Plymouth arts hub Flameworks planning to expand


By WILLIAM TELFORD, Business Editor


    Blacksmith Jez Menis at work

  • Noah Taylor uses a plasma cutter

  • Christina Peters at the pottery wheel

  • Blacksmith Jez Menis at work.

IT’S one of Plymouth’s most unusual business hubs – but the Flameworks creative arts centre is providing support for up to 70 artists to make a living and boost the city’s economy.

Based in a former boat-building shed in Devonport’s Richmond Walk, overlooking Stonehouse Creek, Flameworks leases studios to artists and crafts-people.

It also has equipment such as forges, kilns, hoists and lathes.

The building is a hive of activity, with potters, painters, sculptors, metal workers and even digital designers working cheek-by-jowl.

 There are about 20 artists permanently based at the building, including painter and printmaker Jan Brewerton, metal-sculptor Noah Taylor, stained-glass specialist Glenn Carter, and potter Angie Wickenden.

But about another 50 are associate artists, using the facilities on occasion for creating work or exhibiting.

“We are looking to expand that,” said Roger Higman, financial and strategic director. “That could be by getting people to share.

“We’ve just had three people from Plymouth College of Art, at the start of their careers.

“We want to make this a place where young people can start their businesses, with older people here to help them.”

Flameworks Creative Arts Facility was founded in 2000 by a group of metalworkers looking for somewhere to practise.

Once they’d moved in, people in other disciplines soon joined them.

The building is owned by Plymouth City Council and talks are on-going about setting up a long-term lease for Flameworks.

Set up as a company limited by guarantee, Flameworks is therefore a social enterprise with all profits re-invested and its board elected by resident artists.

It leases facilities including hot and cold metalwork equipment, jewellery equipment and, soon, hopes to have public access ceramics and an education room available.

It is now looking for partner organisations to invest and grow its facilities.

“We can keep it going with revenue from the artists,” said Mr Higman, “but to develop it we have to get in more money.

“We are looking at other social enterprises, people who are interested in promoting the arts, people who can do commissions, do research or put on events.

“We are looking to expand; it can’t stay as it is for financial reasons. We want more people involved by organising events and are running more courses.”

Flameworks already offers courses and educational events, and has links with Plymouth College of Arts and the social enterprise Pennycomequick Arts (PCQ Arts).

Mr Higman said there is a desire to build on this.

“We would like it to be available to students,” he said. “We’re interested in talking to any educational establishments or schools, if they have students who could use this as a resource.”

Pete Davey, a founder of the multi-media and events organisation PCQ Arts, said it is seeking funds so it can deliver teaching.

“This building is not just about making art,” he said. “It’s providing a livelihood for artists here and others in the city.

“And we are working closely to set up events and link it with the big players in the city, such as the university and language schools.”

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