Making Uncovered: Elena Blanco

summer-2013_10 Elena Blanco of Dreamy Me will be running an illustration workshop at Making Uncovered on 13 September for “artistically shy” adults.

So if you’ve always wanted to have a go at drawing but been too nervous, this workshop will help you build confidence through fun exercises and interesting techniques.

Tell us a bit about your work.

I do drawing and illustration. My work can be divided in two groups. One is the work I do as part of my art practice:  sketch books, drawing series, artist books. This is investigative work and my refuge, where I can be as happy as a child again.

The other is the work I do for other people, commissions. Lots of it comes from my Etsy shop. People contact me to illustrate their stories for special occasions such as weddings, births or even for the loss of a beloved one. I love doing this too.

For each commission I make sure I get the right level of excitement and interest needed to produce something truly special. If the excitement is not great at the beginning, I look into it to find points of interest until the project has become my own and my enthusiasm is huge.

Why are you taking part in Making Uncovered?

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Making Uncovered is a wonderful occasion for artists and makers. It’s about celebrating the joy of creating with other fellow artist and makers and with the community – who are also makers that have not “come out” yet. 🙂 We are all makers and we have to share and inspire others to find their own creative outlet.

Making Uncovered is an event to look forward to every year, like birthdays and Christmas. It’s special, fun, moving, inspiring, encouraging… It’s just fantastic!

What will you be doing at Making Uncovered?

rob_pic_2My aim this year is to help “artistically shy” adults, as people have come to me saying I would love to draw but I’m rubbish. I want to help and inspire them and have fun with it! I’m running a two-hour workshop I’m very excited about as I am planning to run regular teaching if all goes well.

Out of the workshop I want to engage with people and their stories. I am offering to make a little artist book for them with whatever they want to tell me and I’m asking them to do the same by creating their own artist book about the event and their experiences.

 

Elena’s two-hour workshop starts at midday and costs £15, including materials. Book now on Eventbrite.

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Meet the makers: Pam Williams

Known for her ever-cheerful presence at Brixton Makers’ Market, and her slightly surreal cartoon strip Eric the Fish in Brixton Bugle, Pam Williams tells us about her nomadic life and all-night stints of drawing at Smithfield meat market.
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Your work features locations from around the world – Brixton, Greece, Hong Kong: you seem to like travelling!
 
My father was in the army, so I moved around a lot – we lived in Singapore and Germany when I was a child. So it seemed natural for me to go travelling after college – I went to Greece for three years and New York for three years. Anyone who’s been in the army knows you get the three-year itch!
 
Were you working as an artist on these trips?
 
I did all sorts of things! In Greece I lived with a family. I taught English, which helped pay the bills, but I also painted and drew whenever I could– I wanted to develop a skill.
 
I studied graphic design at Manchester University, and my love of drawing was triggered by a project where we were told to go out into the city and draw. So I took my pad and pen and went for a walk in Manchester. A pub gave me a pint of Guinness and let me sit on their steps to draw. I was completely happy – I just sat and watched and drew and drank! (Guiness is full of iron, I needed iron…).
 
When I went through the drawings a couple of days later most of them were absolute rubbish. But there was one – it was only small, about 2 inches by 3 inches – of an old man walking away, in his old coat and shoes, with a plastic shopping bag. It had really captured so much about him with a line, magical! I’ve spent the next 30 years discovering how I did it.
 
And you know now?
 
Yes! I used to be a watercolour artist in the 1980s, but I never drew for work – drawing was my freedom. I wanted to understand and keep that flow of expression. I worked out a system of how to manage it, and I’ve been teaching that method ever since– how to develop your own style.
 
I spent about a year going to Smithfield meat market, which started at midnight! It was when they were renovating it to meet European standards, and I would sit on the pavement three nights a week from midnight to 9am, drawing.
 
The traders pretended not to notice me – just left me alone to draw. Then one day one trader skirted past me, had a look and yelled “’Ere Jack, she’s got yer!”.
 
How did you get involved with Makerhood?
 
I’d been working on my ambition to be an artist since leaving college, and I’d had real highs and lows. There were times when I thought shall I just give up. I felt that as an illustrator my work had really developed, but as a recognised “artist” in society there was still a way to go yet.
Makerhood approached me via the market traders when they began to help explore their own ideas. It helped to regenerated energy and purpose for myself.
 
I started volunteering with Brixton Market, and when Brixton Village opened I got involved with running the community shop and met a lot of young artists and entrepreneurs – we had a useful symbiotic exchange. Then Makerhood started up and helped set up the makers’ market – they had this database of makers they could call on so it made it much easier.
 
I really appreciate how Makerhood supports artists with professional business advice. For me it’s been like a second chance – it’s been really timely to develop my revival and underpin the adventures I’ve had. 
 
