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  • Ellie Birkhead

Hothouse blog

A blog charting the progress of the makers on the Hothouse programme

Hothouse is a programme of creative and business development for new makers. Hothouse 6 is taking place from February to July 2016 and here are some of the makers talking about their experiences.

Kate WhiteheadIt’s a ride I feel privileged and very grateful to have been able to take
6 July 2016

Like many textile artists, I work alone. Sometimes that can feel quite isolating; sometimes I feel like I’m losing my way. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Hothouse programme, but I have to say that for me, the experience of mixing with other makers and taking part in different sessions has been an inspiration.

Defining your values, delivered by Claire Norcross and Emilie Taylor, gave me the space to get really clear what it is that motivates me; why I do what I do; and why I do it how I do it. 

'Defining Your Values' delivered by Claire Norcross

A key element of my practice is that I work at a measured pace. I can spend ages on each piece, going to whatever lengths are necessary to produce work I’m proud of. I already knew this - but now I value it as a cornerstone of what I do, rather than beating myself up for not producing enough pieces.

Similarly, for me it’s imperative to produce work that’s entirely handmade in the UK, and to reuse fabric that’s been thrown away. Again, I knew this – but it’s good to have identified this as something central to what I do…something worth shouting about, even. 

Mark Sinker’s Putting the tyger back in the forest session helped me rewrite my artist statement, and that has already had a huge impact on my ability to get out there and promote myself.

Artist's Statement session

Explaining my practice to other people has always been my idea of hell. It took me a long time to nail my statement; getting it right involves really pinning down what makes you tick as a maker. Now I have a firm basis from which to express what I do, both in the written form and verbally. 

These sessions have given me confidence. They’ve helped me define my identity as an artist. Hothouse has been an emotional rollercoaster at times - but all in all, it’s a ride I feel privileged and very grateful to have been able to take.

Handwoven Envelope Bag, Kate Whitehead

Find Kate on the Crafts Council Directory



Jacky Puzey - One Product, Five Ways
22 April 2016

We had our first Hothouse residential at Knuston Hall and it was a great event and great to get all the cohorts together for a longer period. Networking with all the other textiles people was very interesting and inspiring and showed just how much training we did through being creative.

I particularly enjoyed Yeshen the photographer's challenge to photograph one product in 5 different ways, puzzling out ways the image might be read by different clients, and also getting inspiration unexpectedly; the images of my embroidered Hyena head on brick and in shadow are making me think of a lovely residency project to make embroidered graffiti....the sheer organdie fabric its on didn't really show in the sunlight against the walls. #oneproduct5ways my images!


Find Jacky on the Crafts Council Directory



The first day - Katia Stewart, Talent Development Manager
3 February 2016

Hothouse kicked off at the start of February when we returned to the beautiful setting of Bridewell Hall at St. Bride Foundation in London. The participants travelled from all corners of England and Scotland including Falmouth in the South west of England and Kyle near the Isle of Skye in Scotland. It's always an exciting day, with a brilliant energy of nerves and excitement combined. It's great for me to see the much happier faces of the participants (instead of the panicked and nervous interview faces!)

After a short icebreaker to get everyone meeting and chatting the participants each had a chance to tell us about their work.

They each explained the piece of work that they brought with them and told us something we didn’t know about them – someone is buying a puppy without telling their fiancée and another is not only a craft maker but an extreme runner taking part in running up mountains in his spare time, perhaps this is where he draws his creative inspiration from? (He revealed that he had even run around the block before his Hothouse interview to calm his nerves!) We also discovered that more than one of our participants likes to wear 2 pairs of socks every day!  

We had a chance to see everyone’s work throughout the day as well as the handmade postcards we asked them to bring which were like taking a look inside the mind of each of the makers! 

Before lunch we heard from some Hothouse 2015 participants (who finished the programme in Summer 2015). It's safe to say have each achieved a huge amount since starting and finishing the Hothouse programme. Some of the new Hothouse participants commented on how amazed they were about how much can be achieved in just 1 year. Tom Philipson shared his knowledge of what it's like to carry around what he called 'the invisible Crafts Council umbrella' and how to use it appropriately! He talked about how challenging the programme felt at times and how he embraced his fears and challenges head on. Emily Kidson shared her eureka moments on the programme and how much she had achieved the goals she set out on the first day and Jane Crisp shared just how useful the programme had been in solidifying her direction and her values for her practice making full use of the Hothouse folder where she stored all her thoughts, drawings, developments and recorded her progress. They made us incredibly proud in the Hothouse camp to have met and worked with them! They are brilliant advocates for the programme who have had quite a journey over the last year; I was grinning just listening to them speak and seeing them brimming with confidence! 

