A Jewellery Buyer's Journey

Hello, I work in the Craft Shop at New Brewery Arts and it’s my job to look after all our jewellers and their lovely jewellery. We try and go to as many craft fairs and trade shows around the country as is physically possible to source jewellery; we also have new jewellers approaching us directly as they have either visited us, or heard of us via the craft world grapevine and want to be a part of New Brewery Arts.

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As a jeweller myself, I am always interested in seeing new work and finding out what inspires people to create and the different techniques they use. Over the years we have shown an eclectic mix of styles. Some of our jewellers, like Guy Royle, have been making for decades and have a following of very devout collectors. Guy bends, cuts, forms and etches his exquisite pieces, creating designs that have echoes of age old adornments. 

Katherine Campbell Legg, who trained at the Royal College of Art in London, uses the ancient Korean gilding technique of Keum Boo. Each piece is carefully thought out before applying a thin layer of 24ct gold foil to the silver using heat and pressure. The finished effect is sophisticated and stunning, and something that I wish I had the patience (and time) to learn and accomplish myself.

Some of our other jewellers are self-taught, having fallen in love with jewellery making in an evening class. This has led to a career change and for some, quite a dramatic one. Diana Lambert was in Financial Services, but now makes beautiful jewellery for a living. She is inspired by the natural world of trees, rocks and rivers, and uses hand forged chain links in sterling silver to create very simple, yet very effective and wearable pieces. Her multi ring pendants and earrings fly off our shelves and we are constantly asking her for more work.

Carol James of Silverfish Designs, is an Archaeologist by trade but after joining an evening class which led to a 2 year OCN course, she now divides her time between the two, creating jewellery that is inspired by her work. Her latest designs draw particularly on Norwegian and Welsh rock art, leading her to experiment with different decorative techniques to create unique organic, textural jewellery.

All our jewellers use a wide array of materials, colours and techniques which, combined with their inspirations and talent, lead to our wonderful selection of creative work. I could go on writing about them all, from Hazel Atkinson and her colourful, fun anodised aluminium range, to Jessica Sherriff and her landscape-inspired contemporary acrylic range, not to mention Guen Palmer's beautifully made classical silver and 18ct gold jewellery. I am proud to be a part of the Craft Shop team and feel we offer a really diverse range of jewellery which suits all tastes, ages and - of course - purse sizes.

We're always interested in seeing new makers; if you'd like us to see your work, contact us here

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We are makers, crafters of things

Book review: Cræft by Alexander Langlands

I’ve always been a fan of archaeology, well, I loved watching Time Team. So, when Alexander Langlands, archaeologist, TV historian (of Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm and Wartime Farm fame) and Patron of the Heritage Crafts Association published Cræft: How Traditional Crafts Are About More Than Just Making”, I dashed straight for my local bookshop.

In CræftLanglands looks at British historical craft practices (many of them with a land use or agricultural bent), and he argues that “crafts, through their need for raw materials, created patterns in the landscape", for Langland’s craft is inextricably linked with the local environment and it works best when it makes use of the immediate landscape; thatchers use local straw, reeds or bracken, wallers and hedge-layers make use of the materials to hand. The result is that the constructed British landscape we are so familiar with is not just shaped by craftsmanship, but crafts have been shaped by the resources and needs at hand.

If we spent more time individually converting raw materials into useful objects we might be better placed to contextualise the challenges that face a society addicted to excessive and often conspicuous consumption. Perhaps importantly, we might be a little bit happier.
— Alexander Langlands, Craeft

I had never really put my interest in history alongside my interest in craft, this book made me realise that these two things are in fact, two sides of the same coin – material culture.  ‘Material culture’ is a term for the physical aspect of culture we can observe in the objects and architecture that surround people. It includes usage, consumption, creation and trade of objects, and the behaviours, norms and rituals these objects create or take part in. Material culture studies is an interdisciplinary field telling of relationships between people and their things. Anything from buildings and architectural elements to books, jewellery, or toothbrushes can be considered material culture. The term is commonly used in archaeological and anthropological studies, so it’s a familiar term for Langlands; archaeologists work back from the fragments of objects previous cultures have left behind to better understand the needs and desires of the society that produced them. 

