Work Experience workshop at the Whitworth’s Studios

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Students thinking about the conditions they need to be creative


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Students building their ideal creative space

A few weeks ago we hosted a workshop for 4 work experience students in our studio at Artwork Atelier. The session built on the ideas developed so far in the Studio Thinking blog, exploring the theme of workspaces. The participants were encouraged to think about the conditions that they preferred working in and how they could go about creating personalised working environments in order to be creative.

To start with the group were asked to think about the studio space at the Atelier, experimenting with the ways the space could be used. This involved finding different ways of filling the space or travelling across it. As a warm up exercise this was great as it got everyone moving and thinking differently about their environments. We then moved on to considering the surroundings we liked to work in. This involved each person picking three conditions they needed to be their most creative, and three that they found challenging to work with. Options ranged from the size and lightness of the room, preferences for company or isolation, and the need for outside stimuli or inspiration. What was interesting was that the conditions that one person could identify as being ideal could be someone else’s nightmare!

After looking at some famous artist studios from the blog for inspiration we got to work adapting the studio at Artwork Atelier to suit our needs. Starting with masking tape, each of the students changed the space to suit there needs. It was interesting to see the variety of ideas they came up with. Some used the tape to mark where they needed to put furniture, whilst others used it to make patterns on the walls, create inspiring words or change the shape of the room. Once we had experimented with masking tape it was time to find furniture to work with, and the group sourced a number of objects from around the site, to build their ideal creative space.

The session showed that creativity is a subjective experience, and that an individual’s preferences for their working environment are highly personal. As the Whitworth’s Learning and Engagement team get closer to moving into the Clore Learning Studio, it is helpful to think of the ways in which they can adapt the space to suit the needs of a variety of people.


Rogue Artist’s Studios: Nicola Dale

Our second post from Rogue Artists Studios is from Nicola Dale, an international artist who explores themes about knowledge and its repositories in her work.

Nicola has exhibited in exhibitions in Australia, America and Europe. She has undertaken commissions for galleries and alternative spaces, including The First Cut (Manchester Art Gallery); Kindle (John Rylands Library); Down (Liverpool Biennial) and Flashback (Southwell Artspace). Nicola’s work has featured in publications such as Book Destruction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); and Book Art: Iconic Sculptures & Installations Made from Books (Gestalten, 2011). She is represented in several collections, including the Tate’s artist book archive. Nicola is based at Rogue Studios and is an Associate Member of the British Society of Sculptors. She is supported by Mark Devereux Projects.

Here she discusses the arrangement of her studio and how it suits her artistic practice.

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If you come to my studio and look up to the ceiling, you’ll see all sorts of things resting on the pipes.

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The walls of my studio don’t reach the ceiling, so their tops provide really useful hanging space.

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My studio is looking pretty packed at the moment, but when I’m working I want to be able to get my hands on things quickly, so they start to pile up around me.

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I lost one of my windows to this shelving unit, but the storage is dead handy (and one less window makes it warmer in winter!)

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I inherited this table from the previous owner. Luckily for me, it was too big to move. I love that it’s on wheels.

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Sequel (2012) Nicola Dale


Alternative Art Studios… The Science Laboratory Part Two

Last week we explored how scientists at the University of Manchester use their science labs, and how they compare to the artist studio. This week we will be looking at the ways in which learning can take place within the laboratory, and how this can help us as we prepare to move into the Clore Learning Studio in autumn.

Manchester Museum, The Whitworth’s partner institution, has its own laboratory space within the Museum that is used for learning sessions with high school and sixth form students. The Science programme is delivered by a team of PhD student demonstrators who are all current researchers at the University of Manchester. This means that pupils get an opportunity to work in an authentic environment with real scientists. Emily Robinson, the Lab’s coordinator, says that the PhD students are there to facilitate experiments, not to teach classes. Emily states that this allows those taking part to gain a different experience than they would in the classroom at school, as they gain practical experience of working in a laboratory and conducting experiments themselves.

The sessions undertaken by pupils in the Museum’s laboratory are also supported by specimens from the Museum’s collection, and have a link to current scientific debates. This encourages pupils to think about the real world applications and ethical considerations of their experiments, as though they were professional scientists.