After a quick tour of the Hothouse welcome pack and its contents, the cohorts took part in a visualisation exercise drawing where they are now and where they want to be in 1 year. The room fell silent as I could see them all thinking deeply and carefully about what they wanted and how to get there in just 1 year. We then made a huge human map showing the spread of where all of the participants are living so that they could all visually see their local and national network. Finally we played the Nesta values trading game: each participant was given six values at random and had to trade up or trade down with other participants to think about what they value most in their business. Some were very surprised about what they valued but no one really wanted 'Power and authority'! 

At the end of the day the cohorts were asked to think about the day and evaluate how they felt about it. 

  • The participants were most excited by meeting everyone else, the potential for their own development and the idea of having a plan, tools and a structure.
  • All of the cohorts were challenged by public speaking!
  • They learned just how far a person and a craft business can go in 1 year
  • They were surprised by how nervous everyone else was and by the progression showed by the Hothouse alumni
  • Finally they were surprised by how nice the salad was as part of the lunch!

A fantastic, energetic first day and I’m really excited to see how our new Hothouse cohorts develop and progress their craft business over the next 6 months! 

Rhona McCallum
21 July 2015

Scotland Cohort Business Peer Review

It’s now been over a week since our final Scotland cohort session took place, and I am feeling the effects of Hothouse withdrawal! It was fitting that for our final session we were back at Off the Rails Arthouse, in Ladybank, Fife, as it was a real favourite among us after our Creative Practice Review day there in April. Off the Rails is a beautiful old station house with the most incredible, welcoming atmosphere, and we were so lucky that for a second time, the weather was absolutely gorgeous too! This time, we were there to conclude our regional sessions with our Business Peer Review, to present where we were with our practices, and what we had each taken from the programme. Later on in the day we were to be joined by makers who were interested in taking part in Hothouse next year and had a wee celebratory glass of fizz in the sunshine. 

Our presentations showed just how far everyone has come during the six months since we met in January. We each introduced our businesses, our goals for the future, how we are managing our production and finances. It was wonderful for us all to be able to show how much Hothouse has helped us over the past few months, and I was so proud of everyone! 

Just as it had been in April, it was a beautiful day in Fife, and following our presentations we took to the lovely lawn outside the station to talk about Hothouse with potential applicants for next year’s group. To anyone reading this who may be considering applying for Hothouse, definitely do it!

Looking back over the previous sessions I realise just how lucky we have been to take part in this programme, and to have the support of such an incredible group of speakers, workshop leaders, the talented bunch of makers across all four cohorts, all of the partners and the Crafts Council. Most of all, I am so happy that I was able to share my experience on the programme with the five other amazing makers in the Scottish cohort: Ruth Hollywood, Heather Shields, Catherine MacGruer, Kelly Munro and Sian Patterson. Since we met in January we have shared our ambitions, achievements and uncertainties, and have supported and encouraged each other through what has been an intense, challenging and inspiring few months. I know that we will continue to be there to support each other along the way and I’m so excited that we will be working together again as we prepare to exhibit as a group at CRAFT in London in January 2016. I know I am not alone in saying that participating in Hothouse has made me all the more determined to carry on doing what I love, and to be confident doing it.

Thank you so much to the Crafts Council, Craft Scotland, Fife Contemporary Art and Craft, Emergents, Applied Arts Scotland, to Katia, Jo, Sarah, Diana, Avril, Merlin, Pete and everyone else we met along the way.

Big love to all the Hothousers, see you in September! x

Marram Neckpiece, brass steel, Rhona McCallum



Tom Philipson
13 July 2015

Weird shit from wood

Well that’s it now then. Just finished the last North cohort day on the Hothouse programme. And it all feels a little bit odd to be honest. I think I am really going to miss it.

The brief for this session had been playing on my mind for quite some time. We were given the task of presenting our “business plan” to the rest of the group and a few invited craft professionals. I was struggling with the whole idea as I really didn’t consider what I did in my making to be an actual business, primarily because I wasn’t actually making any money through selling the things I had made. So I had decided to forget about the scary business word and just call it “my plan for future making”, which just made more sense to me.

I arrived at Manchester Craft and Design Centre with a chronic stomach ache, (probably psychosomatic) feeling nervous (normal) but also kind of strangely excited about the prospect of talking about my future plans (not normal). It was great to see all the group again and after a quick catch up it was time to get down to business. When it came close to my time to present, that weird thing happened where I start to nervously shake or kind of vibrate internally. I’m not sure if anyone else can actually see this when it happens, but I feel like I’m having some kind of seizure which everyone in the room is just ignoring out of politeness. Anyway, I told it to go away and this time, for some reason, it did.

I began my presentation by apologising to the attending Hothouse partners for the fact that due to my difficulties with the written word I would have to totally concentrate on reading word to word from my notes, and that my eye contact with them would be very minimal (good to start on a positive note). I then introduced myself and said..