Craeft by Alexander Langlands is published by Faber and Faber (£20) 

Craeft by Alexander Langlands is published by Faber and Faber (£20) 

Langlands is no neo-Luddite, proposing that we should all live off-grid. Nor is he proffering a historic, romantic, nostalgic view where everybody goes full-Poldark (though he does have a scything moment). Rather he proffers a different possibility where, instead of defaulting to consumerism to meet our daily needs, there is an option to use the materials we have to hand, to find the right tool for the job in our cupboards and sheds, to mend or to make from scratch ourselves. In doing so we might be fitter, happier and more in touch with the local world that surrounds us. Langlands suggests that we could have a deeper, richer, more profound relationship with objects and our locality if we learnt to appreciate and value material culture.

While I may find it a leap too far to think that the fields in my village will return to being ploughed and furrowed by shire horses once again,  I have been surprised that the plastic bag tax hasn’t resulted in a boom in shopping baskets (there’s one for the hipster), and that the environmental argument for having well-made craft objects in our lives rather than cheap plastic versions, or local production winning over goods manufactured half way across the world still seems to be a case not being made forcefully by the contemporary crafts sector. This book has made me all the more curious about the objects we live with, and what they can tell us about our past and about ourselves today. 

Craeft by Alexander Langlands is published by Faber and Faber (£20) 
Alex Langlands

Like crafts? Then let archeologist and broadcaster Alexander Langlands introduce you to crӕft - the art of traditional crafts, almost lost to us today. In this film, Alexander introduces us to the concept of crӕft (as well as a helpful lesson in how to say the word), and he explains why the meaning of crӕft is as important today as it's ever been.

2018 - Top Craft Events

We are delighted to have been invited to be a partner at Made by Hand Cheltenham in March 2018. It's great to be involved with other organisations and over 100 makers. But it's not the only fantastic craft event taking place across the year  - there's so much coming up across the crafts sector, it’s going to be a very busy year for us and craft lovers.

Here’s our round up of events, we look forward to seeing you there...

Collect, Crafts Council
22 - 25 February 2018
Saatchi Gallery, London

Collect brings together 39 galleries from four continents for a celebration of making, extraordinary in both scale and scope. Museum-quality works and installations from hundreds of the most talented makers in the UK, USA, South Korea, Japan, France, Norway, Italy, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden will offer visitors and collectors a multidisciplinary overview of the people, processes, materials and ideas defining international craft in 2018.

From the makers sustaining and enhancing historic craft techniques to experimental artists breaking material boundaries and pioneering new processes, Collect provides an immersive and wide-ranging snapshot of what craft means today, and a glimpse of what it might become in the future.

Made by Hand
10 - 11 March 2018  
Cheltenham Town Hall

In partnership with The Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen, New Brewery Arts in Cirencester (yes, us!) and Cheltenham Trust, Period Living, Hereford College of Arts, madebyhandonline.com and craft&design.net, Made by Hand Cheltenham is all set to take place in the iconic location of Cheltenham Town Hall for the first time.

100 of the UK's finest, contemporary makers were selected for Made by Hand Cheltenham

Made by Hand will also host a lively programme of workshops and demonstrations. The event will also be complimented with live music and a lovely cafe on site. Sunday March 11th is Mother's Day so you can make the day extra special with a visit to Made by Hand.

AHH Design - Made by Hand, Cheltenham

AHH Design - Made by Hand, Cheltenham

 

London Craft Week
9 - 13 May 2018
Various venues across London

London Craft Week 2018 will take place between 9 - 13 May. This annual event showcases the very best international and British creativity and craftsmanship through a ‘beyond luxury’ journey-of-discovery. In 2017, the curated programme brought together over 230 events from all corners of the globe fusing making, design, fashion, art, luxury, food, culture and shopping. 

From the V&A to The Shard and RADA to The House of Lords, hidden studios to Mayfair stores and bustling workshops to Michelin starred restaurants, London Craft Week is spread across the capital’s iconic buildings, influential institutions and off-the-beaten track side streets, many of which are not normally open to the public. Likewise, the programme spans a broad spectrum from unknown makers to celebrated masters, famous designers, brands and galleries. We have worked with a spectrum of emerging and established makers and artists such as Tom Raffield, Bill Amberg, Felicity Aylieff, Julian Stair and Grayson Perry who have featured alongside luxury brands including: Founding Partner Vacheron Constantin, Princess Yachts, Rolls Royce, Mulberry and Georg Jensen.

