Friday, 5 December 2008

From Space - Islington Mill Shop

From Space

Where is it?
142 Chapel Street
M3 6AF
Open Wednesday -Saturday 11am-6pm
Late opening Thursday until 8pm

History From Space is the new shop opened to showcase the work of artists and designers based at Islington Mill. Mark Carlin, a former musician, co-runs the Mill with fashion designer Bill Campbell, who bought the building in 2001.

Carlin describes the Mill as an “artists’ led project”, based in James Street just off Chapel Street. Although best known to the outside world as the starting place of the Ting Tings and local music fans as a gig and club night venue, it now hosts over 40 studio spaces, which are full of “all manner of small businesses and artists” and “people who make individual products”. These include ceramicists, clothes-makers, creators of designer furniture and lighting specialists. Carlin explains: “There are lots of people who make stuff at the Mill, but that’s not really what it’s known for.”

The Mill is also home to film makers and theatre, as well as the 'self-led' Arts Academy. Carlin says the shop is “a bit of an experiment, like everything else”. The shop isn’t in the Mill itself, because “there's not really space” with the art gallery and recording studio. Though also tucked away in Chapel Street, its location is“a little bit closer to town” than the Mill and just a short walk from Deansgate.

Who shops there? Not just art collectors - anyone can own a small piece of the Mill. Carlin says: “Some of what's on sale is quite expensive, but there are items that are only £1. You can get t-shirts for £10, going up to prints for £500 and clothes at £300.”

What does it sell? Carlin sums it up as “a mixture of fine arts and digital arts prints, fashion and books”. The Glasgow based art books publisher Aye-Aye books has a space at the Mill and links to the art academy. The promoter Comfortable on a Tightrope is also selling fanzines and pamphlets.

If you want something to hang on your wall, art ranges from large canvasses to small pastel life drawings and pencil nudes. Joe Barker has made whimsical acetates in blurry black and white, whilst David Williams photographs nature close-up in glowing colour. Andrew Brooks, who has an upcoming exhibition at the Urbis, is selling photographic prints of the Salford skyline. Tragen Design has contributed a shelf and a striking oval mirror with a wooden frame.

Fashion fans will love Andrea Zap's garments made of vintage fabrics combined with new materials and unusual finds, as well as textiles by the wonderfully named company dontbitchstitch.
T-shirts publicise the band Hotpants Romance, and there are CDs on sale by artists on local DJ Andy Woods' record label, Pronoia, which is based at the Mill.
Ceramics are well represented. Liz Scrine has made fantastic, large scale pieces, including a sculpture of two towers, and a large, tree-like candle holder which is accompanied by ceramic rats and cheese and entitled ‘Stop the Rate Race’. She’s also selling leaf tiles and fold-up ceramic screens. Crackpots offers unique, Cubist influenced ‘thoughts bowls' and ‘goodie barrels’ stamped with provocative statements. Beverly Gee makes quirky ceramic pots festooned with twigs.

Why go there?
Carlin hopes people will be attracted by the unusual space itself, and the “rough and ready aesthetics of the building”.The shop is staffed by volunteers from the mill, providing an extra area to work in. Carlin says: “People can come in and see something that is going to be sold, as it’s being made.”

Carlin says “90 per cent of the products aren’t available anywhere else”. He explains: “A lot of the work is practical and useful. It can sit in people’s houses, but it’s not just off the shelf IKEA stuff.”

There's an added, seasonal bonus - mince pies, as well as charming hand-made Christmas cards that are heavy on glitter.

Future Carlin describes From Space as a “temporary store” - the building is owned by neighbouring Britch architects, who have given permission for it to be used for a year before it is redeveloped. He says it’s a “project-led” shop and there will be “things happening in it”.

Artists’ groups, both local and from further afield, will be invited to get involved. Artists will be asked to respond to the space and see what they come up with.

Verdict Far from being run of the mill.

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