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Isle Of Dogs: How Craft Central is set to host its Winter Market at The Forge

The Westferry Road venue will see more than 30 makers selling products at its festive event

Craft Central will host its annual Winter Market at The Forge

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The mercury is falling and the faint whiff of spiced pumpkin lattes is receding.

At the time of writing, the buzz of Bonfire Night is everywhere.

The anticipation of the first frost is in the air too – the coming chill that makes the cosiness of the festive season all the more welcome. 

Promising a Japanese pop-up cafe, mulled wine and a warm welcome from more than 30 designer-makers, Craft Central’s annual weekend Winter Market is set to be held this month.

Opening 11am-5pm on November 18 and 19, 2023, at The Forge on Westferry Road, the event offers visitors the chance to get their festive shopping sorted with a wide range of products including accessories, fashion, jewellery, ceramics, stationery, prints and textiles available to purchase.

Craft Central event coordinator, Marguerite Metz, said: “We invite makers from our wider network to come and sell in our gallery space for this annual event, so we have a lovely mix of applied arts and crafts as well as some of the studio holders at The Forge.

“It’s a great community event for locals and people throughout London to come to – we had about 1,000 last year.

“The building itself is quite unusual and lots of people walk past and have no idea what’s inside. 

“It’s not normally open to the public, so this is a chance for people who are interested in what’s going on to visit.

“The makers we have are all lovely and they really enjoy it.

“They like it because it’s easy for them to showcase their products, due to the people who come and also the relaxed atmosphere it has.

“The market is not-for-profit, we do it to support the makers and to show the community the possibilities of making.

“It only works if local people come and take advantage of the chance to visit and support the people trading, so we want to welcome as many as possible.”

Visitors to the market will find a wealth of products on offer

Makers trading at the market will include Diaphane Candles, artist Almha McCartan, Anonoma Jewellery, Ark Jewellery, embroiderer Beatrice Mayfield, Bibba London (jewellery), Brûler Candles and By Kala X (products made with African prints).

 Also attending will be Caroline Nuttall-Smith (printmaker and ceramicist), Elektra Kamoutsis (ceramicist), Forge + Thread (accessories), Frank Horn (leatherwork), Gruff Turnery (wood turning)Heim Design (concrete products) Kam Creates (jewellery) Karn’s Textile design, Kate Hodgson Jewellery, Maria Maya (homeware), Mark Waite Paintings and Morgan Amber (textiles).

As if that wasn’t enough, Mountain And Molehill (lampshades), Noriko Nagaoka Ceramics, Pipet Design (silk scarves), Tomoko Hori Jewellery And Object Sato Hisao (paper crafts), Suzie Lee Knitwear, Tangent Accessories and Ted Houghton Studio (knitwear), will be there too.

The Winter Market will also be hosting two drop-in workshops where visitors can get creative. 

On the Saturday, Funky Jewellery Making will offer participants the chance to transform a variety of vintage objects, images and unusual items into bespoke jewellery. 

People are welcome to bring their own objects to incorporate into their designs or to draw on the selection provided.

Makers will be on hand to sell their creations

All attachments and jewellery findings will be included.

Marguerite said: “Visitors might create surreal pieces of jewellery, with fun items to put together for themselves or make unique pieces that will be perfect for a Christmas gift.

“People are welcome to upcycle odd bits-and-bobs.”

On the Sunday, designer Georgia Bosson will be hosting Festive Block Printing with participants able to create a piece of textile wrapping paper or a Christmas card using hand-carved wooden blocks. The activity is suitable for ages 5+.

“Using textile wrapping paper is a Japanese tradition and it’s sustainable because it’s reusable,”said Marguerite. 

“If they wanted to, people could come on Saturday and make a present, before returning on Sunday to create the wrapping.

“These workshops are part of Craft Central’s duty to help bring craft to people.”

The suggested donation for both sessions, which run from 12.30pm-4.30pm on a drop-in basis, is £5. 

Some makers with studios at The Forge will also be opening these up for visitors to see during the event, including Crushed Pearl (floristry), Pon Studios (ceramics), Tanya Roya (artist), Olive Road,  (vintage fabrics) and SilPhi Glass (jewellery).

Some studios at The Forge will also be open for visitors to view

Craft Central, in addition to being a provider of studio spaces for designer makers at The Forge, is always looking to extend and grow its network. 

To that end, the charity is introducing a new tiered membership scheme with the aim of getting more people involved in its activities. 

Its basic package includes access to an insurance scheme for craft workers and designer makers as well as inclusion in its online directory. The package costs £53 per year.

There’s also an enhanced package for £99, which includes a selection of discounts on markets and activities as well as access to community programmes and business advice.

The top £199 premium package is available to established artists or makers and is by application only. 

It includes a range of substantial discounts as well as use of The Forge’s exhibition and workshop space for free.

“We wanted to offer different options so that people can easily access Craft Central,” said Anne-Sophie Cavil, who handles communications and marketing for the organisation. 

“A graduate, for example, might take a basic membership, while more established makers might choose the enhanced or premium options, that offer a range of benefits.

“The one you choose will depend on where you are in your career.”

Find out more about Craft Central here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Isle Of Dogs: How The Forge Art Fair is set to fill Craft Central with vibrant creations

Carolina Kollmann has founded the week-long event to showcase contemporary artists’ work

Artist and founder of The Forge Art Fair, Carolina Kollmann

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Carolina Kollmann wants to build something.

Originally from Argentina, the artist and teacher studied in Buenos Aires and at Central Saint Martins in London in the 1990s before relocating to Asia in the early 2000s.

Having returned to the UK to live on the Isle Of Dogs in 2019, she took a studio at The Forge, Craft Central’s Westferry Road facility, where she works and runs classes (often involving a glass of wine or two).

Now she’s eager to use the former industrial building as a venue to showcase her work and that of other artists by creating an annual event – The Forge Art Fair.

“I’ve always been very independent and I never paid a penny to expose my art,” she said.

“When I was in Hong Kong, I was a member of a group and we’d find sponsors to put on exhibitions.

Detail from one of Carolina’s works

“Here it’s different – it can be very difficult and when I found that one organisation wanted to charge me £800 to have my work in an art fair, I decided to start my own. 

“It took a while to find the right artists for this.

“The main idea I had was that it should be at The Forge – it’s a great place and it needs to be known as creative and artistic.

“I thought that if I created a proper contemporary art fair here, that will create some noise and help draw people from outside the local area to come and visit.

“I knew we couldn’t do 100 artists, that we’d start small and then, if successful, we’d grow.”

The Forge Art Fair is set to take place from October 20-26, 2023, with a private view on October 19 from 6pm-8pm.

The exhibition will feature work by eight contemporary artists including Carolina herself.  

“This is not a collective – for that, the people involved would need to have something in common,” she said.

Detail from a painting by Pierre Benjamin

“For the fair, every artist’s work has to be different from what’s next to it.

“I hope it brings people into The Forge and that we amaze them with what’s on display here in east London.

“There aren’t many places where you will find a beautiful gallery with fantastic artists all together, showing you their art, that’s also free to visit.” 

Visitors to the fair will find work by painter, sculptor and NFT artist Pierre Benjamin, silkscreen printmakers and collage artists Jairo And Nicola and sculptor and designer Arturo Soto.

