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“Re-investing into my work and developing my creative practice is important to me”

Rachel Thornton with Kees and Carmen, artists from Mexico. Credit Stephen Garnett Photography.

Rachel Thornton is an Artist and Print-Maker based in Bentham. After successfully applying for our seedfunding programme, she was awarded funding to organise an exchange with another artist to expand her practice and develop her business. We spoke to Rachel about her experience:

What gave you the idea to arrange this exchange?

I have been interested in travelling with my work and allowing my art practice to take me to new places for a long time. I had the idea of doing a studio exchange when I first moved into my studio. I had looked at doing various residencies but it was never the right time or the best fit for me. When the funding became available I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to make it happen and tailor the exchange around my existing work schedule. I thought that it would be a great way to expand my ideas, methods and connections.

How did you find the artists?

I spend a huge amount of time contacting various arts councils, universities and arts organisations around the world, but mainly focusing on Scandinavia and Europe. Nothing seemed to be working and I was hearing little back. I then thought I would try using Curator Space, which is an online arts platform for advertising various arts events and jobs. This was the most effective thing I had done as I soon started to get applicants. I had people apply from unexpected places all over the world including Armenia, America, Argentina and Romania. The application I was most excited about was from Kees and Carmen in Mexico. The way they spoke about collaboration and the amount of experience they both have really stood out. Their rural location and the professional look of the studio ticked all the boxes. I had originally aimed the exchange at being just one person and someone younger but I considered their experience and everything they could offer and decided that it would be a mistake to turn them away. I recognised that their years of experience in establishing their arts practice, studio and gallery in a rural context was going to be a huge learning opportunity not just for myself but for anyone else who came into contact with them during the project.

Would you have been able to undergo this development in your practise without the GPLD funding?

No I don’t think I could, not at this time, I think I would have been waiting a while to make it happen. I am always reinvesting back into my work so it’s hard to know but I certainly would not have been able to fund the other artists to come here, even if I could have gone out to them. The funding from GPLD meant the area benefitted, not just me.

What was a highlight of the time you had the artists here?

There are many highlights to those two weeks, I think seeing Kees amazing stone Sculptures going up in our beautiful countryside was a special moment. Knowing that a small idea I had years ago has come into fruition in a way I had never expected. I love that there will now be sculptures remaining in the environment for many many years to come and they will be a constant reminder that collaboration and working together can make and create fascinating things.

credit Stephen Garnett Photography

How has it helped your own work/business?

From the very start of their stay I learnt so much. About how to let go, to not worry so much about what I am creating and its commercial viability. To create intuitively and of the moment. They are both abstract artists and I found it very freeing to be encouraged to create in a new way, to not be so controlled. I think this will have a good effect on me and my practice in the long run as well as at present. They have given lots of advice about having complete confidence in the work I create and to not be apologetic about it. If you value yourself and your work then others will also.

What’s next as part of this project?

The next stage of the project will take place in Mexico at Kees and Carmen’s studio, La Coyotera Teller Estudio. I am very excited to discover what I will create while staying with them. I feel the possibilities are endless. They have a land art project take place every year, so maybe I will try my hand at sculpture. They arranged for me to deliver a one day workshop and a one day conference at the Cultural Centre in Patzcuaro, I will be teaching a printing technique I invented using latex while at University. I think I will learn a huge amount more about how to run an arts business in a rural area as well as inspiring my creativity.

credit Stephen Garnett Photography

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