The Science programme at the Manchester Museum offers a hands-on, exploratory approach to learning, allowing young people to engage with scientific research in a unique and exciting way. The learning team at the Whitworth hope to create a similar atmosphere in the Clore Learning Studio. Our aim is to create an environment that allows learners to develop their own ideas about art, and express themselves with creative freedom. As practical spaces both the science lab and the art studio offer opportunities for experimental learning based on authentic experience and personal development. By observing how our colleagues at Manchester Museum use laboratories as environments for learning, we are able to identify similar possibilities within the artist studio at the Whitworth.

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Students using the science lab at Manchester Museum, image courtesy of Emily Robinson at the Manchester Museum

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Students in the Manchester Museum Science Lab, Image courtesy of Emily Robinson at the Manchester Museum

Alternative Art Studios… The Science Laboratory (part one)

As we get closer to moving into the new Clore learning studio , the learning team have been looking to a variety of sources for inspiration. At the Whitworth we are really proud of our link to the Manchester Museum and the University of Manchester, so we decided to look at the environments in which our colleagues at these institutions work creatively. Interestingly, we found that creative thinking was an important part of working within the science community, and as a result there are many similarities between artist studios and science labs. This week we have spoken to Professor Anthony Freemont, head of the undergraduate medical school and a professor of Osteoarticular Pathology at the University of Manchester, about his experiences of working in a lab.

Professor Freemont is in charge of a number of science labs, and manages a team of technicians and researchers who work in them day to day. He describes the processes of working in a lab as being very collaborative, with every part of a project being completed in partnership with others, whether they are fellow professors, PhD students or technicians. This arrangement seems quite different from some of the contemporary studios that we have looked at so far, where artists work on their projects independently, and their studio is a private space. However, if we look further back in history we can see that many artists managed large workshops, instructing teams of staff, who were often training to be artists themselves, to produce the work that they have designed. This practice has continued into the present day, with well known international artists such as Takashi Murakami, and Jeff Koons employing teams of assistants to complete projects for them. Baring this in mind we can begin to see how the organisation of laboratory work is mirrored in the structure of artist studios where collaborative processes are used.

Professor Freemont says that the science lab is a place of production rather than creative inspiration, where the practical experiments that researchers have developed are put into action. In this way, he believes that there is a difference between science labs and artists studios, as he describes the experimentation process as very rigid and formal compared to the responsive possibilities of working in a studio. He states that working in a lab is a linear process; once a researcher has designed an experiment it is put into practice and carefully controlled, with the results being analysed at the end. This is in contrast to the work of an artist in their studio, who is able to react and change the course of their project at any point.

It seems that whilst both science labs and studios encourage creative thinking, they do so in different ways. In the laboratory creativity is employed at specific points in a project, whereas the studio allows creativity to be constantly acted upon. However, there are similarities in the ways that artists and scientists work collaboratively in their spaces, managing teams to execute their creative ideas.

Next week we will be looking at how science laboratories can be used to encourage creative learning at the Manchester Museum.

Playing in the Park: Building landmarks with local schools

The  Whitworth’s education team are currently busy preparing the new learning programmes that will be available when the Gallery reopens later this year. However in the meantime they have been developing projects with local schools and groups that will provide inspiration for ways the new learning studio and art garden can be used.This week Primary school co-ordinator Steven Roper talks about his recent experience of organising school workshops in Whitworth Park.

During the Whitworth’s closure, we have used the time away from the gallery to explore the many ways we can connect to the park and it’s unique spaces. Having an upcoming art garden (designed and developed by Sarah Price) gives us an opportunity to take inspiration from our collections and connect them to the outdoor environment. Likewise, we can take outdoor learning ethos and provision back inside and into our Learning Studio that will enable us to craft, build and create with resources and materials previously not suitable within an exhibition and display environment.

Back in February we hosted, alongside Manchester Museum and Manchester Art Gallery, the Cheshire Schools Arts Week, which was based on the theme ‘Landmarks’. In the Park we set a simple and open brief encouraging children, from reception class to year 5’s, to construct their own landmarks in teams. This child led session had elements of discovery and exploration within the park and it’s spaces as the children from Cheshire gathered natural resources ready to sculpt with.