Museums and galleries including the V&A, Geffrye Museum, British Museum and Wallace Collection have hosted events as well as fashion designers including Vivienne Westwood, Mary Katrantzou and Hussein Chalayan.

For London Craft Week 2017, international content included wood carvers from Japan, artisans from Korea, wood block printers from China, designer-makers from Hong Kong, ceramists from Taiwan, umbrella and cufflink makers from France, porcelain painters from Germany, glass artists from Sweden, furniture makers from Denmark and a guitar maker from Spain. Alongside makers from the UK’s regions and devolved nations including upholsters from Norfolk, knitwear from Derbyshire, steam bending from Cornwall and a special focus on Scotland’s creativity, with Scottish tailoring, weaving and woodworking demonstrations.

London Craft Week aims to experience beautiful things not just as static objects but in the full context in which they were created, highlighting how imagination and talent combine with the very best materials and techniques. An accessible and immersive cultural experience, you can eat, drink and view performances, meet artists, designers, makers and engineers, get a glimpse behind-the-scenes of famous brands and landmark buildings, see familiar products deconstructed, learn how things are made and even have a go yourselves. 

 

Handmade Oxford
18 - 20 May 2018
Oxford Town Hall

2018 sees the first edition of Handmade Oxford, the contemporary craft and design fair at the elegant and historic Oxford Town Hall. 

For over a decade, Handmade in Britain’s shows have become the top contemporary craft selling events for designer-makers in the UK. This three-day showcase sees the industry’s biggest talents exhibiting alongside new graduates and emerging designer-makers. With innovative design alongside truly exceptional craftsmanship, you will be treated to a unique event, in the beautiful setting of Oxford Town Hall. Located in the centre of this ancient city, Oxford Town Hall is the centre of local government and houses the Museum of Oxford.

Bringing together the most exciting contemporary designer-makers from the UK and beyond, Handmade Oxford is a fabulous opportunity to shop for gorgeous textiles, jewellery, ceramics, glass, furniture and more! Makers will be on hand throughout the weekend to talk about their work and showcase their collections.

 

Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Fair
22 - 24 June 2018
Bowood House, Wiltshire

The Handmade Fair is brought to you by Kirstie Allsopp and is all about appreciating the beauty of the handmade, and learning the skills to become a maker yourself. Whether your day at the Fair teaches you how to make something yourself, upcycle a piece you already own, or if you buy it from an expert, it’s here to help everyone to make their life a little more beautiful. The Shopping Villages are full to the brim with handmade products of the highest quality, brought to you by hand-picked and incredibly talented makers, along with an enviable range of tools and materials. The Super Theatre, Skills Workshops and Grand Makes are hosted by the UK’s most renowned experts, so you can be sure you’re learning from the best in the business. It’s not only a fun day out, but you’ll also be able to take away a bundle of skills and knowledge that you can use to improve your own life and home.

 

Christmas is buzzing at New Brewery Arts!

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The Cafe is busy in the run-up to Christmas, with visitors to Crafted for Christmas, shoppers and people doing workshops and courses all dropping in for a fab coffee or one of Oi's special lunches (my mango, chicken & chilli salad comes to mind) or one of the Hobbs House Bakery mince pies (which are dashing out of the Cafe at a rate of knots!). Our new Manager, Zoe, has spruced (sorry for the seasonal pun) up the tables with some new enamel canisters for sugar, and added some little pot plants... and she's about to launch a new breakfast menu so, all you beloved of breakfast, keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds for news!

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Our Education team have just finished arranging workshops for January and February but, with barely a breath, are onto March and April. New workshops, new tutors and a callout for more tutors; if you're an experienced craft tutor we'd love you to get in touch with Clare to talk about we might be able to work with you.

And right now, we've got Children's Holiday Workshops taking place; a great opportunity for the children to try their hand at a variety of crafts (while you get the final bit of shopping done).