“Hello. My name is Tom Philipson, I am a furniture maker and designer, making untraditional furniture and sculptural objects. I use traditional woodworking tools and techniques which have been adapted experimentally to produce works that are unique and unusual in their form and construction. But basically, it has become apparent to me that, I just make weird shit from wood that few people seem to want or need”. (My very own Unique Un-Selling Point or UUSP)

"But that's ok. As I believe there is a way that one day I can somehow start to make this pay. I have come to the realisation over the past year, through the Hothouse programme and through reflecting on my practice, that people on the whole may not want or need many of the things I produce, but generally people seem to actually really like and admire my work. And even those that do not like it at the very least find it interesting and it gets a reaction from them. It’s a bit like, Made you look, Made you think.. and this is a good thing. At a recent craft fair I exhibited at the comments ranged from “That’s amazing, you are a genius” which was a bit over the top and I had to pull them up on it, to (Cockney accent) “Oh no… Chop It up and fuckin burn it… I don’t like spiders..” which was hilarious and I will treasure the memory of those words for the rest of my life.

So, the question is, how do I turn making furniture and sculpture that doesn’t seem, at present to be hugely commercially viable, and doesn’t appeal to everyone’s taste or pocket, into a successful craft practice? 

The answer I have come up with is to simply widen my audience. To do this I will have a core to my practice which I can rely on for income to pay for the necessities in life like mortgages, school shoes and toilet rolls. And this will give me the freedom to continue producing weird shit that makes people go.. “Wow” or “What?” I then went on to talk about: The core waged part of my practice, show pieces, batch production, experiments, commissions, hypothetical shelving of ideas and products, dumbing down work and then getting bored of making it, dyslexic mushed up brains, (you had to be there), what I intend to be doing at the end of this year, next year, and in five years’ time. I handed round examples of the different types of direction for my work. And I finished it all off with a bit of reflection...

“This has been an interesting exercise for me. It has helped me to realize how far I have come, where I am now and how far I can possibly go in the future. Some of the statements I have made about where I perceive myself to be in five years’ time felt a little far-fetched and over-optimistic when I was writing them down, but if I look back and see where I was when I started this designing and making journey I realise that this is not the case. It was only three years ago that I was working for builders on a construction site with small town, racist, homophobic, bad-newspaper-reading, bad-radio-station-listening, knuckle draggers pulling down ceilings in order to pay for school shoes and toilet rolls. So in just three years my practice has developed immensely and I know now that if I carry on in the direction that my passion for making takes me that there is possibly no limit to where I may end up.”

I then looked up and gave them all some eye contact.

The feedback everyone gave me was very kind. No-one seemed to mind that I just read it out, they seemed to think that what I was saying was actually more important than how I was saying it. I was very relieved and it filled me with confidence. Katia even said that it made her feel emotional and she started to well up (but I’m not sure I believe her). I then went back to my seat and listened to the rest of my fellow makers presentations. They were all fantastic. Everyone did brilliantly and it was great to see how far everyone has come over the past few months. In the final part of the afternoon we all took part in a meeting potential applicants for next year’s programme thing, or networking (hate that word). This was fun. Bit weird at first. They all looked awkward and nervous like first year students waiting to come in. But it soon became really relaxed (thanks to the Scottish co-hort for their left over prosecco) and it was very interesting and enjoyable to meet them all and give out some advice about applications and the content of the program. Good luck to you all.

I left the session feeling really relieved about getting my presentation out of the way. But at the same time I also felt a little flat about the coming to the end of the programme. We still have one session left in September where we all get together in London, so I’m not saying it is actually over to myself yet.

So on a positive note, it’s great to know that I don’t have to worry about having to do any more scary presentations in the near future. But the weird thing is that I think I am, ever so starting to begin to, kind of, In a very small way, actually enjoy them. (“Shit did I just say that?”)

Thank you Hothouse I’m doing things I never thought I could do.

Alien Sea Creature, Sycamore, Tom Philipson, 2014.




Jessica Thorn
2 June 2015

Finance, Costing and Planning

Our latest session was held at Krowji, making space, in Redruth, Cornwall. We were introduced to the space with a tour around their swanky new studios, which we were all pretty envious of. We also had the privilege to visit our own Beth Robinson’s studio, a real treasure cove of her unique and macabre jewellery and sculpture. 

The build up to our latest session in Krowji has been the most apprehensive so far, as I find the topic of finance quite daunting. I wasn’t the only one who felt like this on the day

Abbi Kirby, our workshop leader for finance, costing and planning, was very enthusiastic and engaging on what is inevitably a dry subject. We started the day by focusing on the importance of budgeting and cash flow for our creative business. The advantage of Abbi showing us how to effectively use budgets and cash flow made it seem less of a chore, and turned it into a motivational task for me to evaluate my finance. This was a tough part of the session as it made me question my values and opportunities that are currently realistically attainable. It also showed me what my limits are at this early stage of my creative practice. This aspect of the programme has grounded me with a well-needed reality check, whilst providing me with the chance to be more proactive and selective with opportunities that best suit the growth of my practice. 