Also on show will be paintings by Jasmine Honor Mercer, work by painter and illustrator Tammy Walters, photographic abstraction from Het and pieces from digital artist Leah Ibrahim Sams.

Carolina herself works in a range of media, often blending painting with 3D printing to create pieces that literally burst off the canvas. 

“The Forge is a wonderful building but it’s not ready for art – it doesn’t have enough wall space, so we’ll be using display boards for the pieces,” said the Isle Of Dogs resident, who created digital collages from images of Mudchute Park And Farm during the pandemic and sold them to help raise money to feed the animals.

Detail from a work by Leah Ibrahim Sams

“I really hope that people will be able to see what I saw when I came to The Forge – that it’s a beautiful place.

“My work is inspired by my own life.

“For example, there’s breast cancer – a horrible thing like this where you lose friends, so I wondered how I could make it beautiful? 

“I mixed in fashion – Gucci, Alexander McQueen and Versace – for a series called Looking Up that’s about cancer and death.

“There are also pieces to do with the menopause, age and health. It’s all the same thing – it has to be about my life.

“When I was growing up in Argentina we had a military government. People were disappearing – there were so many horrible things all around us.

“When I was little I didn’t know what an artist was.

Detail from a piece by Tammy Walters

“My parents definitely never mentioned that I should study drawing or anything like that.

“But my grandma, who travelled a lot and loved art, said that I should be allowed to study, so I went to art school when I was 14.

“That was an amazing time in my life, when I was studying art – it was like an explosion of creativity as the military government was coming to an end.

“I met amazing artists, including Philippe Noyer, who is still alive and influenced me a lot. He showed me how to express my ideas.

“It was while I was in Asia that I had the idea of bringing my pieces more to life in relief, but I couldn’t think how.

“I couldn’t use papier mache or anything like that, because it would have been damaged by the humidity.

“Then a friend of mine – a very bright and creative person – who was one of the first people to have a 3D printer, suggested I could try using one.

Detail from a work by Jairo and Nicola

“He said he’d heard there was someone in Japan doing it.

“But I thought it wasn’t very artistic and so I said no. This is always me – I say no at first. 

“It took a while but then I had an idea and started designing what I wanted to create. The technology does have its limits but you work with it.

“First I paint on the canvas, then I put the 3D element where I want it and paint over the top in acrylic to make the finished piece.”

While the forthcoming fair is primarily about showcasing the work of the exhibitors involved, visitors are also invited to participate in various events over the course of the week.

Animal illustrator Tammy Walters will be running live drawing class I Love Dogs on October 21 at 3pm, with NFTs: Empowerment Through Art scheduled for 6pm on October 23.

Carolina will be hosting 3D Artist Exhibition Tour, covering her work and a printing demonstration on October 25 at 5.30pm and visual artists Jairo and Nicola  will lead Fairytale And Surrealist Screen Printing on October 26 at 5.30pm.

The latter costs £5 with participants taking home a finished screen print. 

Detail from an sculpture by Arturo Terraquio

Carolina is also a qualified fine art teacher and runs regular classes at The Forge – so for those unable to visit the fair, there are other ways to get involved in art.

She is currently offering Ladies Night sessions – which run over the course of a month with participants producing a finished artwork over four classes. The next begins on October 10. 

“I’d taught in Hong Kong and one of the classes which was very popular there was this concept for women,” she said. 

“We open some wine, but we learn about art too.

“Each month we do a different project – we might look at acrylics or watercolour, for example.

“We’re all busy working on our pieces but it’s also an opportunity to chat. 

“We look at painters and take inspiration from them – especially English artists as we are in London.”

The sessions cost £100, which covers four 90-minute classes over the course of a month. In October these take place on Tuesday evenings from 6pm.

You can find out more information or book the classes online at carolinakollmannartdesign.com

The Forge Art Fair runs from October 20-26 at the Craft Central venue. It will be open from 11am-8pm Friday-Sunday and from 4pm-8pm Monday-Thursday. Entry is free.

You can also find links to all the artists featured via this link.

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Enter Gallery has popped up in Jubilee Place

Brighton brand offers art from £50 to £50k with its walls hung thick with limited edition prints

Enter Gallery has taken over a vacant unit in Jubilee Place

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There’s a blunt clue in the name to the right way of approaching Canary Wharf’s latest pop-up.

Brighton-based art dealer Enter Gallery will be in Jubilee Place until October 8, 2023, having coated the walls of a vacant unit with all manner of original works and prints to buy.

As its branding suggests, it’s a place that’s all about welcoming people in and allowing them to get up close to the pieces.

Works are hung to cover the available space rather than reverentially displayed in acres of white space. 

Nevertheless, the gallery has some big names on its list, dealing in the likes of Peter Blake, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Lucy Sparrow, Patrick Caulfield and Gilbert And George.

“We mainly specialise in signed, limited edition prints from established and emerging artists – although we do have originals too,” said Helen Hiett, buying director at Enter Gallery.

“You can find art that’s anywhere from £50 to £50,000 in our Brighton gallery. Art is for everyone and is meant to be accessible.

“When people come in, one of us will usually come and chat to them and tell them a little bit about what’s on display – we try to demystify art.

Enter Gallery buying director Helen Hiett

“We help to guide them to pieces.

“We have about 400 pieces on the wall there, all mixed together – emerging artists mixed in with more collectable names, so that people are drawn to something they love. 

“We also have a lot of unframed prints in the drawers, so we can get those out and show people.

“The main thing that hits you when you enter is a lot colour – different types of pieces and a whole range of different artists – more than 100 in total.”

Helen’s current role is, in some ways testament to Enter’s ethos.

She was passing by the Brighton gallery and spotted a piece by Dan Hillier, an artist whose work she’d loved while studying illustration at university.

She walked in and handed over a paper CV to a man who turned out to be owner Lawrence Alkin.

An interview followed and, after nine years, she’s never looked back.

“It was fun and it was a very strange way of ending up in a gallery,” she said.

“I’d run pop-up galleries and immersive events in London and Brighton, so I knew I wanted to work in the art world.

“But the places I had lived in before hadn’t had the sort of artists that appealed to me – there were a lot of landscapes and more classical pieces.

Enter Gallery hangs all sorts of pieces right next to each other

“I really liked Enter Gallery because it has art for everyone – street art, fine art, illustration and it had people who used to work in fashion but moved into printmaking, so it’s really varied, and you can see that on the walls – that’s what really appealed.

“The art is quite humorous, with quite a lot of colour, a lot of happiness in many of the pieces, with nods to the history of music and pop culture – there’s a bit of everything.”

The Canary Wharf pop-up, which can be found on the main mall level beside Starbucks, is very much arranged in keeping with the original gallery’s aesthetic.

Brightly-coloured prints line the walls, guarded by Buddha Smalls, a statue of the Notorious BIG masquerading as a curvaceous figure of enlightenment.

Squatting a metre-high, the piece is cast in resin to resemble ivory and carries a price tag of £10,000 – mo money, mo sculpture.

“He’s by a really funny artist we work with called Ryca, aka Ryan Callanan,” said Helen.

“We’ve worked with him for more than 10 years and he makes pop art often to do with music – rap and hip-hop – he’s brilliant.