Using our ‘Wicker ‘Ma’am’ as a catalyst for form and structure, the children began using green willow (a material that if planted correctly, will continue to grow) to form skeleton shapes that filled out using their own gathered materials. One of our objectives in the future is to grow our very own resources where we can extract colour from flowering plants such as woad.

Together, we can provide a palette of colour choices for our participants and visitors, with sustainable and environmental messages, and experiment within our Learning Studio as we can all do with more colour in our lives and soon we will have the right space to discover these processes.

More info on Arts Week –

Rogue Artists Studios: Naomi Kashiwagi

This week marks the start of a series of guest posts from artists working at Rogue Artists Studios in Manchester, looking at how they have adapted their spaces to suit their needs. The first is from Naomi Kashiwagi, who utilises the space in her studio to compliment the way she works.
I work as Student Engagement Coordinator at Whitworth Art Gallery and also as an artist. I have a studio at Rogue Artist Studios in Manchester. Established in 1995, Rogue is a not-for-profit artists studios and is now the largest independent studio group in the North West with ninety seven artists working in 30,000 square feet of space over three floors of Chapeltown Mill. Members range from recent graduates to established practitioners working in a wide range of disciplines and media; including drawing, film and video, illustration, installation, interactive art, painting, performance, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and textiles. Rogue Artists Studios (for hyperlink:
My practice playfully provokes the fringes of disciplines and genres, the intersections and impacts of visual art and music upon one another and the cyclical nature of obsolescence and technological innovation. I work through reinvention- recycling the redundant and that of the established order to reveal the ordinary as being inherently extraordinary. I explore the potential of things beyond their prescribed uses by transforming their utilitarian and conceptual function and making unorthodox connections.
Exhibitions and performances include Playtime, Cornerhouse, Manchester (November 2014), Gramophonica, Power Plant, Toronto, Canada (June 2014) Innsbruck International: Festival of the Arts, Innsbruck, Austria (2013),SOUNDWORKS, ICA, London (2012), Progress Reports: Art in an era of diversity, INIVA, Rivington Place London (2010) and The Intertwining Line: Drawing as Subversive Art, Cornerhouse, Manchester (2008).


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Studio 1ab. Desk (average size desk) with a kneel chair (good for posture, but also fits under the table when I’m not using it). Standing Desk (this is just a shelf from B&Q and my laptop and typewriter (!) fit on top- fixed at the height it is for good posture- elbow height.

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Studio 2. Mezzanine floor table – shelf fixed at elbow height in sat down position- means I can work there on a laptop and also acts as a shelf.

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Studio 3. Coffee table: used as an additional light table that can be moved around easily. I made the legs shorter so it could be a table I use on my mezzanine floor table.


Studio 4. Big Table- standing height- this wasn’t custom built, so not at elbow height, but work standing or sitting (!) It’s very sturdy and big, so it also doubles up as a mezzanine floor. I have a small step ladder that I use to climb to the mezzanine. Underneath I store big drawings, large sheets of paper and also have conservations archive materials there for storing my work.


Unit X Drawing Proposals


Manchester Metropolitan University runs a professional development Unit X annually, where students can gain an understanding of the breadth of opportunities in the arts sector. This year, six students had a placement with the Whitworth with a specific brief to develop a strand of activities for self-directed visits when the gallery opens its doors again. The aim was to produce a generic resource, which could nurture playful ways to engage and interact with exhibitions, collections, the building and the park whilst at the gallery.

Last week visual art students Emma and Jade visited the studio at Artwork Atelier to trial their ideas. They had worked collaboratively to design two activities, which drew on their expertise of drawing and sculpture. The proposed resource would be contained in a portable box on wheels with an idea manual.

Both tasks provided ways to consider art through drawing using a variety of materials and approaches, with one activity resulting in a potential three-dimensional outcome.

Examples of the instructions are to…

  1. Scribble wildly on your paper, do not be precious about it; just make that first mark.
  2. Go around the gallery and find something to draw using a continuous line drawing. Draw what you see without taking your crayon off the paper.
  3. Go change the colour of your crayon.
  4. Go back and add shading to your drawing.
  5. Find another painting or drawing you like. Study it for a few moments, now turn around and draw it from memory, without looking at the artwork again.
  6. Try drawing a piece of art without looking at your piece of paper.

