Hotspot of talent - Lewes' creative community
PUBLISHED: 14:59 16 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:45 20 February 2013
Lewes is the county town of East Sussex, famous for its castle and its brewery. But, as Kate Eastman discovers, it has a thriving creative community producing beautiful objects that go much further afield
Nick Benjamin built his first guitar in 1990, aged seventeen, on a table in his bedroom. His parents were surprisingly tolerant of the wood shavings that made their way around the house!
I became entwined with guitar making because it combinesseveral of my loves; music, craftwork, design and engineering. I love the combination of trying to understand what it is thats making an instrument sound like it does and then pushing my craft and design skills to try and produce better guitars as myexperience progresses through the years, says Nick.
Nick builds quite traditional acoustic guitars but with a modern minimalist look that has very little extraneous decoration. The feature I am most proud of is my Benjamin Scoop cutaway, a unique design which is simple yet functional and looks pretty good too in my opinion!
With a current three-year waiting list for one of Nicks guitars he has to work very hard to produce his demand, usually making two batches of six guitars a year. My customers range from the chart topping Newton Faulkner to keen amateur players and dedicated professionals such as Clive Carroll and the late Eric Roche and it always brings me great pleasure to hear someone getting a good sound out of one of my guitars whether it be on the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury or seated among the wood shavings in my small workshop! says Nick.
To see some of Nicks guitars visit www.benjaminguitars.co.uk
Mary Fellows set up her ceramics business in April 1992 in Emsworth after completing a degree in 3D design using wood, metal and ceramics at Manchester Poly and, later, an MA at Brighton University.
When I set up the business I made a bit of all sorts of ceramics; tableware, mugs, teapots, jewellery, brooches and the cufflinks, explains Mary. The cufflinks were popular at the beginning but it was when a buyer at Libertys placed a big order that things really took off.
When Mary makes the cufflinks she usually does a batch of about 50 pairs. She explains: On day one I roll the clay and cut out the squares, day two I paint the design on and fire in the kiln overnight and, finally, day three I glaze and fire overnight.
The most interesting pair I have made would be for Nelson Mandela with the Union Jack hand painted on one and the South African flag on the other. They were made for him when he came to visit the Princes Trust in the UK with Prince Charles and given to him as a gift from the Trust.
Mary sells her cufflinks at www.maryfellows.co.ukand independent gift shops around the country including Tsena in Bond St Brighton.
Alexis Dovehas been making jewellery for 10 years after attending the Sir John Cass School of Art to do a City and Guilds in fine jewellery and diamond mounting. But her inspiration first started with her travels around the world.
I had always loved designer jewellery, but it was not until I went travelling for a year that I was really inspired to become a maker. I started to realise the importance offinding work that could be fulfilling andchallenging.
Today Alexis becomes inspired by all the elements around her. My method of designing newjewelleryis inspired by so many things;a walk along the Downs or the beach, a visit to the V&A Museum oran item found in a junk shop;all of these things come together to create a new idea, explains Alexis. I find working on new piecesis the most stressful and rewarding aspect of what I do. Itis a fascinating process of putting ideas together.
Alexis sells some of her work in her workshop, by appointment. Her collections are availablein more than 50 shops and galleries in the UK and Ireland or visitwww.alexisdove.com.
Before Louise Turner-Creasey started her career in the
handbag industry she completed a foundation course at Eastbourne Art College followed by a degree in theatre studies and art, specialising in costume design and textiles.
I have been sewing all my life but after taking time out to look after my two small sons I needed to boost my creativity so I studied The Open College of the Arts Textile course, explains Louise.
On this course I created my first fuchsia handbag. It
was then that I decided to set up my own label, Louise Turner Textiles. I wanted to specialise in handbags, each one a celebration of my love of sewing, colour, drama
Her creations can be time consuming. I am proud of every piece I make, I am a perfectionist when it comes to my work so I couldnt sell or show something if I wasnt happy with it, says Louise.
It takes her many hours to create a fuchsia bag, each section has to be completed without a mistake. It takes thirty-six components to cut out, embellish with embroidery and beads and then sew together, with no mistakes! explains Louise. That is why I only make one bag at a time, each bag is unique."
Louise has a permanent collection of work on display at The Sussex Guild Shop in Southover Grange, she will also be running a series of Creative Sewing classes there from April.
Pippa Burley began sculpting from life in 1984 at The Working Mens College in Camden, London, and went on to attend the Sir John Cass School of Art two years later. It wasnt until moving to Lewes in 1992 that she started selling her work when someone came and knocked on her door to find out where shed purchased the sculpture on her doorstep.
I have always been fascinated by the human form and having been reared in an artistic family I was encouraged to draw from life, explains Pippa.The moment I touched the clay and began observing and building the form, I was utterly smitten. The delightful texture of clay, its strength and yet fluidity, makes it perfect for rendering human form.
Pippa begins each piece focusing on the balance and movement of the pose. I sometimes work life size, sometimes far less. Once a visually sound structure has been built, I build up the piece.
But she once learned a salutary lesson when she didnt wish to be constrained by making a framework for a sculpture. I became positively inspired by a delightful mans torso, and threw together a life-size impression in one session that had the class at the time all a buzz. The following week there was just a pile of clay where my masterpiece had once been.
This year Pippa will be exhibiting as part of Brightons Open House Festival in May and at the Hop Gallery in Lewes with the Star Group, and as part of Lewes Artwave. For further information visit www.pippaburley.com