“We’ve always loved doing pop-ups in London and we thought Canary Wharf would be an exciting place to try.

“We thought it would be a great way to let people see how we can bring a little bit of Brighton to the area, but also all the artists who work for us, so that they can be exposed to a different audience.

“We’ve tried to echo the original Enter Gallery and, while we were setting up, we had someone come in and tell us it really reminded him of somewhere in Brighton – we had to tell him it was us.

Enter Gallery specialises in limited edition prints and originals

“We’ve had a really warm response so far, and we’re really encouraged by that.

“Even when setting up we have lots of people popping their heads in and asking what is happening and whether they can come and see, which of course they can.

“Our dream with this would be to make a lot of new connections, to collaborate on new projects and then introduce the artists and the art to new clients and groups of people.”

As buying director, Helen’s remit is to fill the walls of Enter Gallery with the right kind of stuff – working with artists to source pieces she thinks will do well.

“My role is a bit of a mixture, really,” she said. “We have artists that come in who we meet, or it might be through other people who visit and recommend something they love.

“It can be through Instagram, and we also have a submissions process on the website.

“Then we also go to a lot of art fairs like Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair and we go scavenging in Miami every year, because they have a load of emerging artists, and from all over the world.

“Personally, I’m quite fickle when it comes to art – if it’s just come out, I’ll be really interested.

“I like any art that has a story behind it, something to look at that you can really think about or just if it’s funny.

“One of the pieces I like is a really cool new map by Justine Smith of the Thames.

“Her work is really hard to appreciate online because it’s really detailed.

Buddha Smalls by Ryca at Enter Gallery

“She often uses pieces of different types of banknote and makes a collage of them – there are so many layers of meaning in her work.

“From far away the pieces just look like an image until you get up close and realise there’s a lot going on.”

Crucial to Enter Gallery is the idea that art need not be expensive or financially cumbersome to acquire.

“We participate in a really good scheme called Own Art, which is backed by Arts Council England – people can buy art and then pay for it over 10 or 20 months interest free,” said Helen.

“It was designed to support artists and the people purchasing, so the artists can make money from their work and it doesn’t break the bank for purchasers.”

Failing that, Wharfers can just pop down and drink in the creativity all over the walls.

Find out more about Enter Gallery here

Detail from Inhabitants by Justine Smith at Enter Gallery

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Woolwich: How a council project is brightening up bare walls with murals

Woolwich Mural Trail features work by south-east London artist Ellen Strachan at local Jobcentre Plus

Artist Ellen Strachan with her work and the Woolwich Mural Trail map

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Walk down the side of Woolwich’s Jobcentre Plus and you’ll find a recently installed mural decorating a once bare brick wall.

Ellen Strachan’s Work In Woolwich mural is one of five artworks commissioned by the council to brighten up the area and showcase its heritage.

“My piece looks at the past, present and future of work locally,” said Ellen, a former physics teacher who lives in Abbey Wood and decided to pursue art full time after the birth of her daughter three years ago.

“There are three large panels that have those themes and two others that were created based on the stories and creations of local residents who participated in workshops about that theme while I was developing the work.

“Some told me about their lives, while others created their own paper cut outs for inclusion in the piece.

“I hope my mural makes viewers think a little bit about the people around them – how we are reliant on each other and that everyone’s work helps us as a community.

“I’d like them to think a little bit about the past and all the people who have contributed to where we are now, the future and where we are going.

“It’s a time of such change, with more technology coming and jobs changing quite a lot and it was interesting to look into that. 

“Environmental considerations are also very important – since we’re going to need to make a huge change in how our economy works with regard to everything from transport to heating. 

“If people look at the mural, I hope they wonder why I’ve chosen the things that are featured and ask themselves what they would choose if they were creating a piece.”

Welcome To Woolwich by The Collective Makers on Powis Street

Ellen’s work in this instance comes as printed vinyl, although she usually works in lino cut or using cut-out paper collage, which was the basis for the mural before it was digitally scanned.

“I like those techniques – I’ve always used a pair of scissors,” she said.

“Both make you think about the positive and the negative – where something is either printed or it’s not.

“The artwork for this mural has been created using paper, which  makes me simplify what I’m doing and create something quite bold.

“It feels really good to have the piece finally unveiled.”

The council commissioned the piece as part of its Woolwich Mural Trail – a series of works by local artists created with local residents, schools and community organisations.

It joins Welcome To Woolwich by The Collective Makers on Powis Street, Your Woolwich in Beresford Square by Paige Denham and Foxfield Primary School, Woolwich Scenes in Myrtle Alley by Marc Drostle and Area Of Prosperity in Barnards Close by Haffeera Cader Saul and Nightingale Primary School, to complete the trail.

Area Of Prosperity in Barnards Close by Haffeera Cader Saul and Nightingale Primary School

“These stunning murals tell the personal stories and aspirations of our community, bringing creativity and colour to Woolwich town centre,” said Greenwich Council cabinet member for equality, culture and communities, Cllr Adel Khaireh.

“It’s fantastic to see how proud the artists and the school pupils are of their artwork, and to see Woolwich’s rich history brought to life.

“On behalf of the council, I’d like to thank all the different artists, community groups, schools and people who got involved and shared their memories and ideas. I hope they will all be enjoyed for many years to come.”

For Ellen, the commission was just the latest stage in her journey as an emerging artist, having gone from designing prints to selling her work through the Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency’s Made In Greenwich shop in Creek Road and Deptford Does Art in Deptford High Street under her Pigeon Loft Prints brand.

“I actually found out about the mural trail through Made In Greenwich’s May Jane Baxter,” said Ellen.

“Working with them has been really great. Initially when I gave up teaching, I was very isolated as an artist until I went to Made In Greenwich – they’ve really made me feel like I’m part of a community.

“I started by doing surface pattern designs using lino cut prints.

“I’d take them and turn them into textile designs for products, which I’d sell through the shop.

“Then I got the chance to design the Christmas windows for Made In Greenwich, which turned out to be quite important.

Work In Woolwich by Ellen Strachan in Calderwood Street

“Greenwich Council held an open call for artists to do the Woolwich Mural Trail and so I had that as an example of working at a large scale.

“Since then, I’ve had a few more large pieces of work commissioned – I’ve just been working for the past couple of weeks on a mural in Walthamstow for Crate, which is going to open a new food hall in the central shopping centre there.

“My piece will be on the back of one of the kiosks where people enter the space and it will welcome them.

“Working with Made In Greenwich has allowed me to build up my portfolio to apply for this kind of project. 

“For example, I have another temporary mural coming up in Woolwich for the Woolwich Stories Cultural Trail, which is going to be taking place in August with some art installations and performances.

“That mural, entitled Woolwich Treepreciation will be on a disused shop front and will focus on trees – it’s showing an appreciation of the street trees in the area with hand prints and thumb prints making up the leaves.

“Local people’s words about the trees will also feature – lettering being a common feature in a lot of my work.”

Woolwich Scenes in Myrtle Alley by Marc Drostle

THE COUNCIL SAYS

>> “I’m so impressed with these special artworks and how they have instantly brightened up empty spaces in the town centre,” said Cllr Aidan Smith. 

“Alongside wider improvements, which will get under way this summer, they help make Woolwich a more attractive and vibrant place for residents, businesses and shoppers.