After being treated to a fantastic selection of pastries, we moved on to costing our work. We initially discussed in pairs, and then as a whole group the current price of one of our pieces of work. Most of these prices changed after we used Abbi’s method of costing. This task was a real eye-opener for myself, not just the change in price, but actually understanding the importance of paying myself correctly to have a profitable business. 

After a lunch break in the wonderful Melting Pot café, we split into groups to establish where our work sat within contemporary craft. During this time my group discussed the expectations of finance and general do’s and don’ts between the customer and craftsperson within a gallery shop market. Personally I feel very inexperienced working with my potential customers, and found discussing topics such as terms and conditions and general etiquette and expectations between the customer and craftsperson a very useful task. It led me to not only start feeling more confident and comfortable with the new prices of my work, but with my own work and business values.  It has also given me some confidence to pursue and maintain relationships with potential customers.

Even though I found this day the hardest so far, as reflected in our faces at the end of the day, it has also been the most beneficial. We are now past the half waypoint of the Hothouse programme and I am really starting to see my business take shape, develop and to potentially become my dream reality. 

Apothecary Bottle, Jessica Thorn.




Emily Kidson
22 May 2015

Last week the South East cohort had the first of our sessions at Smiths Row in Bury St. Edmonds. Despite one car breakdown on the way most of us made it and we had a great day exploring ideas around market and audience development.

Smith's Row

Emily Curtis (Smiths Row Craft Shop & Gallery Manager) and Natalie Pace (Smiths Row Curator) started the day with talks about building relationships with our audiences and presenting ourselves to prospective shops and galleries. There were all sorts of tips and advice from wholesale pricing through to terms and conditions.

The South East Cohort with Natalie Price

Next, Sofus Graae of Smith/Grey presented on using marketing channels to reach customers and raise our profile. I found this an absolutely fascinating insight into a jewellery business which is very different from my own. It was interesting to hear that contrary to some business advice Smith/Grey shun market research when coming up with new collections; I love to hear when people approach things differently! Sofus was so on the ball with contemporary issues, culture and business, building and maintaining a brand, social media engagement and much more. In addition there were discussions about using PR companies, Ex Works and five year plans.

Sofus Graae

In the afternoon Maddie Furness, Business Development Manager at Cockpit Arts, discussed identifying audiences and targeting the customer. There were interactive activities using piles of magazines as we explored our market options, our audience and how to reach them.

It was a full on day with a huge amount of information to take in, I came away with eight pages of notes and a head buzzing with ideas. I also want to mention the chocolate biscuits and flowers on the table, thank you to Smiths Row for hosting us and for all the brilliant speakers.

Yellow Earrings, Emily Kidson




Ruth Hollywood
12 May 2015

Time Flies When You are Having Fun

We have reached the halfway point of the Hothouse 5 programme and it has been an inspiring and thought-provoking journey so far. It has involved a lot of self-reflection, including looking at our business values, business communication skills, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and how to critique our work.

There have been a lot of inspirational guest speakers from various disciplines; my personal favourites were designer/printmaker Linda Florence and glass/ceramic designer/maker Jessamy Kelly. It’s been great to hear the different approaches and variety of ways that people can successfully run their creative businesses. 

We have also had motivational facilitators including Pete Moseley (creative business mentor, coach and trainer) who introduced us to routes to markets and cash flow forecasts and he also helped us feel fearless about our finances! Mark Sinker (freelance sub-editor, Crafts Magazine) gave us the “key to the craft of writing” to improve our writing skills. 

One of my favourite sessions was the Creative Practice Review with the Scottish cohort. Heather Shields and Simon Wilks have already covered it well in previous blog posts so I won’t delve into too much detail.  The session gave us the opportunity to bring two pieces of work to discuss with the group and we were introduced to the Edward De Bono’s Thinking Hats Exercise. I found this exercise particularly useful as it provides a way of considering intuitive responses, successes, concerns and possibilities for growth. It reminded me of the regular critiques we had at throughout art school and this is something I feel I miss as a sole trader. I think that we all really benefitted from this session and we hope to be able to continue this reflection together in the future. 

Collage of some of the Scottish cohort's work

It has been a pleasure to meet all the other makers at the induction and peer networking days in London. I’m proud to be part of the first Scottish cohort supported by Craft Scotland, Fife Contemporary Art and Craft, Applied Arts Scotland and Emergents. The other Scottish makers include the talented Heather Shields, Catherine McGruer, Sian Patterson, Kelly Munro and Rhona MacCallum. Being the smallest cohort I think that we’ve all got to know each other and our respective work really well.  I’m sure that this has helped us successfully apply for a shared stand at Craft London trade fair in Olympia in January 2016.  This is the first trade show that I’ve applied for and I felt it was less daunting to apply as part of a group. As well as providing one another support we will also be able to share the cost and organisation. It will hopefully be the first of many exciting joint ventures. 