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Hello, I'm the person who's responsible for getting the Marketing together and as everyone's so busy here I thought I'd take some time out to tell you what's been happening at New Brewery Arts over Christmas, and give you a taste of 2018.

Beth, our CEO, is planning some amazing exhibitions ahead right into 2019 and our next exhibition is Method of Making, starting on 6th January (more about that later). 

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James, the Manager of The Barrel Store, is gearing up for a group of 30+ friends who've hired the whole place on an exclusive use basis for New Year.

We've been doing a lot of work on The Barrel Store and groups are finding we're well located and well priced - if you've got a gang who are coming for an event or all the cousins are descending on Granny but her home won't accommodate you, then email him for more info (don't forget to negotiate!).

To grab the best room, check out our bedroom plan here.

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This is a time of year when, traditionally, many people give to charity.

Despite appearances, New Brewery Arts struggles to cover its costs whilst maintaining a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere. It costs approximately £50,000 per year to deliver our exhibitions and we regularly need to upgrade our craft equipment (such as our shiny, new kiln).

Many people don't realise we are a charity (registered charity number 900036), everything we do helps support crafts and makers - both professional and learners, and we work hard to keep our exhibitions free and to make bursary places available on our courses and workshops. 

If you feel you'd like to support us, you can learn more here

Many people don’t realise we are a charity... It costs approximately £50,000 per year to deliver our exhibitions and we regularly need to upgrade our craft equipment (such as our shiny, new kiln).
— Beth Alden, CEO

Yes, I did promise more about that new exhibition...Methods of Making is an exploration of contemporary furniture design and the artists behind it, the artists being Sebastian CoxDavid Gates, Nicola Henshaw, Ben Huggins, Gareth NealJim Partridge & Liz WalmsleyEdward Teasdale and Jay Watson. The exhibition examines modern day issues of recycling, waste, economics, architecture, beauty, value and sustainability. There are exhibition pieces from each artist along with films showing them at work. Alice picked up Jay Watson's Newspaper Stool this week and was given a tour of his workshop (and a demo of what happens when you wire up a light incorrectly!!).

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Guy Royle - Silver Bird Pounced Bangle

Guy Royle - Silver Bird Pounced Bangle

And finally, our exhibition - Crafted for Christmas - comes to an end on 31st December; it's been a feast for the eyes, showing crafts from exceptional makers nationwide. Stuart Lamble's lighting sold out very fast, Susan Horth's insects remain ever popular, jewellery has flown out and we've had a lot of interest in the wide range of ceramics available. 

We're still open until 4pm on Sunday (that's Christmas Eve!) for that last-minute present. We're then having a short break; you'll find our full opening times here.  

HAPPY CHRISTMAS FROM US ALL.

A Sense of Excitement

Whenever I visit New Brewery Arts – and, as Chair of Trustees, I’m in the building at least on one day most weeks of the year – I always feel a sense of excitement as I enter the building. What will I find that’s new today? What is there to look at in the shop? Is that stone carving or a life drawing class going on? Is the cafe full? Shall I take another look at the exhibition in the gallery?

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It’s a building that has people at its heart – whether they are taking a class or workshop, browsing in the shop, having lunch or coffee and a cake (mmmm…) in the café or enjoying the latest in our programme of exhibitions. And I really like that there’s always a buzz, an atmosphere of purpose and enjoyment in equal measures, and always a few people just coming through the door, ready to explore what we have to offer.

We always want to get more people through the door, so we can show them just what we are about, what New Brewery Arts is and what we can offer. Situated at the very heart of Cirencester, looking out on to Brewery Court, we are just a few paces from the reinvigorated Market Place, and just off Cricklade Street. It’s a labyrinth of creativity – maker’s studios on two levels (don’t forget to go through the courtyard at the back to discover more), workspaces where people are taking courses every day of the week, as well as the aforementioned café, shop and exhibition gallery.

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And, don’t forget the Barrel Store, our newly opened accommodation space for everyone – singles, couples, families and groups. We have given the old Nichol theatre a new lease of life as a 21st century arts hostel, with bijou rooms, beautifully equipped and a communal kitchen and dining area. It’s all built with craft in mind, well worth a look – and, for centrally located accommodation, very competitively priced.