“The upcoming works will provide improved facilities for traders in Beresford Street market including fully accessible public toilets, as well as new planting, better seating, lighting and play spaces throughout Beresford Square and Powis Street.”

Read more: How artist Mark Taylor is capturing Canary Wharf and Docklands

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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West India Quay: How artist Mark Taylor is capturing Canary Wharf and Docklands

Residency at London Marriott Hotel Canary Wharf sees the painter and RNLI coxswain exhibit works

London Marriot Hotel Canary Wharf artist in residence Mark Taylor

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There’s a moment during our interview where Mark Taylor’s voice falters.

The son of successful artist Dallas K Taylor went to art college to become a painter like his father, but wound up initially rejecting his style.

“He painted landscapes and seascapes – it was very commercial,” said Mark.

“He had an art gallery in the North East where I’m from, so I grew up around him working – but I thought I wanted to be a proper artist like Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko. 

“I’d come down to Tate Modern in London and be completely absorbed by the scale of their works.

“Seeing Summertime by Pollock, I was just completely taken away by the real thing. A couple of inches on the page of a book just doesn’t compare.”

After completing a degree in fine art, however, Mark decided to go into boat design rather than opt for the life of a struggling painter – building on a lifelong love of the water, having been raised on boats growing up in Blyth.

“During my degree I’d partnered with boat builders and went to work for a company called Sealine in Kidderminster,” he said.

“I used to watch their £2.5million fancy boats go off down the road on trailers escorted by vehicles with flashing lights, and I realised I was landlocked  – it was my dream job, but in the wrong location. I needed to get back to the coast.”

A project helping an artist put together a portfolio led Mark to turn to the classroom as a profession, moving back to the North East to lecture in fine art in the Newcastle area.

“It meant I could be on the lifeboat like my dad and I could teach art as well, so that’s what I did for many years,” he said.

“Then my father discovered he had Motor Neurone Disease and he went downhill pretty fast. 

“At that time, he had a 12-month waiting list for his artworks but wasn’t able to fulfil his orders.

Detail from Mark Taylor’s Altitude

“So I decided to leave my position at the college to become his full-time carer.

“I went back to the family home and looked after him and, during that time, I told him I would paint his pictures.

“I’d learned how to make work like his to pay my way through university – I’d nick his style, hang work in his gallery and sell it.

“During the months I cared for him, he showed me a few techniques to emulate his style with a palette knife in oils.

“He taught me to smear the paint on the palette and to cut through it so that, with practice, you can get a thin precise line – perfect for the mast of a boat or a line on a building.

“I developed that style and one day I was painting a very famous scene – the bridge over the Tyne in Newcastle looking down to the quayside. It was a historic scene with horses and carts in the foreground.

“When my father saw it, he said that he couldn’t have ever painted the horses like that and if I could, then I would never be hungry.”

It’s here Mark’s voice falters at the memory – a moment not long before his father died. 

“It was really amazing to think I had taken his technique and been able to continue his legacy – to paint like him and then for him to say that he couldn’t have done it himself felt great,” said Mark

“For more than a decade now I’ve continued painting like him but increasingly putting more of myself into it.

“Now I’ve got my own identity I’ve started branching out into different techniques with collage and acrylic rather than oil paint.

“It’s a bit like being a musician – you do a first album, then a second that’s different and now I’m on my third in the London market, which is fantastic.” 

Detail from Mark Taylor’s painting of Tynemouth Lifeboat
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Sorry to break the flow of the article, but there’s something else that adds depth to Mark’s character. 

His father also gave him a lifelong love of being on the sea, coupled with the example of stalwart service saving lives in the RNLI.

Having moved back to the North East, Mark began volunteering on the lifeboat as Dallas had before him. 


Rising rapidly through the ranks (thanks to his dad training him in water safety from an early age), he’s now the coxswain for the Tynemouth all-weather lifeboat – the largest in the charity’s fleet – as well as helmsman for the station’s inshore inflatable lifeboat. 

While there’s probably enough material for a book in his more than 16 years of volunteering, to save lives in some of the most extreme conditions on the water – one tale stands out.

“I’d just qualified as a navigator when we got the shout that a vessel was sinking 110 nautical miles off the coast,” said Mark. 

“We knew we’d have only enough fuel to get out there, do a search and then return so everything was on me to get to the right place.
“The search area was huge – the drifts, the tide, the wind. 

"A helicopter picked up a very faint radio message from the stricken boat and we managed to find the vessel, get it on tow and then pull it back to Sunderland over about 14 hours.

“It feels incredible when you can get someone back to their family who would have drowned if it wasn’t for the RNLI. 

“That one turned out to be the farthest rescue from shore ever completed in the organisation’s 200-year history and it was my first shout as a newly-trained navigator. 


“You risk your life, but there’s a reason why you’re doing it. 

“People’s lives are in grave and immediate danger so we go out in all conditions. 

“It’s a great thing to be able to do and an honour to be the coxswain, following the retirement of Michael Nugent who I’ve looked up to all the way through.”


Go to rnli.org to make a donation to the charity
Detail from Mark Taylor’s Signs

Which brings us in a roundabout sort of a way to why Mark is featured by Wharf Life.

Having mostly painted coastal scenes and architecture, one of his works was selected for the Royal Society Of Marine Artist’s annual exhibition, an accolade that won him the attention of the London Marriott Canary Wharf on West India Quay. 

Recently appointed its artist in residence, Mark has created a series of paintings currently on display there, with more planned to spread throughout the building. 

The works use acrylic and, frequently, collage of historic maps of the area, to capture Canary Wharf and views of Docklands as it is today.

“The docks are massively important, when you look at the history of this area and how that has influenced the buildings we have, and the new towers – it’s about celebrating what’s here,” said Mark.

“You’re capturing moments in time. The first painting I did for this series was looking at Canary Wharf from Blackwall Basin – there’s a lovely bit of water there with the reflections of the buildings all around it.

“I took a photograph of that and then, the next time I came down, a concrete lift shaft for a building under construction had sprung up in the middle of the scene so that view is now lost.

“But I was able to capture it and put it in this painting.

“Then, the next paintings can celebrate what is coming in the future.

“For some of the other pieces I was researching what the area had been like and I realised the colour of one of the maps I was looking at was like the windows of the office blocks at night so I began working pieces of collage into the painting.

“That way I have the new in the work while honouring the heritage of the area too.

“I’ve spent the last 11 years concentrating professionally on my art, developing and bringing new elements into my work.

“With the Royal Society exhibition and this residency I think I’m definitely on my way to qualifying as a decent artist.

Detail from Mark Taylor’s Sunset Over Greenwich

“It’s a bit like climbing a mountain – you get to the top and you realise there’s another peak you just didn’t see until you reached that point.

“What I’ve also realised is that my dad was always a great artist – he painted pictures people loved and would request again and again.

“For me, painting standalone works is exciting and I’ve been able to take his technique somewhere completely different.

“I get totally absorbed by the work. I’ll often go into the studio at 10.30am and paint right through until 1.30am. It’s amazing to be in that creative space.

“Luckily I live within sight of the lifeboat station, so when the pager goes off I can drop my tools and go straight out.

“Going on a shout puts everything in perspective. The other day I was under real pressure to get this picture finished for a client.

