Inspiration 29 December 2015

Mooching in Manchester

I always think you should walk around a city looking up

I spent the day mooching around the Northern Quarter in Manchester recently. My, how it's changed (all hip cafes and vintage hardware stores) since I worked there a decade ago at a local radio station on Oldham Street.

Our studios were above a little furniture shop were I bought my first bakelite radio (before they became all retro and reproduced). It's still working, although not for long if they kill off mediumwave (boo, hiss).

I always think you should walk around a city looking up. You never know what you might see on a rooftop or half way up a wall.

I was surprised how many people said they'd only stopped to look at this ginormous, beautiful blue tit because they'd wondered what I was photographing. None of them had seen it before, although quite a few said they'd walked the same route to work every day for years (and I know it's been there for at least two). Just shows. 

I really love the contrast between the painting itself and the semi-derelict building used as a canvas - these kind of juxtapositions work really well in interiors too, so old and new, rough and smooth, light and dark. Any kind of contrast helps to define a space and allows you to play with colour, texture and design.

One of my favourite places to visit in the city is the Manchester Craft and Design Centre, a grand Victorian glass house crammed full of inspiring arty things.

Ceramicist, Lee Page Hansen is one of my favourite artists. Working quietly in his studio, he designs beautiful ceramic pieces which often incorporate birds and animals. I love the way Lee uses old lace and wallpaper to emboss the still-wet clay, before adding metallic lustre to create a kind of ceramic collage. 

Over the road, I came across another wonderful potter, Wendy Jones of Majolica Works who shares her loft studio with Liz Scrine, an artist I exhibited at my old art gallery in Bollington.

The staircase leading to Majolica Works Studio & Shop.

For the project, Liz created a number of miniature theatre-type sets based on typical fairytale motifs such as 'the tower', 'the labyrinth' and 'the dark forest'. One particular design, 'the passage' was adapted to create the light box.

Liz makes enchanting light boxes out of clay, with tiny staircases that lead to who knows where. Originally designed as part of a commission for Bristol Children's Hospital, each Passage Light invites you to tell a story.

The studio is packed with pots and plates, vases and tiles stacked higgledy-piggledy on shelves and surfaces around the room. Liz and Wendy shared tea and marmalade cheesecake whilst they waited for their latest batch of pots to chill in the original 1950's American-style fridge. Now that's what I call style!