Backing on to a beach and in 15th century fortifications, the Hotwalls Studios is a collection of artists and makers in truly unique surroundings…
Set in a series of arches in Portsmouth’s historic harbour fortifications are a series of studios, filled to the brim with talented artists and makers, giving the area a fresh breath of creativity.
Image via strongisland.com
The stunning location, which backs on to a beach, known locally as the Hotwalls (as it’s perfect for sunbathing!) are 13 studios filled with makers all working and collaborating together in a truly unique setting. The arresting arches were originally built in the 15th century – there’s even an amazing café in the same building that used to store ammunition!
We caught up with contemporary artists and workshop hosts Sarah Radford, Ruth Lacey and Emma Plato of The Makers Table, and textile artist Jessie Potter of The Sacred Obscene who work in this unusual setting to find out how being in a creative community has helped them grow their fledgling businesses.
Hey, gals! Tell us what makes The Hotwalls Studios a great place to create?
The Makers Table (MT): As the building is so important historically, a very light touch has been used to transform the arches into weather-tight, workable spaces, so our beautiful workspace has an arched ceiling, with exposed brick, flint and plaster – a surface which has been untouched for many years. Arched windows through to the studios next door allow us to see our artist neighbours, whilst the front of or arch is pure glass which looks onto decking and a small parade ground flanked with trees, benches and a few small monuments. Our studio backs onto a shingle beach overlooking the Solent and the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour.
They’re cosy! We have been incredibly inspired by the location of our studio, and the history of the Hotwalls both as a creative quarter and an important landmark feature of Portsmouth. The studios are always open to the public, so the spaces feel dynamic and welcoming.
The Scared Obscene (SO): It’s a beautiful, grade one listed historic arch backing on to the seafront – what’s not to love? The space is incredible. It’s always filled with natural light, which is very important for me and the plants love it, too. It has given me an identity as an artist here in Portsmouth and I’ve taken all kinds of unusual and exciting commissions from people who pass by.
How did you become one of the chosen artists?
SO: My creative partner Lee and I were doing an artist residency in Costa Rica when we started talking about working together. We had tons of ideas, but the thing holding us back was a space to work. About a week later we received an email about Hotwalls – it was symbiotic! We couldn’t sleep for weeks with excitement and worked very hard on our application.
MT: The Hotwalls is primarily aimed at helping artists and designer-makers who are looking to start or develop their creative business, so we had to put together a fairly detailed application for our vision for The Makers Table.
What are people’s reactions when they see your workspace for the first time?
SO: I think the majority of the people find it fascinating. Sometimes I think people are overwhelmed with how busy the space is.
MT: Overwhelmingly positive! Many people who come to see us can remember the Hotwalls from their childhood, so they appreciate the sympathetic development, preserving the history whilst showcasing the beautiful architectural character of each individual arch.
What are the benefits of working in a creative community like this?
SO: It’s very challenging starting out and trying to make money from what you love, so it’s lovely to have a network of people around you. They experience the same trials and tribulations and it’s good to talk things out. It’s also great to have friendly people on your doorstep to drink a cup of tea with.
MT: The atmosphere is incredibly friendly, supportive and encouraging. We’re extremely lucky to work in such a diverse and inspiring creative community who can always to lend an ear or helping hand.
Do collaborations between artists happen as a result of being a resident artist at Hotwalls?
SO: There have been a few collaborations and I hope to see more. I’d love to collaborate with Alice Hume who is the weaver here as it’s something I’ve always been fascinated with. It’s also useful to have experts on your doorstep. I want to experiment with natural dyeing this summer and I only have to pop over to Alex from Refolds to get her expertise.
How do you store your crafting materials?
MT: As the arches are a listed monument our storage is all free-standing. Much of the vintage furniture and equipment in our studio is from the local area, like our old printing press, and an old commercial haberdashery cabinet.
What inspires you?
SO: Most of my embroidery is inspired by the natural world. I could spend hours and hours in botanical gardens. I’ve also spent quite a lot of time travelling in different countries and am completely obsessed with India – it’s so alive and vibrant! I source quite a lot of my fabrics and trimmings from there.