“I was really feeling it – at a moment where you don’t know where to stop. Is it going right? Is it going well now, but is it going wrong?

“Then I got the call and me and two crew had to go and extract a casualty trapped on the shoreline in a heavy surf, which we managed successfully.

“After being out at sea with the adrenaline pumping, saving someone, I was completely calm.

“In the greater scheme of things if you make a mistake on the canvas you can always paint over it.”    

Mark’s work is on display at the Marriott on an ongoing basis, with each original piece also for sale. Prices start at £11,500.

Mark is also set to come and produce some of his work at the hotel itself starting in July, although exact dates are yet to be confirmed.

Wharfers are welcome to come down on these occasions and meet him amid his paintings.

Detail from Mark Taylor’s Canary Wharf From Blackwall Basin

Read more: Discover volunteering opportunities with Canary Wharf Group and The Felix Project through its Green Schem

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Wapping: How artist Ed J Bucknall captures snapshots of London in his creative work

Architect turned painter sells work in person at Wapping Docklands Market + Canada Water Market

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“You can never run out of things to paint in London,” said Ed J Bucknall.

While he doesn’t say so explicitly during our interview, it’s clear the Wapping-based artist has a deep passion for the city around him – a deep connection to and endless fascination with the very fabric of the place.

“A lot of the inspiration for me is derived from the Thames – the changing light and the changing skyline – because London’s being constantly reconfigured,” he said.

“My works are almost snapshots to record this decade of London expanding.

“I always carry a sketchbook with me, so I’m often seen locally, sketching and drawing in pubs in winter and outdoors in summer.

“I do as much of my work as I can on location, including painting.

“I work in pen and ink, watercolour, acrylic and oils on paper, canvas and even marble.

“I’m self-taught and the nice thing is that I haven’t been moulded to a particular style or technique. I paint what I want to paint and people either like it or not.

“Over time, I’ve learnt techniques that work for me and I take inspiration from generations of amazing artists.”

Detail from Canary Wharf In Mist by Ed J Bucknall

Originally Ed trained as an architect in Leeds, before moving to London in 2011 and continuing to practise his chosen profession.

While drawing was one of the things that first attracted him to architecture, he increasingly found the digital side of his work less satisfying, which prompted a change in direction with the arrival of the pandemic.

“From an early age I’d always painted and drawn for pleasure,” he said.

“When I started as an architect, it was all rooms full of drawing boards, but with computer aided design, you hardly see anything like that now.

“I was having some success with gallery shows and selling art alongside my career as an architect and the lockdowns were the catalyst for me to move into making art full-time.

“I started selling paintings at Wapping Docklands Market at Brussels Wharf in 2021 on Saturdays and then, last year, at Canada Water Market in Deal Porter Square on Sundays.

“I was the first non-food trader at the former and that’s now brought in a lot more crafts, which have been very popular.

Detail from Great Jubilee Wharf by Ed J Bucknall

“At the same time, I exhibit full time at Skylark Galleries on the South Bank.

“Between those three, it’s been great for exposure and I’ve had a lot of success with ongoing commissions including pub signs and bespoke cards for Greene King to sell in their pubs.

“I’ve also had some of my images appear in worldwide publications.

“Art has always been my passion, but I never thought I would make ends meet as an artist.

“One of the things that has surprised and encouraged me since going full time is that it’s possible to make a living making art in London.

“Fortunately for me, my work strikes a chord with a whole range of different people – locals who have lived in the area for many years and are delighted to see an artist draw and paint what they see and experience, people moving into the area, some moving out and tourists visiting.

“I think what appeals is that my pieces are quite traditional but they are not just photos. They are my take on whatever I see inspired by a particular view or the light.”

While Ed’s work often features familiar landmarks, he’s always looking to bring a fresh perspective to the places he draws and paints.

Detail from Shadwell Basin, Wapping by Ed J Bucknall

“Low vantage points always inspire me,” he said.

“When the tide goes out and you’re down on the Thames foreshore, you see buildings and the whole of London in a different way.

“I used to kayak on the Thames, so I was privileged to see unusual views, and that’s part of my mindset. It’s escapism from the hustle and bustle of the city.

“You can be in central London, or in Wapping, just down by the water and it gives you a sense of tranquillity – although you have to be aware of the tides of course, which can also change the view as boats rise and fall.

“The sketches I do on location are much better than photographs, which can distort things – so they are my crib-sheet for working on the finished pieces in the studio.

“I find the paintings just happen – some are happy accidents and some come through skills that I’ve picked up by trial and error. 

“Some of my pieces are painted on reclaimed marble, which is quite unusual.

“They look almost three dimensional and have a connection to the history of London.

“Some of the marble I use is recycled Thames ballast that would have been dumped in the river in the 18th and 19th centuries after ships had taken on cargo.

“It has natural patterning and colouration from its time in the river and that’s something I work with.”

A sketch by Ed of the interior of The Grapes pub in Limehouse

As a registered mudlark, Ed has a physical link to both the subject of his paintings and, with the marble, the medium he works with.

“I don’t dig or scrape on the foreshore, I just pick things up from the surface,” he said.

“Anything of archaeological significance is recorded and reported to the Museum Of London.

“The Thames is like a washing machine – items just get churned up and uncovered.”

Trading at the market is another point of connection, where visitors can browse his works or chat with their creator.

“It’s been a steep learning curve but one that I’ve really enjoyed,” he said. “It’s lovely to meet both fellow traders and the general public.

Detail from Ed’s painting of Canary Wharf on reclaimed marble

“I think it’s important that people have an opportunity to speak to artists and I’ve had lovely stories of young people being inspired by my work.”

As for the future, Ed intends to continue balancing the work he wants to paint with commissions from commercial clients and individuals. 

Ed’s work is available to buy online with an extensive range of signed prints from £35 and greetings cards and postcards also available. Prices for the latter start at £2.

Detail from Ed’s painting of St Paul’s on reclaimed marble

Read more: Discover the work of fashion businesses Fabrika and Vavi Studio

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Deptford: How artist Alice Gur-Arie digitally paints her photographs to create her work

Based at Art Hub Studios in Creekside, Alice has just released a second digital book of her pieces

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Alice Gur-Arie has always been creative.

“I’ve been writing since I could first hold a pencil and dabbled in various things when I was a teenager in school,” said the artist, currently based at Art Hub Studios in Creekside, Deptford. 

A career as an advertising creative and then manager of agencies saw her work first in her native Canada, then North America, Europe and India.

“I’d done what I set out to do – to work internationally in a multi-country environment and I was successful,” she said. 

“I wanted to go back to my creative roots – that was 10 years ago – and so I got myself a little studio in Deptford and started to take pictures. 

“I also had a lot of photographs from my travels – but I didn’t want to be a straight photographer.”

Instead, Alice taught herself to paint her photographs digitally with the aim of creating something new.

The body of work she has created is varied and extensive, with images that are colourful, monochrome, three dimensional, two dimensional, photographic and almost entirely abstract.

Red from Alice’s Love On The Rocks series

“I never change the composition of the original photograph – it is what it is, it’s like a canvas,” she said.

“When choosing the ones to paint, I have a vision in my head – sometimes I achieve that and sometimes I can’t.