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That’s what enthuses me so much about New Brewery Arts – there’s always so much going on, so much to see and do, so much to experience. It’s like a craft quarter right at the heart of the town. If you haven’t visited recently, why not take a look – and see if, like me, you get that sense of excitement!

Colin Forbes

Being a Trustee

New Brewery Arts in Brewery Court, Cirencester

New Brewery Arts in Brewery Court, Cirencester

The term ‘trustee’ could sound dry and dusty, and not very relevant to an organisation like New Brewery Arts, which is busy and vibrant. But in fact, behind Beth Alden, CEO, and her management team and staff, is a group of people who give up time, provide knowledge, expertise and advice, and are responsible for the proper running of the organisation.

Trustees meet as a group six times a year and discuss what is going on in the buildings – exhibitions, shop, café and makers’ studios – as well as review the accounts and discuss forward planning and strategy. Several sub-committees oversee different aspects of the organisation and feed information and ideas in to the main board meetings.

Several of us are active participants in New Brewery Arts through taking classes, and we all bring a different perspective to the table. We include an actuary, accountant, two architects, an editor, a communications consultant and a hospitality entrepreneur in our number.

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We talk about how we use our space, the trading in the Café and Shop, our Education and outreach work, as well as future fundraising, financial performance, budget and the future business plan. And we are there to support Beth Alden, our CEO, and her management team by offering advice, and being critical friends, as well as fulfilling our statutory responsibilities.  It’s important too that we are visible and available – without getting in the way!

We discuss and debate all aspects of what goes on – and what is planned for the future. For example, the development of The Barrel Store – our accommodation immediately adjacent to the main buildings - was a major step for us, which was discussed in great detail at many meetings; and a working group was set up to oversee the build once the project had been funded and approved.

Stained glass courses at New Brewery Arts

Stained glass courses at New Brewery Arts

As a group, and individually, we are all committed to making New Brewery Arts a real success and a strong feature of the Cirencester and Gloucestershire landscape. One of the key attributes for being a trustee is a real commitment to, and enthusiasm for, the organisation and what it does. We try and recruit trustees to meet skills and knowledge needs, but enthusiasm, interest and involvement in the arts and craft is a must. But diversity is a key consideration as well – and just now, we want to attract some younger potential trustees to better reflect the community in which we are situated.

Right now we are recruiting new trustees to fill gaps left by trustees who have recently retired. If you are interested in receiving more information, or a preliminary chat, then do get in touch: email me at chair@newbreweryarts.org.uk.

Colin Forbes  

It's therapeutic to get your hands dirty!

Crafting is my release, it’s my ‘me’ time, where I focus totally on the task in hand, taking me away from the demands of daily life. We are currently renovating our home and taking craft courses has been a godsend! Being able to focus totally one thing is almost meditative and very much needed in the chaos that home alterations bring. The time goes so quickly in class… and it’s therapeutic to get your hands dirty!

I enjoy a whole range of ‘crafty’ activities, but I’m most at home in a class environment being taught and led by an experienced teacher, who can advise and direct. I’ve been taking classes in Pottery for over 2 years and have just joined the Stained Glass group. I’ve also taken a whole variety of Printing courses, Floristry courses, Felting classes and thoroughly enjoyed a History of Art talk about Grayson Perry.

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Both pottery and stained glass allow a huge amount of freedom, I can make what I want.

I hugely enjoy the whole process from research (usually Pinterest), finding an idea that I’d like to have a go at, tweaking what I find, discussing with the teacher the best materials to use and then, just getting on with it.

If there is a challenge along the way, then I like establishing a way round. Ultimately producing the piece I’d imagined a few weeks prior. However that doesn’t always happen! Particularly in ceramics!

 

There is also a fantastic social side to crafting, I’ve made many new friends through taking classes, meeting people who I already have a lot in common with.

Sometimes class is full of discussion about the latest exhibition or new technique, sometimes all is quiet and the class is filled with the sound of concentration, and at other times we roar with laughter. Having similar minded people in class is also great for bouncing ideas and pushing personal boundaries.

I know that my life is richer because I participate in craft activities, and richer still because I’ve found a whole bunch of other people motivated by the same desire to learn that I have.