 I’m looking forward to the following sessions and what the second half of Hothouse 5 will bring!  

Ruth Hollywood. Photo: Gabriela Silveira Photo




Heather Shields
1 May 2015

Creative Practice Review

Last Tuesday, 21st of April, we set off on a beautiful day to Ladybank in Fife. None of us had ever been to Ladybank before, so it felt quite a novelty travelling to a beautiful rural location mid week, a bit like going on holiday. I’d been really looking forward to the day, as it had felt like ages since I’d last seen my cohort and I was eager to catch up with them. Katia, Jo Scott from Craft Scotland and Diana Sykes from Fife Contemporary Arts & Crafts were our dream team for the day and helped keep us focused.  

The day ended up being a favourite among many of us and we couldn’t have asked for a better venue or host (thank you, Diana!). We all enjoyed hearing about the history of “Off the Rails Arthouse”, it being an old station master’s house. It is an amazing space and I’m super jealous of anyone who has the pleasure of using it as a studio space. We were also surprised to learn that a contemporary artist, Kirsty Lorenz also has a studio in the railway station itself! 

Anyway, enough fantasising about the dream studio spaces…

The session began with each of us discussing the work we had brought; one piece which felt “complete” and which best represented our practice and another piece that was unresolved in one way or another. Having become familiar with each other’s current collections, it was interesting to hear everyone talk candidly about these and how they felt about them. Moving on to our less resolved pieces, the tone of the conversation became more uncertain, highlighting that we all really have similar worries surrounding new ideas within our work.  We had all heard each other’s artist’s statement at the session with Mark Sinker, but this felt like a completely different and much deeper discussion. Of course, I’m sure this was Hothouse’s intention, as we know each other a lot better now and were able to be open and honest around one another without feeling uncomfortable.
It felt really therapeutic to do this and the relief of talking honestly helped me clear my mind for the next part of the exercise and focus on solutions. 

The most enjoyable part for me was seeing the new or unresolved work, it was really exciting to see how each others work was progressing! 

Katia then introduced us to the coloured hats system (It has another name, but incase someone hasn’t had this session yet, I’ll stick with the mysterious name) which Jo and Diana were to referee.
Again, we were to discuss one person’s work at a time but this time the group were to give feedback, both positive and negative and offer solutions. Once we got warmed up everyone had so many ideas and we’re quite an enthusiastic bunch so we had to be reigned in and re-focused regularly. Katia, Jo and Diana helped us break into the conversation, especially with regards to ‘black hat’ which was commenting on possible restrictions of the work that could be viewed as negative yet constructive points. Being a positive bunch though the black hats always turned into green, with each of us rushing to provide possible solutions. Diana and Jo were an equally integral part of the team sharing their experiences and knowledge from different roles within the craft sector. By lunch some of us had gained new ideas or contexts for our work and others had gained reassurance that they were on the right track.

I can’t quite believe how much we managed to cram into a morning but it felt really productive. The sun was streaming into the white washed rooms of the Arthouse so we decided to make the most of the weather and have lunch outside on the steps. Diana provided us with a tasty and generous lunch and we found out more about Fife Contemporary Art & Craft’s diverse range of projects and events. 

After lots of chatting and soaking up the sun, we headed back inside for the afternoon’s exercise. We split into two groups and again discussed each persons work one at a time. We focused on possible restrictions or possible development points that had been highlighted in the morning for both sets of “resolved” and “unresolved” work. Using this as a starting point, we discussed different ways of making prototypes to help test new products and ideas. 

We were then reunited with the rest of the group and using the feedback from the day, were asked to create a “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant and Time bound) action plan, whilst keeping mindful of both our strengths and areas for improvement. 
This was the perfect culmination of the days exercises, helping us filter down the feedback into a tangible and realistic plan of action. 

I really enjoyed the structure of the day, having had a few sessions that were jam packed with different talks and exercises - it was nice to have a day to focus on one big task as a contrast. It felt less hectic and I was able to concentrate and reflect more. This session was incredibly beneficial for the whole group (we spoke about it at length on the journey home)  as it is so rare to access that level and range of feedback. A maker’s work is such a personal subject and I think we can all relate to the feeling of having a love/hate relationship with a piece of work every so often. 

I have never had such a productive day that felt so calm and reflective and I didn’t really consider that the two could go together. Thanks to my fellow Scottish cohort participants, Katia, Jo and Diana for such a positive, productive and enjoyable day. Oh! And special thanks to Rhona for driving the majority of us to Ladybank, what a hero! 