“Sometimes I can do it in several different ways – it’s always possible to repaint images.

“Each time I create an image, it goes back to being a writer, because I’m telling a story. There’s no absolute point where they’re finished.

“I just have to ask whether I’m satisfied with it and whether it says what I want it to say.”

The word, perhaps, for Alice’s creativity is “instinctive”. She looks at a photograph or a collection of objects and imagines what they could become.

“I have a series called Love On The Rocks,” she said.

“I took the images in Iceland – it was cold and raining while I was taking photos and my husband said he was going for a walk.

“There was a volcanic hill behind us and I took pictures of him as he walked along the ridge. He couldn’t see it, but I could see the outline of a woman in the shape of the hill. 

“For another series, I’d always wanted to do something with layered hills.

“In Portugal I got to a summit and just saw this amazing vista in front of me.

Eastern Hunt from Alice’s series The King’s Lodging

“So I started snapping away and, after I’d painted them digitally, I realised there was a romantic story in there, so I called the series The King’s Lodging.

“Each piece within it has its own title and the idea was to tell a story by displaying them together so the viewer could create the narrative in their head.”

Alice’s latest project has been to create a second digital book of her work, based on the Chinese Zodiac.

“I have a friend – John Vollmer – who is an Asian scholar,” she said.

“He sent me a picture of a snake from some archive in celebration of the year of the snake and I thought we could do a better job.

“We started collaborating for the year of the horse – I painted a photograph of the animal and he wrote the text. I wrote a story to go with it and once I’d done that I knew I wanted to do all 12 animals.

“It took a number of years, but the result was my first book Twelve: Shengxiao Zodiac Creatures In Art And Words featuring 32 images and 12 short stories. 

“Then John told me about five, which is an important number in Chinese philosophy. That led me to create Five: Wuxing Elements In Art And Words with a foreword by him.”

Alice’s latest digital book features 81 artworks, about 25% of which were made specifically for the project. 

Rebirth from Alice’s series The King’s Lodging

“While there are no stories in the book, I have written a poem for each of the elements. I want readers to really respond to the art in Five.

“I love landscapes and seascapes and ‘seeing’ is important to me. I want people to see things in a different way – familiar, but unfamiliar.

“It’s fantastic to have people look at and talk about your work because they see things in it that you don’t.

“For example, I made a piece from a photograph of the tailpiece of a stringed instrument and people saw a boat in the final work.”

While the majority of Alice’s work is created digitally, she also creates sculptures, including recent pieces using found objects.

Nightlife In Blue

“I don’t like sitting at a computer all day long, but my paintings don’t get made if I don’t do some of that,” she said.

“I’ve always loved working with my hands and I have an idea that I will also make collages from my finished digital paintings.

“With the wall hangings, I had some different kinds of rope and just started to play.

“The fairy stones – ones you find that have natural holes – are from the Mediterranean and Ramsgate.

“I’d had them for years, having collected them, and I thought I’d do something with them that has different textures.

“I’m fascinated by texture in all my work. I try to make a big thing of that in my paintings because we live in a world that’s anything but flat.

“First, it’s about the photography. I have to go out and take the image. If I didn’t do that, you wouldn’t have the picture.

“Then the paintings sit within a range – a set of dimensions.

“That means I can achieve results that are more photographic while others are more in the middle or much more abstract.

“I often strive for the sweet spot between those two things that combines them both, but sometimes the painting won’t let me go there.

“They take varying amounts of time – it really depends on the picture and on me.

“I have a painting from India that took me 10 years because I kept going back to it.

“It wasn’t saying to me what I wanted it to say, so I put it away and would bring it out every couple of years and try again until it was finally complete.”

Alice’s works are available for sale online.

Noon At Beach Point

Read more: Discover Space Lab at APT Gallery in Deptford

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Deptford: How APT Gallery is set to be filled with artists’ collaborative experiments

Co-curator Nicola Rae talks science, art and why she’s not completely sure yet what will go on display

Nicola Rae is reflected in a mirror from a telescope

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If you think this article is going to explain exactly what will fill the Art In Perpetuity Trust Gallery from February 16 to March 5, you’re in for a disappointment.

But sit with Space Lab co-curator and artist Nicola Rae for a chat about the exhibition and you can’t help but feel a little awed by its ambition.

Her studio space at the creative enclave on the banks of Deptford Creek is currently festooned with tripods as part of her collaboration with the Gravity Laboratory at the University Of Nottingham

These await various pieces of equipment that will focus on a series of fluid vortices, part of an investigation into gravity, water and acoustic waves. 

Magnets will spin, stirring liquids in tubular glass vases, while a camera is used to capture something called schlieren distortions.

Quite how it will all come together is still a work in progress.

This is just one of seven co-creative experiments conceived for Space Lab by Nicola and co-curator Ulrike Kuchner, an artist, astrophysicist and creative producer.

“We have spent more than a year on this show,” said Nicola.

“We put in an application for grant funding to the Science And Technology Facilities Council and were amazed that we got everything we asked for.

“In a way we shouldn’t have been surprised, because Space Lab is an incredibly exciting project.

“Ulrike, as a post-doc researcher at Nottingham, has a lot of connections and she feels strongly that often collaborations are not as in-depth as they could be, focusing instead on public engagement or the dissemination of research by scientists.

“So we set off with the idea of going deeper. We also wanted the artists and scientists to have a really big space for the work they create.

“We call Space Lab an expanded field of experiments –  it is the idea of going beyond limits, outside the remit of scientific experimentation.

“Everyone involved is very interested in process. I haven’t seen all the finished work yet, including my own, but we have set really ambitious targets.

“Some of it will work and some of it won’t. Some will change in curation from how it appears in the studio when it’s placed in the gallery.

“We want all those elements to be free flowing, allowing things to happen.”

While the experiments are too complex to list comprehensively here, one to watch out for is bio-designer Anshuman Gupta’s BioBorgs – biocomputers that imagine a reality where organisms can act autonomously, based on environmental threats. 

These respond to the research of collaborator and exoplanetary astronomer, Amaury Triaud, into the Trappist-1 system.

Its planets are most optimal for evidence of life beyond our solar system.

“We wanted to set this ambition that the artists would contribute meaningfully to the science,” said Nicola, who has been based at APT’s studios since 1995 and has taught at the Univeristy Of The Arts London since 2006.

“My work will be a series of experiments working with liquid vortices and I’m making the scientific equipment myself.

Nicola will be creating liquid vorticies as part of her collaborative experiment

“I’ll be working with quinine and coconut oil in the water to create different densities.

“There will also be magnifying glasses and different equipment on tripods and there will probably be a performative element as well.

“At the heart of it, we’re trying to communicate a fascination with phenomena and the scientific process – something that’s so often seen in labs but less so outside them.”

Aside from the seven collaborative experiments, there’s another strand to Space Lab. 

As part of the process of putting the exhibition together, the curators have been working with Tech Yard creative technologist Jazmin Morris to create a series of workshops for young people.

Titled Space Labs: Stars In Your Eyes, these have seen astrophysicists going into Lewisham schools to explore the themes of the exhibition and have a go at creating their own pieces. 

“The big surprise for us was how enthusiastic the children were, particularly when talking about science questions, and there’d be a big sea of hands going up, asking really good questions,” said Nicola.