See images of Emma and Jade at work in the studio below…

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This week Georgina and Zoe came to the studio to respond to the same brief to create a resource for the self-directed visitor. Their ideas were quite different employing a sensory approach to potential gallery interactions inspired by the concepts around the relationship between the inside and outside of the gallery. They used the resource as a way to make the visitors experience the gallery afresh, even if they were a regulars to the gallery.

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Try out these resources when the gallery is opens once again in October 2014.

A blank canvas…



Today I moved into my studio at Artwork Atelier.  These are bespoke studios designed in collaboration with Capital Properties, Ultimate Holding Company and the renting artist/maker/producer. Each studio is unique in size, purpose and interior and exterior fittings. This brings a great variety of practice with spaces occupied by musicians, artists, ceramicists, urban landscapers and many other cultural enterprises.



The studio has many functions for the Gallery. It’s a research space; a making space; a culture lab; an office; a comfortable lunch space where conversation will take place over a delicious butty; an insight into how artists use their studios; a place to ponder about the Whitworth’s forthcoming engagement offer and really get to grips with how we want to use the Whitworth’s new Learning Studio.







This is such a great opportunity to think about the future in a fresh, original space. Watch out for future responses from fellow creative participants at No. 6 Artwork Atelier.




Shadow Lab: studio thinking and the Whitworth Learning programme

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Groups engaging with Shadow Lab, Whitworth Art Gallery. Image by Steven Roper


The Whitworth’s learning team are looking ahead to the opening of their new learning studio and are busy developing ideas of how the space will be used. One way of gaining inspiration for the future has been to reflect on projects the team has worked on in the past. The Whitworth has a long history of trying new things and doing things differently, and the learning department is no exception.

Previously the learning and engagement team have been restricted by the amount of space they had to create their projects, however that hasn’t stopped them from building immersive environments for creative learning to take place. In 2011 the Whitworth hosted an exhibition called Dark Matters: Shadow. Technology. Art. In connection with this the Learning team designed Shadow Lab, a space where visitors could get hands on with the themes of the exhibition. Shadow Lab saw the learning team transform the Gallery’s storage area into dark space with a series of projectors and abstract shapes for participants to interact with. The result was a constantly changing art work that highlighted the creative and theatrical possibilities related to light and shadow.

The Shadow Lab project was a hugely successful venture for the Whitworth’s learning team, and demonstrated how a space could be transformed into a unique and creative environment for visitors to engage with. The possibilities for this type of immersive and conceptual learning will be increased once the Clore learning studio opens. By reflecting on Shadow Lab the learning and engagement team are able to develop plans for work they would like to do in the future that embodies these creative ideals

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Playing with shapes in the Shadow Lab, Whitworth Art Gallery, image by Steven Roper

A Reggio Approach

The Learning Team are getting increasingly excited as they get closer and closer to moving into their brand new Learning Studio. Early Years Coordinator, Lucy Turner, has been out and about exploring and testing new ideas about how this Reggio Emilia inspired space might be used.

Reggio Emilia is an approach that underpins Whitworth’s Learning Programme as a whole but is particularly relevant to the Early Years Programme.  In Reggio thinking there is a belief that the environment is the third teacher and that it is crucial to provide children with plenty of natural light, access to the outdoors and space for movement to encourage independent play, and curiosity about the world.

Our new Learning Studio will provide just that; it’s huge bi folding doors will let light flood into the room and will open straight out to the new sensory art garden, extending the room and blurring the boundaries between indoor and outdoor.

In our new programmes much more emphasis will be put on outdoor learning, utilising the amazing resource that is Whitworth Park and the art garden. Children will be encouraged to work outside whatever the weather, whether it’s shadow drawing in the sunshine or using the inclement Manchester weather to our advantage to create rain and puddle paintings.

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With no tables and chairs in the Studio the space will have the feel of an artist’s studio, or Atelier, rather than classroom.  This will also allow the space to be much more versatile as each day it is used by a different audience from adults to babies, students to older people. As part of the Early Years programme the space will be regularly transformed into an Atelier which will host Reggio inspired activities encouraging hands on exploration and discovery and for the first time ever we will be able to get as messy as we like!

While the Whitworth has been closed for redevelopment we’ve been popping up in venues around Manchester trialling new Reggio inspired ideas for the Early Years Atelier, here are just a few examples of what we’ve been up to:

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