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  • Ros Millar, Emma Yeo and Rose Sharp Jones

Establishing a Creative Practice

Ros Millar, Emma Yeo and Rose Sharp Jones completed the Crafts Council's Hothouse Scheme in 2010

Ros Millar is a Bangor born, London based jeweller specialising in cuttlebone cast jewellery. She studied Metalwork and Jewellery at Sheffield Hallam University, graduating in 2009.

Emma Yeo is a headwear designer specialising in ‘biomorphic’ design. She graduated in 2009 with an MA in Design Jewellery from Central St Martins and her work has been worn by the likes of Lady Gaga.

Rose Sharp Jones is a textile designer specialising in knit, crochet and print design. She studied BA Textile Design at Central St Martins and graduated from MA Textile Design at Chelsea College of Art in 2008.

Why did you choose to set up a studio together?

Ros: As part of the Hothouse programme we were offered subsidised studio space in the Woolwich studio complex Second Floor Studios. Our personalities worked well together as soon as we met on the programme, so we decided to give the studios a go. We quickly found that our working relationship provided us with an important source of creative energy and practical support, so in spring 2012, when our contract expired, we decided to continue our working relationship by moving into a new studio together in Bermondsey, south London. 

How did you go about finding and setting up the Bermondsey studio together? 
Emma: We looked around at a lot of different studio spaces in London. We all live in different parts of the city so we were looking for a location that was easy for all of us to reach. Even subsidised studio space is not always affordable so price was important in the decision making process. Each studio we visited had a different feel. We choose SE1 Studios because we liked the mix of fine and applied artists present in the different units, and the unit on offer had amazing light and views over the city.

What do you enjoy about sharing a studio together?
Ros: What I enjoy most is the camaraderie. Meeting on the programme means that we’ve all been on the same kind of professional development journey, and this has given us a similar outlook and optimism in terms of moving forwards together to establish ourselves in our respective fields. If we hadn’t all been through that process it might have made it more difficult for us to support one another, because we would all be coming from quite different places in terms of our understandings of what constitutes professional practice. 

What does professional practice mean to you?
Emma: Hothouse taught me that professional practice is different for every maker. There are lots of different ways to organise your time in terms of how you chose to produce work – no one way is better than another, but your practice model should be aligned with your personal vision and values. We spent a lot of time analysing what we wanted to achieve as makers and connecting with our personal vision and core values. This helped me to realise that when it comes to my work as a headwear designer I’m not really driven by selling. In my case I’ve made a choice to be a part-time maker which allows me to be artistically free in terms of the design of my collections. 

Ros: For me professional practice is about being a fulltime jeweller. Consequently my practice is structured around selling. Since taking part in Hothouse, as well as making jeweller every day, I’ve also spent a great deal of time doing market research before developing new designs, working on my branding by developing a strong look in my pieces, building a new website and doing face to face sales. I now have my work stocked in a number of key galleries and my next goal is to get more international stockists. Then I’d like to target a large department store, plus I’m also keen to show at a Paris trade show. 

What kind of support are you able to offer one another in terms of the development these skills?
Ros: I think the greatest support we are able to offer in the studio is an understanding of one another’s individual practice. Being around Emma and Rose is great because they understand how I work and what I need in terms of second opinions and daily encouragement. I guess that ultimately, Hothouse has given us a shared vocabulary and a set of concepts to apply to our professional practice whenever we need support.

What is the most important concept you’ve taken from Hothouse? 
Rose: On the programme we learnt that setting up and developing a creative practice takes time and sometimes that process is slow. Hothouse gave me the confidence to feel it was ok for me to take my time which has helped me not to be so hard on myself. 

How has this idea changed your creative practice? 
Rose: For me my confidence has really grown and I’ve found it much easier to be more strategic in making business decisions now that I don’t feel so limited by time. For example I’ve found it easier to make decisions about which shows to take part in and which ones are not right for me. Emma and Ros support me in these decisions because they understand the business model and strategy I’ve chosen for the development of my professional practice. 

Which other elements of Hothouse were significant in helping you to establish your practice?
Emma: For me, working with my mentor Piers Atkinson was really inspiring. Piers was really generous with his time, and this helped me to build my confidence as a designer. I studied BA Textile design and MA Jewellery so although I make headwear I felt quite intimidated by the idea of focusing my work in the fashion world. Piers has helped me to make a massive mind shift in terms of my confidence and I now feel that I have permission to do things the way I want to do them

What kind of help was your mentor able to give you?
Rose: As a textile designer I have always enjoyed working on both accessories and interior products. Before taking part in Hothouse I felt that I needed to specialise in just one area – and choose between accessories and interiors. This seemed like a key decision for me, but in reality I didn’t want to specialise, I wanted to do both. My mentor was also a textile designer who produces both accessory and interior ranges and she helped me to work through a number of branding and pricing issues and showed me that I can do both. I’m now working on a number of accessory commissions as well as a furniture collection for Tent London in September 2012 and I’m feeling much more confident about how my practice works.

Finally, how has Hothouse helped you to grow your creative practice financially?
Ros: In my case I hadn’t actually set up my practice before participating in Hothouse, so if it wasn’t for Hothouse I often wonder how I would have managed to get set up at all. I now work as a full time maker but as a new arrival to London, none of this would have been possible if I hadn’t had the support of Hothouse.