“We thought there might be a lack of interest, but not at all.

“We will be featuring some of the students’ work on screen at the exhibition and we’ll be inviting their families and friends to see that on the last weekend of the show.

“I hope anyone who comes down to see Space Lab feels really intrigued and excited.

“Astrophysics is seen as quite elitist but this is all about reaching out to people who might feel they could go into this field.

“With new telescopes generating a huge amount of data, this is really an expanding area.

“It’s not just about the children, but also changing the minds of parents.

“This is something that’s come up in research again and again – kids listen to their parents and it’s really sad that children who are good at maths are told they shouldn’t go into these areas.

“When you go into these astrophysics departments, you see how varied an environment it is – people from different countries around the world – and that’s very exciting to see. 

“Although we’re artists and creative technologists, one of the lovely things that comes up in the feedback we’ve had is how many of the children participating in the workshops are now considering science as a career.”

Space Lab is set to go on show from February 16 to March 5 at APT Gallery in Creekside.

Entry is free.

Read more: How Atis aims to nourish and satisfy Wharfers

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Deptford: How sculptor Dot Young uses her work to highlight environmental issues

Based at Art Hub Studios, the artist draws inspiration from Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai

Sculptor Dot Young at work in her studio
Sculptor Dot Young at work in her studio – image Matt Grayson

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

What do a Nobel Prize-winning Kenyan environmentalist and a Scottish-born sculptor based in Deptford have in common?

Both felt overwhelmed by the raging environmental issues facing the world and decided to take action, no matter how small.

In the 1970s Wangari Maathai spoke of a hummingbird trying to put out a forest fire with tiny drops of water while larger animals disparaged it for being too small to help. It replied: “I’m doing the best I can”.

“That for me is what we all should do,” Wangari said.

“Be like the hummingbird. I may be insignificant, but I certainly don’t want to be like the animals watching as the planet goes down the drain.”

She went on to help reforest swathes of Africa and founded the Green Belt movement.

Half a century later, Deptford creative Dot Young is celebrating Wangari’s story with a series of delicate relief sculptures and is seeking to make her own practice as sustainable as possible.

“I work in an industry that is quite environmentally impactful,” said the 58-year-old, who has been based at Art Hub Studios in Creekside for the last decade.

“It’s on the consciousness of makers, about how what we’re doing impacts the planet. I don’t use resin anymore and I’ve been experimenting with more environmentally friendly materials.

“As a sculptor, you can get caught up in lots of non-biodegradable plastics that aren’t really appropriate anymore.

“I also run a degree course in prop-making at the Royal Central School Of Speech And Drama and I’ve been turning the focus to not ordering as much timber and using thick cardboards.”

Dot works from initial sketches before using polymer clay
Dot works from initial sketches before using polymer clay – image Matt Grayson

Her work on Wangari is part of her Natural Formations series, which celebrates habitats, the environment and activists.

She has based much of it on 19th Century illustrative prints from environmentalists and botanists.

She has crafted the reliefs from hard plaster or jesmonite, a more sustainable alternative to resin, and has been experimenting by casting with different papers.

Dot said to find eco-friendly methods we only needed to look back.

“I worked in Venice for a short period with the mask makers,” she said.

“The traditional Venetian mask is actually made from a woollen paper called carta lana, soaked into a plaster mould and coated in sermel gesso, another environmentally friendly, ancient material.

“This method eventually got usurped by Chinese vacuum-formed plastics.

“It’s really interesting when you turn the clock back and look at what things were made of, pre-industrial revolution.

“You find ways of making that can be reinvented in a contemporary style.

“I’m interested in experimenting in mixing dust with gum arabic.

“The possibilities are endless for looking at how you might develop a new material.”

Dot first became more conscious of eco issues through her project Chair, which tracked the history of an oak chair from the forest where the tree had grown, to the sawmill and then the furniture manufacturer.

“The only chair I could find that was fully made in Britain was from High Wycombe,” she said.

“It made me realise we don’t have a furniture industry in the UK anymore, which is very sad.

“Then I moved on to tracking other things, like hair extensions I bought in Dulwich, which I traced back to Chennai in India. 

“I was getting very aware of the globalisation of materials and doing the work to give people an idea that there was a responsibility around the objects we buy, of knowing where they come from, how they’re manufactured, if people have been exploited and their carbon footprint. 

“It actually got quite intense and depressing. The reality was very overwhelming.

“I could have become a political activist but I decided to go back to the studio, because I wanted to find a way to celebrate nature.”

Dot's pieces take as long as they take
Dot’s pieces take as long as they take – image Matt Grayson

Dot began looking at the work of people who had archived natural phenomena, such as Ernst Haeckel.

To capture them in 3D she started using a method she calls slow sculpting, allowing whatever time is required to complete each piece.

She believes that having this intense and intimate relationship with the work is communicated in the outcomes.

“I’d been doing a lot of sculptural installation work until then,” said Dot.

“It had been very conceptual and I was craving the technical challenge of traditional sculpture.

“I did some completely out-there pieces, inspired by 19th century cakes but really wanted to get more intricate, and I’ve always felt relief sculpture was something a little bit tangential to the rest of the sculpture area. 

“It’s all around London if you just look up and, historically, it’s a way of telling narratives used by the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks.

“I really enjoy the technical challenge and creating stories within the work.”

Dot is based at Art Hub Studios in Creekside
Dot is based at Art Hub Studios in Creekside – image Matt Grayson

It is a stark contrast to her commercial work, which has included making heads of political leaders such as Barack Obama for Oxfam.

“That work can be really fun and I like working for organisations that are making a difference,” said Dot.

“But it is fast and furious and I have to produce it to a high standard.

“What I really love about the relief work is that I don’t put a time limit on it. It will take as long as it takes to get it right. 

“When you spend that time laboriously doing it again and again, it’s very meditative but it also speaks of slowing down and spending quality time doing something that’s hopefully, valuable.”

Each piece starts with lots of drawing and collaging to come up with a design, which is then transferred to a wooden board.

From there, Dot hand sculpts the design using polymer clay, which doesn’t dry out quickly – meaning she can spend several days or weeks on each piece.

Once the sculpting is finished, she makes a mould of the piece and casts it. She then sculpts out any imperfections and moulds and casts again.

“That makes it a very flexible process with lots more opportunities to add, take away and change it along the way and have a wider variety of outcomes,” said Dot.

“Sometimes it can be really frustrating. If it’s a really complex one, I do sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed if I can’t get it to work. 

“But I know from experience that I just have to walk away, leave it and then come back to it. 

“It’s definitely not a simple, linear process. Sometimes I do a drawing I think will work in relief, but then it doesn’t.”

“The work can’t just be decorative – I’m not really interested in that,” added Dot, who runs sculptural workshops and classes with Action For Refugees in Lewisham and has created experiential sculptural work for dementia-suffering residents in care homes.

“It’s got to have something that’s either powerful in its symbolism or be beautifully mathematical and geometric. 

“I love Islamic art because it relates to the universe and secret geometry.

“That’s been a big influence.”

Dot's croton seed sculpture honours Wangari
Dot’s croton seed sculpture honours Wangari – image Matt Grayson

Born in Edinburgh, Dot was introduced to the joy of objects and making by her father, a mechanical engineer, who was at the forefront of developing lasers.

