22nd May 2017

Jane Hoodless

The breadth of makers housed at Cockpit Arts’ studios celebrates the diversity of disciplines and approaches characterising craft in the UK today. With this in mind, our first Artist-Maker Residency – a two year pilot – funded by the Arts Council of England, aims to send a strong signal that Cockpit is not solely concerned with product and ‘commercial’ business development but also with creativity and concepts as a means of developing artistically and financially.

The aim of the Residency is to test the cultural, social and economic impact of providing incubation support to an artist-maker whose work is focused on concepts and ideas, a theme complemented by the Cockpit Arts / The Artisa FoundationPerformance of Craft Award’. The Residency supports the selected artist-maker in developing their artistic practice through making new work, developing new audiences, expanding their public and sector engagement and growing sales, enabling them to take risks while building an appropriate and sustainable business model.

Following her successful application, mixed media artist Jane Hoodless was provided with studio space and support to develop her work and ideas. At the same time, an independent evaluation of the Residency programme by Emma Pickering – bringing knowledge of other UK artist development opportunities such as Jerwood Open Forest – has started to examine how Jane’s initial plans for the residency were matching up to the reality

Chief among the findings to date are Jane’s own perceptions of what is possible to achieve in a professional creative business incubator environment that caters for a wide spectrum of types of maker – from artist-makers and master craftspeople to batch producers and more commercial craft businesses – operating under the Cockpit Arts’ umbrella. Jane cites the development of relationships with makers, especially those who cross the line between craft and fine art, as contributing to the development of her ideas and work through practical support and an insight into unfamiliar practices.

Equally important are the benefits and challenges presented by our in-house one-to-one support, in this case from Cockpit Arts’ coach Madeleine Furness. Jane is focussing on the strategic side of her practice, including funding applications and planning for longer-term large scale projects, looking at the balance of creativity with meaningful public outreach and how to see project and funding proposals from the perspective of the provider and not just the artist. This has also resulted in seeing partnerships as central to her creative process, involving networking and finding a curator to champion her. The actual process involved in the Cockpit model – a blended approach of coaching, mentoring, advice and signposting, through meetings, logging of milestones and the development of new skills and perspectives – has become an increasingly central part of the Residency for Jane.

The work that Jane plans for the Residency aims to provoke original thought and wider discourse on a subject that is widely considered taboo and contentious. In doing so she intends to work with materials that that aren’t usually combined; turn some craft techniques on their head and at the same time engage the wider public in its creation. Jane is keeping her specific topic under wraps at the moment; however she is keen to be involved in the monitoring of her progress and development to test the Cockpit Arts residency model and is very confident that the Residency will result in developing her capability to generate interest and income from her art and craft on her own terms.

Whilst making sure that the Residency subject is kept as the main priority, Jane has found it impossible to resist working on other projects at the same time. She has a need and compulsion to make, and the process of ‘thinking through making’ manifests in beautiful but uncanny collections inexorably pointing towards running themes in Jane’s work – social history, the stories of objects and the desire to know why people do what they do. The power of being engaged in a creative community at Cockpit Arts has resulted in some fruitful outcomes: a tip-off from a fellow studio holder that led to her rescuing a box of lengths of wig-making hair, while another chance conversation initiated some tips on how to restore antique ebony Victorian curiosities. In Jane’s hands these materials have come together in a new body of work.

The next stage of the Residency evaluation will focus on understanding further what difference it is making to the artist herself, the development of her major project, as well as how this particular Cockpit Arts’ pilot fits within the wider artist residency field. In the meantime, read more about Jane Hoodless in her blog ‘Narrations and Fabrications’ here.

Jane Hoodless is inspired by the criminal, the cultural and the curious. She has combined words and images all her life, having been a magazine art director and scriptwriter before commencing her practice as a visual artist over a decade ago. The socio-historic narratives Jane produces are presented with conviction and consideration, and rooted in considerable archive or museum research. In doing so she aims to lift the thin veil between past and present, traditional and contemporary to produce new or unexpected perceptions, and encourage viewers to contemplate the seemingly familiar in thought-provoking and questioning ways.

‘I use many different craft skills, dipping in and out, deliberately misusing a lot of things or repurposing unusual materials. I learn conventional techniques, then want to push the boundaries… I would not call myself a crafts person, I am a fine artist who uses a range of craft methods… Discovering that Cockpit want to promote craft beyond craft seemed like an excellent match.’