Among other things, Pam is currently working on a book of memoirs about Hong Kong, based on a series of sketches and paintings she did in 1996-97, during the run-up to the handover back to China.
 
You’ll find Pam at Brixton Makers’ Market on Station Road on the second Saturday of every month.
 

Makerhood workshops at Crafty Fox Spring Market

Join in the fun and learn a few skills at the Makerhood drop-in workshops at the Crafty Fox Spring Market! The workshops are organised by Makerhood volunteer crafters and are completely free.

Saturday 24 March, 12.30-3pm, Dogstar Brixton, 2nd floor – free.

Knitting and crochet, with Viv and Shona

Drop by to learn a few basics, ask tricky questions about that technique you’ve been trying to learn, or bring your own project along for the afternoon. All levels welcome, from complete beginners to experienced practitioners.

Making flower essences, with Andry and Sorell

Flower essences are a great way to  use plants to make  safe remedies for helping you through life’s challenges and changes. You will learn how flower essences are made, and see how formulae are created. For a small donation (to cover cost of materials) you can get your own personalised flower essence formula made up for you on the day.

Drawing games for adults, with Kristina

Kristina will take you through simple yet powerful game techniques that help free up creativity and remind us what it’s like to play with each other. Join this workshop to relax and enjoy yourself – the results can be both delightful and eye opening.

Crafty Social

If you fancy doing a bit of craft and have a project on the go just bring it along and join in the fun. Everyone (and any craft) warmly welcome!

Photos above are from Flickr commons, by sparklerawkThai Jasmine and rosswebsdale.

Meet the makers: Elena Blanco

Elena Blanco of Dreamy Me Brixton waxes lyrical about her love of drawing and tells us why Brixton reminds her of Barcelona

1. Can you tell us a bit about your Spanish background?
I’m originally from Santander, but I moved to Barcelona when I was young and grew up there. Because of the different languages and strong regionalism in Spain it was like moving to another country. So I’ve always felt a bit rootless – always a foreigner!

2. Is that why you ended up in London?
I came to London 11 years ago to be with my British boyfriend – we now have children! I love London for its open multiculturalness. In Brixton especially, people are open to new things, like the Brixton pound – but you can still see the old Brixton in some of the market stalls. I also love Windrush Square since it was rebuilt – it reminds me of Barcelona!

3. You say in your profile that you draw every day. What is it about drawing that appeals to you?
Drawing is how I understand and communicate things best. It’s an emotional relationship – drawing something somehow makes it mine. It’s a journey of exploration, not just a means of producing something. It’s the same for many artists. I make a point of not carrying a camera, but taking my sketchbook everywhere. I remember trying to draw a giraffe at the zoo while everyone else around me was taking photos!

4. What do you like drawing best?
I like drawing everyday objects, trying to see them in a different way. I also love drawing people, but it can be embarrassing to do it in public! I think I would like to organise a drawing class or club for Makerhood, where we can sit and draw things without embarrassment. Many people say they can’t draw – I would love to help them get over that.

5. So what drew you to illustrating children’s books?
I read books to my kids when they were little, and it took me back to my childhood, so I started to draw. I took a short course on children’s illustrations at City Lit, which gave me lots of ideas. I love the freedom of illustrating kids’ books – you can put in whatever you want! And now I have three picture book projects that I am thinking of publishing as artist’s books, similar to my concertina artist’s colouring books. I’m also working on an ebook of The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, which could be quite interactive – you touch a flower on the screen and it opens up.

6. How did you get involved with Makerhood?
I heard about Makerhood through Locally Sourced, had a look at the website and went to one of the initial meetings. I was excited by the idea of selling, but the main attraction for me is the community – meeting people, attending workshops, learning about different events, setting up a drawing club! It’s a great, great idea, and I’ve met some interesting and very different people.

7. Finally, what’s your favourite place or experience around here?
I love Brockwell Park – the hill, the café, the walled garden. It inspires me a lot, as you can see from some of my illustrations!

You can see Elena’s illustrations of Brockwell Park and other subjects, as well as her popular colouring books, at http://brixton.makerhood.com/dreamy-me-brixton

Interview with local artist, Pam Williams

Pam is an inspiration to us at Makerhood. She’s a terrific artist and has been a great source of friendship, support and advice as we have developed our ideas over the past year. So, who better than to kick off an irregular series of interviews with “people who inspire us”?

Kindly taking time out from her busy schedule to talk to us about drawing, running away to Greece, and how South London has changed in recent years, here’s Pam’s answers to our most probing questions.

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1) Art appears to be in your blood. Is it something you wanted to do from an early age?

I went to 13 schools due to my father’s profession. It was the only subject that had any continuity!

2) You’ve sketched and painted a lot of events and festivals. How does this differ from your other work? I would imagine it’s quite challenging?

The main challenge is to be super disciplined. To produce great results…which is expected ….while keeping up with the events program. It’s very demanding.

