Artist's Studios

History and Inspiration

It is in the nature of artists to maintain an interest in those who've come before us. We study their work, their successes and failures, read about their lives and untimely deaths. Then we try to gain some wisdom and inspiration from this research that might filter down into our own work.

One of the things that always interests me during my own research is the working spaces of artists, past and present. Particularly, as, like many, I have spent the last few years working at home, daydreaming about my ideal studio (in my head it's the wood panelled kind, complete with chez long and reclining model). In contrast to those of history, many artists now have studios that are sleek and modern - this only adds to my curiosity to the range of uses and spaces out there. The specific thing that captures my wonderment, is the act of creating that goes on in these spaces. I can never shake the impression that when I walk into an art studio, I'm actually walking into the mind of the artist, in some physical manifestation. The concentration of the past seems to have seeped into the walls so that they always exude a need for hushed reverence in respect to the pieces that have been brought to life right there.

This was certainly the case when I visited Barbara Hepworth's studio and sculpture garden in St Ives, preserved and converted into a museum.

"Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic", wrote Hepworth. "Here was a studio, a yard and garden where I could work in open air and space".

My first visit to the Hepworth Museum in St Ives coincided with my foray into regular sketch-booking and illustration at a time when all I wanted to do was loose myself in my own art for no purpose other than my own joy in it. Thus, the place is linked in my mind to a particularly blissful cornish holiday, which I spent walking along the costal path to the various cobbled streets, looking for things to a) sketch and b) eat. I sat in the sculpture garden for some time, experimenting with ink. Upstairs I flicked through books that had extracts from Barbara's own sketchbooks, as well as yet more work on display.

See more information about Hepworth's studio here: https://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives/barbara-hepworth-museum-and-sculpture-garden

Another artist who I've more recently been inspired by, is Joaquin Sorolla. When looking for a digital version of a photograph (first seen printed in one of my prized books 'SOROLLA Spanish master of light' printed by the National Gallery to compliment their exhibition in 2019) I came across this blog post by Will Kemp that was a lovely read and reveals more secrets about the artist's studio than the single photo in my book provided - I could do with a sunny Mediterranean garden to wander into, not to mention a four poster bed!

As I settle into my own space, it's yet to show the signs of hours spent painting and extended concentration but I'm inspired by both my fellow makers at the three storeys and those artists I have studied from history.

Moving to the Three Storeys

About the Three Storeys:

Ensconced in Studio 9, a little studio on the top storey with high ceilings and a sprung dance floor, I'm now perfectly poised to give you the insider's run down of this relatively new creative hub.

Three Storeys is so named as it has three floors as well as three distinct stages to the building's history. Situated next to the town hall, the building's first life was as a prominent brewery, offering, a lot of employment and economic contribution to Nailsworth from 1820 - 1920. Then, from 1920 onwards, the comrades club moved in and the building become a social meeting place. By the 1980's it boasted not only a bar but also a skittle alley and a dance floor, hosting many events and celebrations. In 2019 the present owner (a company run by Nicki - textile artist, weaver and business owner extraordinaire) bought the building and began the extensive renovations that it sorely needed. The three storeys is now a thriving art's centre, all exposed steel, brickwork and sensitive modernisation. I'm a lover of old buildings, what with my artist's eye, and I'm pleased to say it's been done beautifully.

Dan, a writer and regular of the cafe, is one of the many home-workers who bring their work to the three storeys to sit scribbling, typing, and drinking coffee.

The ground floor is where you might wander in, encouraged by promises of excellent coffee and the enticing scent of baking cakes. The Plot cafe serves a simple menu of dangerously tempting food and doubles as a preliminary exhibition space, leading into the main Setting gallery - another bright and open room featuring a regularly itinerary of rotating exhibitions. In the evenings it plays host to local events, such as a recent authors talk organised by the Yellow Lighted Bookshop. The current exhibition is: 'Pages': an exhibition of work by Liz Collini, 5th-24th April 2022. See more about upcoming events here: https://www.threestoreys.co.uk/whats-on

The Basement isn't open to the public as it's a place for hushed productivity. During the renovations, original arched windows were discovered, all beautiful red brick and carved stone. These work so well with the rows of simple desks and tumbling pot plants that I can see why anyone would like to work here. Through this room there's a meeting room and a communal kitchenette, even a small courtyard garden just for the co-working space.

Finally we come to the studios. Now numbering 10 in total, most of these are on the first floor and they're all occupied by creatives, with crafts ranging from basket weaving to architecture. On my regular walks to and fro the communal fridge (tea breaks being crucial to painting) I shamelessly peak through the windows of the makers studios, my fingers itching to sketch the varied methods for storing art supplies, and my mind considering which of these might work for my small space. Amy Cox in Studio 2, invited me in to say hello when I first moved in. Hers is one that often catches my eye, as the view from the corridor shows shelves of woven baskets, and stacks of willow, all in beautiful shades of browns, greens, and siennas. Like mine, Studio 2 catches the sun, which lights up these woven colours and entices me to think longingly of woven baskets, surely one can never have enough?

Nicki, proprietor of the Three Storeys, has a studio on the corner and I'm mesmerised by her shelves of colour coded yarn. Incorporating a raised mezzanine to provide a view across the rooftops of Nailsworth, these delightful spools sit amongst pot plants, piles of blankets and woven textiles. It's a wonder I get any work done here with so much colour and life going on around me, but I'm delighted to be here and enjoying the hum of others quietly working in the building.

Although the studios are private and the public are limited to the cafe and gallery, twice a year they are opened during the local art trails. You can visit me at the three storeys next month, when I'll opening my studio during the select art's trail with several other creative makers, and inviting people in to see what we get up to behind closed doors.

As always, I hope you've enjoyed reading this blog post. I'd love to see you in May at the open studios! If you've enjoyed this post you can subscribe to my mailing list for monthly updates via the homepage.

Select trail Dates:

*14th - 15th May & 21st - 22nd May

*On the 14th I'm off teaching Spring Flowers at Westonbirt Arboretum and won't have my studio open, but I will be in residence for the rest of the trail.

For more information about the select trail look here: https://selectartspresents.com/

Ms Emma Leyfield currently trading as 'Valerian'. The copyright to all images and graphics used within this website are owned by Valerian, or Valerian has sought the appropriate permissions to use them.

Trademark number: UK00003464494

April Cottage, Kilcott Road, Hillesley, Wotton-Under-Edge, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom, GL12 7RJ