‘We want to share our love of art and design with others’

Next week, on January 24, local art group Studio Collective kicks off its new programme for 2023 at The Amelia. Here, its co-founders Gemma Murray-Hunt and Big Bilski tell Eileen Leahy what the six-week course will focus on…


Studio Collective was founded by Gemma Murray-Hunt and Big Bilski last year. The main aim is to share their love for art and design with others. Both women have backgrounds in teaching, but also a strong artistic sensibility. Gemma works in fashion and illustration, while Big is an architect. Here they tell us why they wanted to merge both of their experiences and share their knowledge with others:


Why did you set up Studio Collective?

We both feel that creating art can help boost confidence and make us feel more engaged and resilient. Besides these benefits, art engagement also alleviates anxieties and stress and giving the local community access to this skill feels empowering to us.


When did the group launch?

We started our first set of ‘Mark Making’ workshops in April, 2022. It was springtime and therefore we planned a set of workshops, focusing on drawing flowers, using a range of different materials and mark-making techniques. The flowers we used were from Big’s beautiful garden, and the tables always looked wonderful!


What other types of workshops have you run?

Since then, we have had a ‘Depth and Form’ set of workshops in the autumn, which focused more on drawing the form and shape of structures that we made ourselves especially for the sessions. We also ran a couple of festive workshops for Christmas 2022, in which our students produced Christmas cards by making their own print designs using lino.


How many members do you have?

At the moment we have a lovely group of around eight to ten members, all with differing abilities and interests. We are very keen to add more members to Studio Collective, and would welcome anyone with an interest in art or design to join us.


What is the average workshop like to attend?

They are very informal and relaxed. We usually start each session by discussing the artists who we are looking at that week, what type of work they do and how they are relevant to the work the students themselves will produce. We always ease slowly into the sessions, usually with smaller activities, before working on a main piece. Each student will work at their own pace, some making many artworks, whereas others may only work on one.


What’s so beneficial about them?

For a set time during their busy week, our students can block out any other thoughts and distractions in their lives to make art, or to simply enjoy the process and conversations around it.


What will be on the agenda for the next Studio Collective workshops?

They start on January 24 and will be hosted in the Green Room at The Amelia. They will run every Tuesday from 9:30am to 11:30am for six weeks, missing one week in between for half-term (February 14). Our new project is called ‘Great Women Artists’ and we will be looking at some very influential artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.


What will the Great Women Artists sessions involve?

Each week we will focus on a different artist, for two weeks at a time. We start with the great Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, then move on to abstract impressionist Helen Frankenthaler and we’ll end with the Bloomsbury Group’s Vanessa Bell. These will be a really exciting set of workshops, where we will look closely at how each artist works, and then the students will get to produce their own work based on a chosen piece by that artist, using the same techniques and mediums.


What do you hope attendees get from attending on of your workshops?

It is really important for us that each student takes home with them a new knowledge and skill for art and design with each session, and that they are proud of themselves with the work that they have produced. We want everyone we teach to realise that it is not necessarily about being good at art, but it is about the process and allowing yourself to relax, and to create in a comfortable space with like-minded people.


Do you have to be ‘artistic’ to attend?

No not at all, we have a wonderful mix of students, some of whom have more experience than others. All you need to have is an interest in art, design and creativity, and to want to learn new skills, or build on ones that you already have. Even if you feel that you have no talent, we believe anyone can create art with the right passion and guidance. We always say to our students that there is no right or wrong in art, but that there are techniques and ways to get closer to the results you intended, which we are very happy to teach and share.



January 24 and 31

The sessions in January will focus on the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, but also touch on the artistry of Indian artist Sher Gil and Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi.

February 7 and 21

American abstract impressionist Helen Frankenthaler will be the principal subject with African-American artist Alma Thomas, figurative painter Arpita Singh and Sonia Delaunay, a French creative known best for her geometric work, also coming under the microscope.

February 27 and March 7

The final sessions will concentrate on the legendary Bloomsbury Group’s Vanessa Bell with American impressionist Mary Cassatt and Fahrelnissa Zeid, a Turkish abstract artist, also being featured.

All sessions run from 9:30 to 11:30am and cost £45 per workshop, or £240 for all six.

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