I always come over all unnecessary whenever I see something incredible born from Art on the Street, but the headstrong perseverance of 124 Studios literally makes me swell with unconfined joy and, dare I say it, pride that we count them as friends.
124 Studios is a collaboration of seven artists who fell together through a combination of working at the same place (Bovilles Art Shop, the address of which is 124 High Street, Maidenhead, hence the ‘124’) and/or taking part in Art on the Street. One of the seven artists is Harriet Brittaine, Art on the Street co-founder, exquisite talent and fiercely determined human being who, using her understanding of the challenges of the town centre and knowledge gained from four years of delivering Art on the Street to Maidenhead is guiding the team towards their agreed goal: finding appropriate and affordable studio space in their town.
Last week, on the path to that goal and in under 6 graft-filled, exhausting hours 124 Studios opened their first pop-up gallery. Not only is it a stunningly beautiful shop in its own right, but it’s a real life portfolio – an opportunity to show the world what they are capable of pulling together in a very real environment and under tight time constraints. They’ve developed an incredibly strong brand that ties the team together under clean lines that are supremely stylish, yet subtle enough to represent the whole group.
They’ve brought several separate and critical skills together – Josie Clouting has called on the resources of her partner Rory, a graphic designer, to create their logo and collateral. Michael Restrick is a sign writer by trade and has given the shop it’s impressive and professional fascia treatment. Lu Willis, Sherry Dhanoa, Emma Ryan and Emma Moxon bring considerable experience in retail, visual merchandising, galleries and exhibitions to create a beautiful visual experience that is also warm, welcoming and chatty.
The work for sale is carefully curated and presented with flair. There’s something for everyone: glorious explosions of abstract colour, intricate papercuts, stunning figurative work, pieces inspired by landscapes and nature and some delightful surprises – dry points, felt works and botanical prints with a digital flavour. It’s hard to believe that this is the first time this group of artists have brought their bodies of work together – it looks like their careers have been moving in tandem for some time.
In the few short days since opening the group have been overwhelmingly well received. Unlike many pop-ups, 124 Studios had literally no time for any advance preparation or a publicity strategy, but despite an unavoidable lag in press coverage they’ve seen good footfall and very positive initial sales. However, they are in the unique position that their primary aim is not massive sales of individual work (although its a very happy benefit!), but as an example of what they can do with empty premises. They are holding a traditional private view event, but rather than exclusively inviting buyers of art they are targeting landlords, property management executives, local dignitaries and other interested parties with a view to pitching their vision of affordable working spaces in long-term disused premises.
The result of just six hours work speaks volumes for what they are determined to achieve in the long-term. 124 Studios are an inspirational example of what can happen when skills, creativity, focus and vision collide.
124 Studios can be found for the next four weeks on The Colonnade, High Street, Maidenhead Berkshire and on Facebook.
Our guest writer is Marie-Anne Leonard, co-director of award-winning social enterprise Art on the Street CIC, an organisation that provides opportunities for artists while removing restrictions for those least able to visit galleries. The team behind Art on the Street champion the creative use of High Streets and communities working together.