Puzzle, Heather Shields




Simon Wilks
27 April 2015

Which hat do you wear?

On arriving in Manchester’s sunny Stockport I was met with jolly salutations and greetings of the North cohort and partners; it was great to see all of my fellow Hothouse participants again and once I had replenished myself with the equally delightful sight of top quality biscuits and tea, a day of Creative Practice review began. 

In the days that preceded the Creative Practice Review, there was much nervous excitement and anticipation, as I had to consider and select a piece that best represented my practice and a piece that was under development to discuss with the North cohort. Talking about your practice can make you feel exposed as a maker; as the lid is lifted on your thoughts, passions and emotions for creating the work you do. It is there for all to see.  Yet, that excitement and anticipation is a good feeling when you know you are amongst other makers who have the same questions and needs for discovery and realisation as you.    

Having introduced our work in a two minute, ‘craft- speed date’, individually describing both selected pieces to the group we then embarked on the longer and more in-depth group critique.   

We all communicated a great flow and wealth of potential ideas about one another’s work, moving effortlessly across Edward De Bono’s six thinking hats. By putting on the six metaphorical hats as a group, we explored and switched into different thinking modes and thus focused on the same element of the individuals work at the same time.  This thinking process allowed for a multitude of creative ideas as we worked on hunches and intuition (red hat), facts (white hat), benefits and positives (yellow hat), creativity and potential (green hat), difficulties and dangers (black hat), and maximised all (blue hat), discovering new and exciting things about the work we all did or wanted to achieve in our practice.  

As Katia “the Black Hat” Stewart heroically conducted proceedings, I was struck by the support and camaraderie encountered during this activity; the smell of pies during lunch, the pie slump after lunch; the humour and laughter; the potential of all our work and the new and exciting ideas that would become the future. The beauty and quality of the work was amazing as was its potential. 

The Hothouse programme, and in particular the North cohort provided me with a positive platform for discussion and critical analysis and reflection of my practice.  This unity and platform for discussion can often be missing when we find ourselves working alone in the garden shed with our green hats on.  So having that support to bounce and ping pong ideas is an essential asset to an emerging maker.

As I drove home I began to realise how and where my work sat in craft and the potential it had if I acted upon some of the positive feedback I had received.  How enlightening it was that others had also made discoveries and how many more discoveries were to come.  The only regret of the day was that I hadn’t again sampled the famous Stockport pie and mash. Maybe that requires another kind of hat!

Simon Wilks Ceramics  



Jane Crisp
18 April 2015


Postcard Brief Number 1: getting back in touch with inspiring materials took me right back to the feelings that first connected me to my creative path. What a great place to start questioning and beliefs and values. I feel special energy within the room full of such talented Hothouse 5 participants, I hear interesting craft talk everywhere at meets. It makes me feel focused and inspired. 

Hothouse 5 Proactive, Reactive, Planning Reflection and Evaluation. Plan it, get it into your diaries, and make it happen. Presenting my work and the work of Sebastian Cox helped me learn to design presentations and deliver. By developing my design language I redefined and reaffirmed my practice. This articulation was the stem that started a new direction of thinking. 

Tina Hillier portrait, words by Teleri Lloyd-Jones

I’m so pleased to be featured in the latest edition of Crafts magazine; it’s brought life to my business. The theme, the beauty of batch production and flow – when it’s just you and your craft, there is nothing else in your mind and everything seems ordered. I realised the same satisfying flow resonates in the forms I’m creating.

All this food for thought made me realise the flow formed the sculptural qualities. So I started playing and designing with light and plains.

Experiments with triangular plains, flow, energy and movement.

Moving from lifelong beliefs and fascinations with necessity, evolution, and innovation with a kind of Shaker influence. The move to a more sculptural and decorative focus is a big move in my way of thinking but the original qualities and essence of my practise remain. I made some of my friends some Easter bangles, they were pleasantly surprised to receive a present with no function.

It took confidence to break the ground and crack on with my new workshop space. Slowly building my confidence throughout the programme gave me the push. I can’t wait to expand my tooling and let my new ideas be realised and grow. Thank you Crafts Council Hothouse 5.    

Knitted Chair, Jane Crisp




Tom Philipson
9 April 2015

Peer networking day at Toynbee Hall, London.

Another really brilliant day meeting up with all the other participants. Now I know it would be 'emerging maker Crafts Council suicide' to say otherwise, but truly, I had such a good time..

A really hectic and yet enjoyable day, I went with the clear intention of properly meeting and introducing myself personally to all the other participants on the programme. This turned out to be a little bit like speed dating, or "Speed Hothouse Maker Meeting" as I think i will call it (perhaps they should introduce this into next years programme). However I still didn't get around everyone, must finish it off next time. 

