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Starter Studio Programme: new commissions for emerging makers

Published: May 2017

Yorkshire Artspace

Yorkshire Artspace

Yorkshire Artspace Starter Studio Programme:  new commissions for emerging makers 

Yorkshire Artspace, located in Sheffield, run two Starter Studio programmes to help foster new talent and support early career makers; one for ceramicists the other for silversmiths and jewellers.  

As part of the extensive package of support that they offer - which includes skills sessions and masterclasses, individual mentoring, business advice and online training via a partnership with The Design Trust – is a commission and exhibition opportunity for makers on the second year of the two year programme.  

The commissions represent an opportunity for makers to be ambitious, work on a larger scale, test out new ideas or try new techniques and for their work to be seen by thousands of people when exhibited at the city centre Millennium Galleries.  

The annual commission for silversmiths Precious Little Gems has been running since 2003 in partnership with Sheffield Assay Office and has been a fantastic launchpad for some of the 30 makers whose work now forms part of this collection.  To mark 10 years of the commission the entire collection was shown at Goldsmiths’ Centre in London in 2015 seen by over 7000 people and is currently on display at Museums Sheffield's Millennium Galleries.  

This year silversmiths Victoria Radcliffe, Caroline McNeill-Moss and Elizabeth Handforth have been commissioned.  Once completed the pieces are exhibited at the Millennium Galleries (see below for dates) with one piece then entering the Sheffield Assay Office collection and one entering Museum Sheffield’s collection. More info  here:  

Now Yorkshire Artspace is launching a brand new annual commission for makers on the Ceramics Starter Programme All Fired Up in partnership with South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) and materials sponsorship from Potclays Ltd. All Fired Up will see two makers, this year it is Meghan Downs and Hannah Stanniforth developing work that responds to two of SYHAs care settings, one an elderly care home the other for people dealing with complex mental health issues and/or alcohol and substance misuse. Part of the brief is to engage and involve some of the residents in the design and making process. Each ceramicist is required to make two pieces; one to enter the care setting and become part of everyday life, the other will join Museums Sheffield ceramic collection. More info here:

Hannah Staniforth says, “Working with the customers from White Willows has been extremely heart warming and I've felt a real sense of pride and nostalgia being around these people. I wanted to tap into old memories of theirs from their working life, to favourite pastimes whilst living in Sheffield. I also asked if some of them could dig out old photographs for me and they didn't disappoint. I intend to use these photos in my work to create a ceramic piece that is personal to the customers of White Willows, but something they can be proud of and reminisce from, a conversation starter for years to come.” 

Meghan Downs, winner of craft&design's Best Newcomer Award at BCTF 2016, comments, “I have held ceramic workshops to directly involve the customers at 911 - a place that has brought together people with lots of different backgrounds, often broken and fragmented. I want to create two wall pieces that work alongside each other as a pair, using as much direct material from these sessions as possible. The focus on the pieces is to identify different people’s perceptions of the question “what makes you happy?” and to summarise the eclectic atmosphere of the housing project in a positive way, creating a visually interesting collection of ceramic segments arranged together to brighten up the currently plain corridor where one of the pieces will reside. Working alongside the people of the project has been my main focal point and it was initially important for me to engage them in an activity that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do normally that they would hopefully gain enjoyment from.”

The partnerships between Yorkshire Artspace, Sheffield Assay Office, South Yorkshire Housing Association and Museums Sheffield aim to highlight how the high standard in ceramics and silversmithing is still alive and thriving in the city of Sheffield today; encompassing traditional and contemporary techniques and styles.

All the makers have been busy working on their commission since December 2016.  All five commissioned pieces will be exhibited to the public at Millennium Galleries; Precious Little Gems from 19th April to 29th Sep 2017 with a free lunchtime talk from the makers on 22 May and All Fired Up pieces will be on display June to October.  Check the gallery website for exact details:

Yorkshire Artspace’s Starter Studio Programme represents a package of support for makers looking to develop their making skills and establish their new creative enterprise.  They offer five places each year. They are open to visits year-round with their annual Open Studio event in November an ideal time to visit.    

Further information and how to apply is available at


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