Last week I was very fortunate, alongside three other Cornwall galleries, to take part in a fantastic 'field' trip to Newcastle upon Tyne and then to Edinburgh organised by Cultivator Cornwall (wonderful support network for the creative industries across Cornwall.) Sarah Brittain-Mansbridge from Cornwall Contemporary, Neil Armstrong from Tremenhere Sculpture Gardens, Brian Green from Tregony Gallery and I were we are joined by Tonia Lu from Cultivator and Kirsten Whiting from Plymouth Uni. Six go mad up north...?
Our first port of call was Newcastle's The Biscuit Factory. A twenty minute walk from the city centre in Ouseburn, Newcastle’s burgeoning cultural quarter, this former Victorian warehouse opened in 2002 and is the UK’s largest independent contemporary art, craft and design gallery.
This stunning gallery is set over two floors, displaying and selling a range of contemporary fine art, sculpture, original prints and jewellery, quality craftsmanship and design led homewares from over 200 artists every season.
I've wanted to visit The Biscuit Gallery for ages - partly because I know they exhibit the work of some really interesting artists and makers, and partly because I was intrigued how the curators managed to effectively exhibit craft in such a large space with soaring ceiling heights.
As Rachel Brown (pictured below), General Manager told us, "The ethos of the gallery has always been to provide a platform for local and national artists, to support emergent makers, to showcase established artists and to add to the cultural landscape of the region." The size of the building also means that partnerships can be established with external bodies and events such as the Hexham Book Festival; and in June this year the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair will be held there.
The Biscuit Factory receives over 50,000 visitors a year and their focus is on making art accessible and creating a genuine marketplace for artists and makers. Working with external bodies can only build on this impressive footfall.
And the gallery itself is impressive: I loved the sense of space and the way that the building's architecture has been used to create focal points for the works being exhibited.
The windows and the exposed bricks create a stylish and light-filled backdrop
Large moveable dividers are used really effectively throughout both floors of the gallery to break the large space up into smaller areas, so my fears of smaller pieces being overwhelmed were quickly put to rest. The sectioning of areas felt completely natural and flowed beautifully within the confines of the building giving the work room to breath but not leaving if lost in space.
As a huge fan of using colour in my own gallery, I loved seeing the flashes of brightly painted walls, plinths and panels used to such stylish effect.
Every space was so thoughtfully considered and beautifully curated.
I loved seeing work from makers I hadn't come across before. Rabbit Girl by Ita Drew was a favourite.
Glass from Julie Anne Denton
And I loved Zoe Robinson's animal sculptures
But it was also rather nice to see work by some of The Byre's regulars including Lucy Burley, Jane Crisp, Sam Harrison and Jill Holland.
This is such a fantastic destination to see and buy stunning works of contemporary craft and fine art; don't miss it. And they have a fab cafe too!