Krowji 24 & 29th May 

 

Through my placement with Bath Contemporary Gallery, I came across the work of Kerry Harding. For Kerry, Cornwall offers a subject matter of a weathered atmospheric landscape created through the elements adding and taking away. This physicality and unpredictability of what is left behind were exactly what she enjoys most in the painting process. This is what drew me to her work and I got in touch with her, explaining that I was working at a gallery she shows at and I asked if she would be interested in taking me on as a studio assistant for a few days work experience. However, Kerry replied with the information that during the time frame I was available it was actually her studio's (Krowji) open studio event and therefore her space wouldn't really be in use practically. However, she put me in contact with the admin team for Krowji and I was offered some time as a volunteer helping prep for the open studio event. 

 

Krowji is a professional, creative, working environment with a range of spaces and is the largest creative hub in Cornwall. The studio complex houses 150 studios and their occupants range from graphic designers, bookmakers, jewellers, ceramicists and painters. It is an incredible space and the sheer range of artists/craftsmen is unlike anything I had visited before. This space is very different to CAST and has a very different approach to how they operate and being in both places within a short time frame was really interesting. 

 

Krowji runs on a large scale and is a very professional environment, everything is done through specific systems from choosing tenants, drawing up contracts and reviewing agreements. I was there for a couple of days work experience helping the office team prep for the open studio. However, I was also lucky enough to spend some time in Kerry's studio helping her hang work and discussing the relevance of her practice in the context of galleries and studios. 

 

Open Studios Cornwall is a huge event, held across the county and the openings range from small one room home studios to complexes like Krowji who take a lead in the promotion and publication of the event. Working with a team in an office, with a studio manager, a social media and events coordinator and administrator really opened up my eyes to the jobs that exist within this kind of environment. The three women work seamlessly together and all have creative backgrounds which was very evident when I received a tour of the sight. This allows them to deal with their jobs through a creative filter and also allows them to be exposed to a lot of artists and creators who are based in the South West. 

 

This experience was very admin based however, it was the opportunities I had to ask questions about what it was like working in this environment and how the application for a studio works that I have taken away from this experience. Learning that their tenancy agreements are very flexible and they support recent graduates as well as older artists was interesting. 

My time with Kerry was the most exciting part of this opportunity, I helped her re-arrange her studio in order to allow visitors both easy access and ensure she displayed a good number of paintings. Kerry has been a full time artist since graduation, with a few breaks for children, and her journey as an artist in terms of how she navigates the art world is what we discussed. Kerry used to be represented by just one gallery but now has her work displayed in various galleries and this allows her to keep her options open and dip in and out of lots of different situations. The change in the art world that brought about this different approach in practices is relevant across the board. We discussed the way in which different artists approach open studios, whether as an almost gallery like, clean display of work or whether as a frozen moment in practice where everything is as it would be on a normal day. We discussed how likely it is that she will sell from the event and the integrity of herself as an artist during this time. Kerry explained that Christmas open studios is always a bigger success in terms of sales compared to the summer event. As always, dialogue is the most exciting and rewarding part of these type of experiences and hopefully by making these contacts, however briefly, it will pave the way for me to gain momentum in my own practice after graduation.

© 2019 Holly Nicholls