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Tea & Cake with our Friends

A couple of weeks ago, we were delighted to welcome our Friends for afternoon tea; we greeted them with a delicious selection of home-made scones and cakes made by the Cafe, and refreshed them with a very good cuppa.

The Friends are a group of craft-loving folk who support New Brewery Arts through an annual donation; many of them also give their time to volunteer at exhibitions and share an interest in the welfare and future of New Brewery Arts.

CEO Beth Alden welcomed the Friends and reviewed the past year’s highlights, including the Grayson Perry exhibition in June. Julie Cope’s Grand Tour – The Story of a Life attracted a very large audience (many of whom hadn’t previously known much about what we do here) who enjoyed the exhibition and contributed generously to our exhibition donation box. Now our challenge is to make all the rest of the exhibitions as popular!

Beth said, “Because we have no regular Arts Council England or Cotswold District Council funding, the subscriptions of Friends and donations given make a real difference, keeping our exhibitions at the lowest possible cost, and offering a wide range of workshops and courses”.

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Beth also gave the Friends an insight into the exhibitions for 2018 including the highlighted Lucienne Day: Living Design exhibition.

This will be our major exhibition, taking place between 17 March and 20 May; it offers an insight into the career of one of Britain’s best known and most influential post-war designers.

We’ll be organising workshops around this so keep an eye out!

Look out, too, for Methods of Making (contemporary furniture), Raw Talent (the work of our tutors and students), a display of Suffragette Banners to mark the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote, and John Barleycorn Must Die (the craft of corn dollies and folklore).

Become a Friend
Make a One-Off Donation
Exhibitions

A Passion for Paper

At New Brewery Arts, our studio spaces house our onsite makers where you can meet the craftspeople and see craft being created. Harriet, our intern, interviewed our onsite bookbinder, Emily Northen, to find out more about her passion for paper. 

 

An Intern's View

Hello! My name is Ayane. I have been working as an intern at New Brewery Arts for the last 4 weeks. Let me tell you about my experience at New Brewery Arts in today’s post.

Before I came here, I studied textile design specialising in weaving at Bath Spa University as an international student from Japan. There I researched how craft can benefit wellbeing, and developed my interest in craft’s power to bring joy and comfort to people’s everyday life.

Right after graduation, I found out about New Brewery Arts, which is a charity providing the community with encounters with crafts and the opportunity to interact with makers through various exhibitions, studios, a shop, and a great selection of courses and workshops. As I was sure that New Brewery Arts could be an example of organisations contributing to people and the community through craft, I was so excited that I literally jumped on a train to visit and say hi!

Luckily, I had an opportunity to work for New Brewery Arts under Bath Spa Graduate Internship Scheme. Since I started working here, every day has been filled with learning. While I was having conversations with visitors in the gallery, I could clearly see how local people enjoy and are inspired by the centre, popping in to see what’s on, or demonstrating their creativity on one of our courses (and of course having a piece of cake at our lovely Café!).

My role has included a lot of preparation for exhibitions. I have arranged work loans for forthcoming exhibitions with makers and other organisations, planned work transportations, and helped to consider exhibition layouts.

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As a charity, New Brewery Arts relies on donations and volunteers to keep its exhibitions free. Hence, it was also one of my important jobs to communicate with ‘Friends’, support members of the public, and to inform local colleges about events and potential volunteering opportunities.

On top of that, making the most of my background, I had a chance to suggest a possible future exhibition focusing on an interaction between Japanese craft and British design. It might happen in a couple of years – keep watching!

During my time at New Brewery Arts, I have learned a lot about the practical aspects of connecting makers, craft and the public. I would like to thank all the positive and enthusiastic members of the team who have made my experience so satisfying and enjoyable.

If you haven’t been to New Brewery Arts yet, I would like to recommend you come and find out about this centre of creativity in the beautiful town of Cirencester.

If you’ve already been, come again to see our changing exhibitions. You will find something to enrich your life here!  

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You can't pour from an empty cup, by Beth Alden

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There are times at work I am so overwhelmed with the things I need to do that, instead of achieving something, I simply dither and struggle to be either constructive or thoughtful. It’s not a wonderful place to be. I’ve been feeling like this recently; work is always busy and with summer holidays with staff off and family pressures it built up. So, by the end of the summer I was struggling to get anything done.