The only slightly negative part of the day for me was that usually when I am in a beautiful historic building similar to that of Toynbee Hall for any particular event or reason, I can always seem to find the time to drift off and study the architecture and interior woodwork to consider its history, the techniques involved in its construction, inappropriate restorations and alterations etc (what an exciting life I lead ). But today there simply wasn't time and rightly so. I'll just have to go back one day.

In the morning session, Sarah Hewett, community programmes manager from Etsy gave us a great talk on topics including, selling our work online, images, PR and press. This was all really useful even for those among us who had never considered selling our work through an online platform. I will have to read through the notes on this as unfortunately I had to leave for my slot of PHOTO-TAS-TIC TIME, with photographer Tas Kyprianou, " What a Dude". He was such a hilarious and genuinely nice man, put me totally at ease.

Having never had a professional photoshoot of myself with my work before I was expecting feelings of awkwardness and embarrassment and for the whole thing to ooze cheesiness with forced smiles and cringe-worthy Marks & Spencers poses. It was in fact the total opposite. So much so that by the end of the session I had even started directing him as to the weird shots I wanted taking (they won't use those ones). I even managed to convince him to photoshop out the dodgy logo on the shirt I had borrowed that morning (didn't really do shirts before Hothouse. Getting into them now, but not with dodgy logos). So thanks Tas, it was incredible to be in such proficient hands.

In the afternoon session Anna Collette Hunt, participant on Hothouse 3, talked about her experience on the mentoring and buddying schemes. I personally found this extremely useful in terms of my own work and how I want the schemes to assist me with the intended direction I am currently concentrating on for my future practice.

Then it was !!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRGH !!!!! " Talking About The Work"

We all had to stand up and talk about the work brought along by a fellow participant. I have found these exercises excruciatingly uncomfortable, but now through the pain and nervous embarrassment I have come to the realization that its all cool and fine, and that none of it really matters.  I know that I am not a good public speaker, but why would I be, I have never done it before, and thus I am not practiced.  The first time I ever made a piece of furniture I am sure it was pretty crap really, and this is no different.   So I have decided to be as open and honest in my professional practice as I am in my actual making. And just do it. Don't over-think it and don't worry about it. Then surely I will slowly improve through practice.

Insect-i-side Table, Tom Philipson, 2014.

However it was truly great to see all the work everyone had brought in and to hear all the presentations. So well done everyone..And also, on top of everything we learned from the exercise, we also had the added benefit of COLLECTIVELY CAUSING LAUGHTER-INDUCED FACILITATOR FACE-ACHE! This, for those not there, is a good thing.

Then it was quickly outside for more "Photo-Tas-tic time", for the Hothouse 5 official group photo. I cant wait to see the results when they come through...

So thanks to everyone involved in providing such a valuable experience, I had such a laugh, but also learned loads too.

Oh.. and i also forgot to mention lunch (a seemingly popular part for discussion on the Hothouse experience so far) . Well to be honest I cant remember.  I was too busy shoving salad leaves into my mouth (attractive) as i walked around trying to do "Speed Hothouse Maker Meeting" but i'm sure it was probably lovely....



Tom is blogging regularly for Lakeland Arts on this time on Hothouse. 


Catriona R. Mackenzie

16 March 2015

The South West Cohort (minus Jess Thorn – we missed you!) gathered together at Plymouth College of Art for our “Presenting Yourself” session.  Looking around the room I could tell we were all excited, but nervous about what the day held. 

One of the hardest things for an artist to do is to express themselves vocally and verbally.  We like to do it visually, while lurking in the corner of a room hiding behind our hands. But not for much longer. Mark Sinker and Phil Bliss had taken their tools out of the bag, and were about to hand them out to the room.

A morning with Mark Sinker  - Freelance Sub-Editor, Crafts Magazine. 
Mark began by giving us a talk on the best ways to write an artist statement.  This was very informative as it allowed us, the artists, to see what a journalist/editor is looking for.  The insider knowledge of Mark’s years of experience will no doubt be valuable to us all as we rewrite our written statements. 

He gave us the task of splitting into pairs, reading each other’s statements, and commenting on what we LIKED and what we DISLIKED about them.  He then worked his way around the group and we discussed our thoughts, and his, on what needed changing.  I found this both reassuring and informative as he agreed with the sections I had highlighted, but also brought attention to words I hadused that needed expanding.

“A good writer always keeps his promises. A great writer breaks them – to make and keep better, deeper promises.” – Mark Sinker


Afternoon session with Phil Bliss – Communications Skills Coach
After a serious morning, Phil arrived to lighten the mood and shake us all up! After a very interesting description of how the voice is created within the human body – with the terms “vocal farts”, and “vowels are emotion” being used, he got us to our feet.

Little did any of us know how much tension we kept in our bodies, and how this tension affects our body language and voice.  He really helped us to see how tension can make us sound small and look submissive.  