After studying sculpture in Sheffield, she moved to London and was swept up in the 1990s era of shared housing, cooperatives and artist squats.

She then spent time in Africa, sculpting across Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and in the Tenganenge Sculpture village in Zimbabwe, which is another reason for her interest in Wangari Maathai.

Dot has already sculpted a panel inspired by the environmentalist featuring a croton seed, associated with the Kenyan reforestation programme and the African fabric associated with Wangari.

She is now working on a larger panel for the Craft In Focus event at Hever Castle in Kent (Sept 8-11, 2022), which will feature, hummingbirds, naturally.

“It will make a larger statement about her narrative – about how you can make a difference, no matter how small the effort you make,” said Dot.

“People that genuinely have an awareness of the environment are drawn to this work.

“There’s quite a limited audience when you’re doing really specialist installation pieces, whereas the work I do now is more commercial so I feel the audience is wider. 

“Communicating with more people means I have a bigger voice, which I’m really enjoying. 

“When people ask what it’s about then I really get to talk about the state of the planet and how my work is motivated by the concerns we have – but not in a negative way, kind of a celebratory way.”

Read more: How Unifi.id can help building owners cut carbon

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- Laura Enfield is a regular contributor to Wharf Life, writing about a wide range of subjects across Docklands and east London 
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Canary Wharf: How Lothar Götz’s works bring depth to Canary Wharf’s Pride Month

Artist’s three installations celebrate LGBTQIA+ culture and achievements across the estate in June

Lothar stands in front of part of his work Electro-Rainbow
Lothar stands in front of part of his work Electro-Rainbow

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People walking down the Riverside Steps from Westferry Circus may not notice them at all.

Those turning round or going up might take them for a pleasing geometric arrangement of brightly coloured shapes.

Few, it’s fair to say, will immediately associate the pink triangles with the Nazis’ persecution of gay and bisexual men and transgender women.

“They were made to wear pink triangles in the concentration camps,” said artist Lothar Götz, who created the artwork, titled Upbeat for Canary Wharf’s celebration of Pride Month in June.

“When I was in my 20s, we all discovered what happened in Nazi Germany.

“As a gay man, I would most likely have ended up in a camp and that was quite a daunting thing to understand.

“That was why in the 1980s we were wearing pink triangles as a reference to what happened. 

“I like pink as a colour, it’s important to me and very much linked to the gay identity and while I didn’t want to make a piece that singled that colour out, if people notice it as a reference that clearly celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community’s achievements then that is great.”

It’s that broad mission that spells out the scope of three works Lothar has created on the estate after being commissioned by Canary Wharf to mark Pride.

His other two pieces – Jump and Elector-Rainbow – can be found on the Reuters Plaza steps up to One Canada Square and in Crossrail Place.

Lothar sits surrounded by the triangles of his piece Upbeat
Lothar sits surrounded by the triangles of his piece Upbeat

All three use colours drawn from the Progress Pride Flag, a symbol created in 2018 that builds on the traditional rainbow to embrace the wider LGBTQIA+ community.

Forest Gate resident Lothar, who works from a studio in Stratford, first visited Canary Wharf as a student when only One Canada Square and a collection of comparatively low-rise buildings had been constructed. 

“That was long before I moved here – there were only a few tower blocks, but it’s always been an area that’s fascinated me,” he said.

“In those days it felt very artificial so it’s interesting to see how it’s becoming more and more lively all the time.

“When I first moved to London and saw Canary Wharf again, I couldn’t have dreamt that it might be a space where I could do a site-specific installation.

“When I was a child, growing up in Grünsberg in Bavaria, I didn’t know the word for being gay – it didn’t really exist there.

“Then later there was the idea of coming out and I didn’t know what that was either – gay culture was something that very much only happened in gay bars. 

“Moving from a provincial town to a city where you could go and actually meet people who were like you was fantastic – that this was normal was such a major achievement. 

“I got married six years ago at Chelsea Town Hall and I found it tough going down those iconic steps – it was so emotional. 

A Wharfer walks past Electro-Rainbow at Crossrail Place
A Wharfer walks past Electro-Rainbow at Crossrail Place

“That you have installations like this celebrating Pride, in places like Canary Wharf, which are associated with power and money  is quite amazing – it’s so important for the whole LGBTQIA+ movement.

“When I was shown the steps and places they wanted me to create pieces for, I honestly couldn’t believe it.

“That it would be possible for me to make work in celebration of Pride in these locations, where people would be going up and down, doing their business and it would be part of normality, well I found that very touching.”

Lothar began his career as a student of aesthetics before moving to London to study painting at the Royal College Of Art.

Inspired by a childhood love of building sites as Bauhaus-style dwellings were erected in the town he grew up in, his work has often related to, or been directly applied to, architecture.

“I found those bungalows especially interesting when they were not finished,” he said. “As soon as they were, they were just living spaces, not the abstract fantasy spaces I’d used them as.

Lotar sits amid his work Jump at Reuters Plaza Steps
Lotar sits amid his work Jump at Reuters Plaza Steps

“That has informed my later work, including the pieces I’ve created in Canary Wharf.

“I try to highlight the spaces themselves – the steps, for example, are not just functional. With the colours it’s a bit like the effect of a red carpet for a specific event – you change the space and it’s that quality that interests me.

“It’s similar to the way flags and bunting for the Jubilee change a village green into something different.”

Lothar said the quality of the pieces he produced for Pride was of fundamental concern to him.

“I always want to leave how people respond to my works pretty open,” he said. “I wanted to do a series of serious artworks that were somewhere in between being immediately identifiable as works for Pride and simply art in their own right. 

“I think that when you look at them, you notice that the colours are Pride colours, but it was also important to me to say that people aren’t just gay in June. 

“There are still hurdles in life for LGBTQIA+ people – perhaps not as many as there were but they are still there.

“I hope people pause and think a little bit, that I’ve created something that’s subtle. That’s why the darker elements are in the work.

“My work is abstract, but it always has stories behind it. Electro-Rainbow, for example responds to the large panels it is on – the architecture.

“But the kaleidoscope of the colours makes reference to club culture – the dancing, the lights and the colours – which has been very important in the history of gay liberation, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Lothar's Upbeat at Riverside Steps near Westferry Circus
Lothar’s Upbeat at Riverside Steps near Westferry Circus

Jump is about the jumps in progress that have been made – the steps it is on are quite big but they’re still dwarfed by One Canada Square above them.

“It’s a reminder that as a gay man I still need a safe space because it’s still a big thing to come out, but that there have been these jumps.

“My love and relationship have a completely different level of acceptance now than would have been possible when I had my first relationship.

Upbeat is really a response to the architecture and takes the pyramid on top of One Canada Square as one of its dominant elements.

“But again, you have those Progress Pride Flag colours and the lozenge shapes that are similar to the facade of Newfoundland and the blue and white lozenges on the Bavarian flag, which is where I’m originally from.

“That is an abstraction of the shapes the clouds make.

“With this piece, I wanted to describe the feeling you get when you step off the boat and walk up that stairway to Heaven. It’s very beautiful.”

  • Lothar’s works are on show in Canary Wharf until the end of June, 2022, as part of the estate’s wider celebration of Pride Month.

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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