The Prosper scheme meant I had a few extra things to do; I had a meeting with my mentor and I’d signed up to a half-day session in Oxford. I had tonnes of work to get through, and I wondered whether two days away from the office was the best thing for me or the organisation; would it be the straw that broke the camel’s back? I wondered if signing up to Prosper was just another commitment on top of my workload and that I shouldn’t have taken it on.

Then I looked at it a different way. There is a phrase that I’m fond of, ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’. I love working in the arts, but it can be hard to deliver the programme quality you want to achieve on the small budget you have, and my tendency has been to bridge this gap myself, by putting in longer hours. The result is always this feeling of being overwhelmed. So, I realised that what I needed to do was not work all hours and push myself to the point of exhaustion. What I really needed to do was to slow down, treat myself, learn something new and think about things clearly. I saw the two days out of the office as a vital chance to hit the pause button and to go and fill up my cup.

My mentor, Jan Miller, and I live on opposite sides of Bath - it’s a lovely city and I love spending time there. The Holburne Museum is always a joy to visit. It’s a museum I remember fondly as my father used to take me there as a child to visit the Crafts Study Centre which was once based there. Even better there was an exhibition of Tapestry on at the Holburne which I’d been meaning to get to. So, rather than rushing a meeting with my mentor, we decided to meet half-way at the Holburne in Bath and to spend time together followed by a visit to the exhibition. The mentoring session not only involved some great coffee and cake in a beautiful setting, it helped me to look at a focused area of strategic work that in my busy summer I hadn’t dwelt on. My mentor comes from a different sector, and so where my thinking had become stale and I was unable to move forwards, her take on my problem was fresh and perceptive. We talked about ideas, and ways forwards, about new people to try and partner, about new ways to reach out – I felt refreshed by this thinking. At the end of our session we went to visit the exhibition (Tapestry Here and Now, a touring exhibition from the NCCD); seeing exhibitions is one of my favourite things to do and it was a surprising show, especially in the light of the conversation I’d been having with my mentor. It wasn’t just the work that sparked by interest, but it was the way the museum had gone about the exhibition and had managed the production that I looked at; there were ideas from the exhibition I could take away with me. My cup wasn’t empty any more; I had taken some time and effort to top myself up and, although I knew the pile of work was still waiting for me at work, I had more energy to take it on and a more objective state of mind with which to tackle it.

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The next working day was my other Prosper session. Two days away from the office felt a bit of a self-indulgent luxury, but I still felt I could do with putting more in to my own self to give anything meaningful to my work. The drive cross-country to Oxford blew away the cobwebs of the weekend and I arrived at Modern Art Oxford ready to give all my attention to thinking about the vision, mission and values of New Brewery Arts and how we can articulate these clearly.

Sometimes when you are over-busy it’s even more important to go back to the start, back to the foundations, to the ‘why do we do this’. The vision, mission and values of the organisation not only help you decide what to do, but also what not to do, what is a diversion – and when you are overwhelmed this is exactly what needed, to remember to hit your own reset button. The small group in the session made conversations easy, and the session leader Mairead O'Rourke (Mairead rhymes with parade) was knowledgeable and clear about the subject. As with all such sessions, the most rewarding bit came at the end when we all gave a short ‘elevator pitch’ about our organisation or business. I used the opportunity to rehearse a talk I’ve given in the past, but this time I could ask for feedback from the group, it was a chance to get objective comments and to understand how what we do, and the way I articulate this, is received. As with my Prosper mentor two day before, this time for self-reflection, feedback and new understanding helped to refill my cup, leaving me able to go back to my organisation with clarity and focus, a better leader of the team, and with renewed enthusiasm for our purpose.

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Next time I feel overwhelmed by it all, I need to remember everything I have learnt from these two days with Prosper; to take a step away from the minutia of the day-to-day jobs around me; to find perspective through taking advice and understanding other points of view or ways forwards and to let myself be inspired by the work of other organisations, and the creativity of artists and makers. After all, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup.’

Beth Alden is CEO at New Brewery Arts.