fine artists sit comfortably aside those of illustrators of children’s books, edgy ceramicists, machine embroiderers, poster-makers and jewellers. Highlights included Sophie Woodrow’s beautiful porcelain mutants that combine cutesy fauna with urn-like menace, Karin Sabine Krommes’ intricate paintings of aircraft mechanics, kooky characters and visual puns from Bjorn Rune Lie and the playful and exquisitely embellished textile pieces of Louise Gardiner, among many others.

The Jamaica Street creatives were well aware that all work and no play makes dull artists and the opening night was just as much of a wine-fuelled celebration as a serious exhibition. An electric after-show party at the nearby Croft saw cracking sets from the strangely attractive Dagger Brothers – tiny t-shirted electronica meets performance art that must be seen to be believed – and plenty of DIY athleticism from loop peddle champion S J Esau.

No doubt there was many a headache when then studio opened it doors bright and early the following morning but these guys are professionals and the show must go on, hangover or no. It was once again a pleasure to have brief glimpse into a studio that is at the epicentre of Stokes Croft’s creative and cultural identity. As the builders begin to encroach, let’s hope that this gem is kept well and truly away from the property developers’ greedy paws. To ensure the studio’s future, the artists within need to raise the money to buy the building themselves and so please donate and support them in whatever way you can.

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