Interview: The Creative Collective Bath

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The Creative Collective is run by Amy and Hannah. They run a range of courses to suit all ages and abilities. Some of their workshops include weaving, pottery and ceramics. I was lucky enough to interview Amy and Hannah about The Creative Collective and what they are currently up to.

Hello! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?

Great thank you!

Can you tell us a little bit about The Creative Collective?

The Creative Collective is the brain child of artistic duo Amy Palmer Fry and Hannah Southfield Cook. We run a studio space where we can both pursue our own creative endeavours and also share our space and knowledge with others during our creative courses.

How did you manage to learn and hone your craft?

With expertise in ceramics and textiles Amy trained at The Royal West academy of art in Bristol. She also learned many of her practical skills from boat building. Hannah gained acclaim as a face and body painter by competing internationally in the art form; later working with industry leaders to train as a practicing floral designer.

Have you always been into offering courses and craft?

We believe in engaging people in creativity and always pursued the dream of having a space where we could offer courses. Hannah has always taught, teaching at the University of Bath as well as privately and Amy has always thrived in collaborative creative environments. Our studio is now a bright airy space with everything in place to encourage individual expression in all who come here.

What courses do you offer at The Creative Collective?

We offer a wide range of courses to suit all ages and abilities alike, ranging from hand lettering to weaving, lino printing to ceramics and pottery throwing. We also hold workshops in floristry, macrame, still life drawing and sculpting, and hold a popular creative kids club on a Thursday morning.

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What does this business mean to you and your community?

Having the opportunity to help others develop their creative prowess is such a rewarding and inspiring endeavour. We aim to make our range of courses assessable to all, as we believe everyone can benefit from the creative process. Our creative kids club for under 5s has been a huge success. We are currently adding another weekly slot to the lineup. It is great to allow children to create and be messy, exploring artistic materials in a sensory and engaging way, and letting parents off the tidying up. We are also working with many local organisations.

This year we were head hunted to become the Bath Carnival Costume Workshop Directors, working with schools, vulnerable adults and community groups to create all the costumes for the carnival procession. As boaters ourselves, we are also working closely with Julian House Gypsy, Traveller and Boater outreach running workshops for vulnerable adults who live without a fixed address. Here we create stunning collaborative art works that are then installed along the canal towpath to form at art trail, bringing to local community together. Therefore, we hope to become a haven among the local community where people can come, create and grow.

If there were no resource restraints, what would be your dream project?

One day we would love to create an installation for Chelsea flower show, combining our building a sculpture expertise with our knowledge of floral design. We also love British Heritage so would love to work with a historic location that also sits within beautiful landscape to create an installation sympathetic to both aspects.

Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?

As we work within the visual arts, platforms such as Instagram are great ways of displaying our work and courses as well as engaging with other creatives. We find that Instagram in particular is a great way of finding inspiration and has an encouraging atmosphere among others in creative industries. This nurtures a sense of community. Features such as stories also allow us to open our studio up to the public, letting people see what we are creating on courses or when we are working on our own projects.

Who inspires your work?

Amy is always drawn to work with a lot of interesting textures and surface. Her own work often focuses on the surface detail, different materials and surface decoration, as well as experimentation with colour and texture. One of the artists Amy loves, is ceramicist Fenella Elms, whose porcelain creations are large textural pieces made from hundreds of smaller ceramic elements that create an impact collectivity. Her work is also natural in its form.

Both Hannah and Amy are inspired by the natural world and spend a lot of their time outside due to their choice of houseboats as homes! Andy Goldsworthy, has always been an inspiration to Hannah who grew up making regular visits to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where Andy creates a lot of his work in-situ. Goldsworthy uses leaves natural materials to create stunning works with tonal and linear contrasts. These make striking juxtapositions to the natural environment. These creations are ephemeral and eventually become part of the environment once again. Similarly, Hannah’s body paint and floral work are creations with a short life span, made for the enjoyment of the journey as much as the short-lived sweetness of the final piece.