3) You run a lot of workshops. How did you get into this?

By default. In the ’70s, I used to teach on the side, for bill money. I now have 30 years experience as well as up to date teachers training. It was important to experiment with myself and skills so, worked as a freelance from day one. Not great re a regular pay cheque!

4) We note that a number of these are in Italy. What draws you to that part of the world?

That environment is a perfect place to develop thoughts and activities in beautiful surroundings….

I always liked the bright sunny postcards from Europe and wanted to see if it was real. At 25yrs, I went to Greece with £30 I had saved up, working at the local village pub for a month, to see how people lived out there. The sun was real and the long meals, wonderfully sociable. Italy is the revival of that very happy time in Greece.

5) Lest we forget, of course, your home and studio is in South London. As an artist what’s its appeal?

Having a solid base of my own…..it could have been anywhere.

6) Has the area changed a lot since you moved here in 1991?

100%.  In 1991 it was uncared for, people felt and looked hopeless. The main street near me, was known, London wide, as the place to buy drugs…..not cool…at all….Fortunately, it was nothing compared to living in New York in the 80s. Now the community is beginning to grow ‘together’ and ‘up’ in a fascinating and positive way.

7) How do you think Makerhood could support your work and fit into your vision?

Makerhood is a gift from ‘whomever your God is’, if you are an independent artist. Makerhood could become the perfect business partner to help market local (more personal) products. In the making, it already looks well designed and could provide a secure online platform to advertise and sell within Brixton.

8 ) You seem to be passionate not just about the area, but art in general. How did you get involved in The Big Draw?

I was tired of working alone and wondered if others shared my passion… to revive the power of drawing in our society. So, I signed up as a volunteer in 2004. Have been a strong supporter and c ever since.

What would be your advice to any inspiring artists?

Draw something everyday. Choose a pen/pencil you like and stick with it until you can control it and every mark it can make.

9) If you could be anywhere, bar South London, right now sketching and doing watercolours, where would you be?

Mmmm, in reality?, at the moment… Exploring a North London borough, known for its street market. Every community is unique… Capturing the mix of people and mood of living and working together… There is always humour…

To sketch and paint….On a riverboat in the midst of a Thai river market, capturing the speed and colour of transactions from the boats to the land market traders? the prize… buying and trying their delicious food. the promise of perks help me to concentrate and their energy would fire mine.

10) How can people find out more about you and your work?

www.pamwilliams.co.uk

Send me a message from the site with their email to add to a list for future exhibitions or news update.

Bonus question: If you were to share a top insider tip for someone new to Brixton and the surrounding area, what would it be?

Sign up to everything Brixton…Get involved, even if you don’t like meetings….you will meet locals of all types….start off friendships and understand Brixton from the inside out….volunteer….at your own pace…you will be part of the community and feel at home, not a stranger in a box in London.

Our beautiful banner image by Alice Angus


The Makerhood blog banner comes from this drawing of Brixton Village by Alice

You might have noticed the banner on the Makerhood blog. The illustration that always sits at the top of the page whether you’re reading about improvised pantomime or pork pies. Beautiful isn’t it? The use of that illustration was a gift to us by its maker, Alice Angus. Alice isn’t a south London girl so perhaps it’s a bit cheeky to use it on the Makerhood blog, but as it’s a drawing of Brixton market I figured you wouldn’t mind..


The set of 6 drawings Alice made in Brixton Market

Alice is one of the directors of Proboscis and an illustrator. Last year, Dan Thompson of the Empty Shops Network invited her to spend a week in Brixton Village making sketches and drawings of what she saw there. For the Makerhood blog we’ve used a part of the drawing at the top of this post. It’s a little hard to tell from the section we’ve used but Alice builds up her drawings layering scraps of different papers, black and white ink sketches and colour. I think they’re beautiful.


Detail from one of the Brixton Village / Granville Arcade drawings

I used to work with Proboscis and I’ve known Alice a long time now. When Kristina and I were talking about setting up the blog we couldn’t think of a better image to represent Makerhood than one of Alice’s drawings of Brixton market (this was before we met any Brixton-based illustrators). I was quite shy to approach Alice about using one of the drawings as we couldn’t afford to buy it or pay for it so I was thrilled when she said we could use one anyway. This spirit of generosity and willingness to share with others is something we’ve met again and again as we’ve worked to set up Makerhood. I hope one day Makerhood will have a chance to pass on some of the good will we’ve received to others.

If you’re interested in seeing more of Alice’s drawings (and you really should!) you can take a look at her Flickr account or email her on alice(at)proboscis.org.uk to find out about exhibitions, sales and so on.

Alice also has a blog for her ‘As it Comes’ project exploring the role of independent shops and Lancaster in Lancaster, see it at http://lancasterasitcomes.wordpress.com/