After a good laugh, and some tension relieving exercises, Phil then gave us the task of talking about who we were as artists to the rest of the group. 

Watch everyone’s muscles tighten right back up again!  This was a very challenging exercise for all of us, even the most confident. Not only were we thinking about what we were going to say about ourselves, which should be the easy bit, but we were also thinking about how we projected our voices; where we looked; how we stood and what we did with our hands.  It pushed us out of our comfort zones, but was an invaluable exercise.  Phil was great at giving us feedback, and the tools we need to improve our public speaking.  I think we are all going home to practice in front of the mirror/partner/cat!

“A thought is a breath. Remember to breathe!” – Phil Bliss.

Limn Bottles, Catriona R. Mackenzie



Bethany Robinson
27 February 2015

Hothouse 5 southwest cohort gathered at Plymouth College of Art this week for the first two workshops.  We were overly excitable and eager to learn how to create a viable business model, whilst sticking to our values.

The first session, ‘Designing your future’ started off with ‘what’s in the gap?’ between two pictures we drew in the induction. The images illustrated where we think we are now and where we would like to be after the program.  This resulted in large mind maps that occasionally resembled smiley faces. These helped us work through and map out how we can work on these aspects of our business. 

“Its good to write in a big sculptural way” – Sarah Palmer

The second section of the session made us all question how we organise our lives. Some participants were clearly very well organised, but others (me included) realised we needed a new strategy. Sarah emphasized you have to find a system that works for you (and the usefulness of pencils).

“Excite and reassure!” – Rebecca Gouldson

Throughout the afternoon we heard from inspirational speakers, Rebecca Gouldson gave us a handy tip on securing commissions and public art projects. Chris showed us some lovely pictures of his work and talked us through alternative attitudes to failure. Sometimes imperfections add beauty to an object. He demonstrates this throughout his collection. 

Medium Bellied Vase, Chris Taylor

“Is failure always failure?"  – Chris Taylor

After a full, inspiring day of ideas, approaches and new strategies to mull over we all headed over to the barbican, a lovely area of Plymouth full of seaside restaurants, for a meal. 

Day 2, a session on business modelling kicked off with each participant giving a short talk about an inspirational person or business and aspects they liked about their approach to business. This resulted in a wonderful array of makers, designers and beautifully crafted things. As it’s the first presentations we have completed as a group we were all slightly nervous to begin with, but our nerves eased as we realised we were all in the same boat and everyone had really interesting things to bring to the table.

After this, we were fully aware a portion of the afternoon would be dedicated to finance, costing and accounts. Generally speaking these are not the most thrilling of subjects. However Andy Christian, of Christian and Dodd Accountants, gave the most entertaining talk I have experienced. At one point he began chopping bits off a piece of red paper declaring “this is the galleries cut”, “this is your cost of materials” and eventually… “THIS (holding up a rather small piece of red paper) is your PROFIT”. He very clearly explained the importance of correct costing and pricing. Next he explained the difference between being a sole trader and a limited company whilst loudly popping balloons, provoking screams from several of us. That’s one finance session we will struggle to forget.

Karin ended the day with a very useful business model canvas, we mapped out where we are now, where we want to be and how long it will take us to get there. We left the session with a concise action plan. 

I can safely say from all of us in the southwest cohort, we had an entertaining, inspirational, brain fog inducing, unexplainably valuable first two sessions. Cant wait for the next.

Great to see a poster from the Crafts Council's Manifesto on the wall of Plymouth College of Art. 

Rabbits Jaw, Vole Skull and Sparrows Foot, Bethany Robinson, 2014.



Beatrix Baker 
20 February 2015

It’s really exciting to be part of a group of people who want to make a career out of making things, who have ambitious plans and are excited by materials, shapes and ideas. We started Hothouse 5 in London with a big ‘show and tell’ session. Everyone brought in a piece of their work and talked about what they do. It was great to see the beautiful handmade objects first hand.

In Stockport the Northern Cohort reassembled in Manchester Metropolitan University's Marketplace Studios for two intensive days of thinking and discussion (and pies). Through various talks and workshops we tried to define our aims for our business models and how best to achieve these. We listened to a useful (and slightly mind boggling) talk on finance and taxes, discussed strategies to manage and plan time more efficiently (the urgent/important matrix is one I’ve started using straight away!).

Something we discussed with Sarah Palmer which really struck home was the importance of setting aside time for research and idea development, something which I love doing but which often gets pushed aside by more trivial tasks. I’m learning now that drawing and experimenting are an important part of my work. Another key point which kept coming up in our discussions was the fact that most makers have a very varied career comprised of different elements – making, writing, teaching, designing, marketing...

Very much looking forward to seeing the Northern crew again soon! It so valuable to be able to share ideas with people in the same boat – people who want to construct their care