Do you have any favourite pieces of work that you adore at the moment?

Currently we are all about mixed medias. Exploring the marriage of weaving, macrame, ceramics, floristry, half lettering and everything in between. The variety of textures and emotions that you can capture is truly inspiring.

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What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Instagram and your business?

We can’t wait to share stories of our diversified class line-up and some of the more exciting larger events we are involved in this year; such as weddings, Bath Carnival and some amazing shoots and collaborations. We can’t wait to unleash this creativity with our attendees and other creatives and working closely and collaboratively to brighten up our Instagram stream for the foreseeable future.

What’s your typical working day?

Let’s say a Thursday: On a busy day we would be up and at the flower market by 5am, choosing and collecting fresh blooms and foliage for installations or events at the weekend. We then get to the studio by 9am (stopping off at the boat to collect Sunny Bunny the studio bunny rabbit) and get straight into conditioning the flowers and setting up for our popular Creative Kids club from 10 till 12pm. After the loud and messy play, snacks, glitter and all other things crafty exploding from the kids club, we pack away ready for a calmer afternoon of either our own work, admin or a life drawing course with live model. We work till about 5 and close up the studio ready for the next days activities. We then head back to one of our boats for an evening of life on the water and dinner, ready to start the next day in the studio!

What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground?

One of the biggest challenges for our business was getting our brand out there and getting people to know and understand who we were and what we offer! I think as we are brand new, we only had our own personal band of supporters to tell others that what we were offering in our creative workshops was fun, informative and good value. Its understood that as people, we are much more likely to be influenced by the recommendations and experiences of others than a business’ self promotion. So this becomes hard in the creative industry when you’re new, no-one knows who you are or what you do and no one has any recommendations to share to enhance or increase your reach to potential clients.

Therefore, simply letting people know what we are about has been the most successful use social media for us, inviting people to come and join us. Also, both living on boats in another slight struggle, as without Wi-Fi we have to run our businesses from our phones, often tethering from a personal hotspot (mobile taped to the window.) Haha!

Do you have any exciting plans for this year?

We are working on some much larger projects this year which have great scope to let us unleash our full creative potential. Alongside this we have diversified our course line-up due to popular demand and new techniques we have been developing. Furthermore, we are honoured to be invited to work alongside some big names to creative bespoke courses and break out sessions for their students, sharing our creative vision with a much wider audience.

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What advice would you give to people looking to define their own style?

Keep dreaming and collecting your thoughts and ideas. write stuff down. Cut things out. Get creative with your thoughts, you can always ‘downsize them’, but its better to let yourself go big and them scale them back in light of practicalities and circumstances. Keep adding to them and new inspirations come along. This will help you understand what motivates you and inspires you and also help you to create a strong creative identity that is as individual as you are.

Do you have any advice for anyone who would like to do craft courses?

Do them! Create some space for yourself, or get together with family and friends! Trying something new can be a really fun way to connect with each other or simply allow yourself to try something you’ve always wanted to do. Time to be free and creative is some of the best self care you can adopt.

What’s next for The Creative Collective Bath?

In time we would like to grow into an even bigger studio space and offer evening courses as well as our weekday and weekend courses. We want to offer as many creative opportunities to as many people as possible. We are developing our scope to take on larger projects and events, with a view to becoming the go to people for creative installations in our area.

What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?

‘Comparison is the thief of Joy’. This is something we hold onto in our own creative lives and we also encourage during our workshops, highlighting the importance of our individual expression and development. We feel that although there are wonderful creative inspirations out there, which can be brilliant for our own inspiration, we all have a unique style and should look to expressing that as much as we can!

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You can follow their Facebook page for workshops ‘https://www.facebook.com/TheCreativeCollectiveBath/’ and their Instagram ‘https://www.instagram.com/creativecollectivebath/’. They have some great workshops, so if you're local to the area, they are definitely worth going to.