Inside and Open – Wasps Studios

Dundee, recently named one of the UK’s 10 creative towns to live, work and play by Creative Boom, is packed full of creative people and Wasps Studios is one of the city’s busy hubs of artists, designers and creatives. Wasps will be open to everyone later this month for their annual Open Studios Weekend.

Wasps Studios (Workshop and Artists’ Studio Provision Scotland) is one of the UK’s largest studio providers with over 800 visual artists and 23 arts charities at 17 sites across Scotland. The Dundee studio is situated in an old mill near Verdant Works and whilst it continues to look like the original building on the outside, the inside is a completely different story. The building has been redesigned to feature three levels of studios, which are home to a variety of artists and designers giving each tenant the freedom to make the studios their own.

What some people may not know however is that the very first Wasps Studios was set up in Dundee in 1977 and in 1989 the studios moved to Meadow Mill where they are still. The current space was refurbished in 2012, adding in a new floor with more studio space for artists to let their creative flair run wild. The refurbishment also added in a project room and exhibition space, which can be hired out for workshops and exhibitions by Wasps residents as well as members of the public.

Wasps Open Studio Weekend

Dates: 24th & 25th October, 12noon—5pm both days.

Location: 2nd, 3rd & 4th Floors, Meadow Mill, West Hendersons Wynd, DD1 5BY.

Visit many of artist studios and take in some additional weekend activities:

Meadow Mill Social. Saturday, 7pm-9pm. Join the Meadow Mill Artists for a late opening of the exhibition space including music, drinks and good company, sponsored by the Taybridge Bar.

Guided Tours. Both days 1pm. A special tour of the studios. Ask any question as you go around. Refreshments will be available on each floor.

Just Judith Design Demonstrations with Judith McDowall. Both days on the hour. Textile artist and maker Judith offers demonstrations throughout the day. See her making patterns on water using marbling techniques and then transferring them onto fabric. Participants of all ages are welcome.

Introduction to Sand Casting with Robin Bell (The Wee Robin). Saturday 11am-1pm and Sunday 1.30pm-3.30pm. Have a go at melting down some silver to make lovely new jewellery. Suitable for those aged over 16 and is limited to four participants per session.

Sketch, Draft and Draw. Both days. An exhibition of tenants’ sketches, sketchbooks, doodle and the development drawings for the final works.

Drop In and Draw. Both days 12pm-4pm. Visitors of all ages can try out a variety of drawing tools. There will also be some very special pages drawn by our artists for participants to color in.

 

In the run up to Wasps Open Studios Weekend, Creative Dundee met with Jill Skulina, Studio Rep for Wasps Studios Dundee and a few others who create their work within Wasps Studios Dundee.

Jill Skulina, Visual Artist

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What was your journey to becoming a resident at Wasps?
“I moved here in 2008 after completing my Masters in Fine Art. I think I’d been on the waiting list about 7 months when I got the call that there was an available studio space. I was relieved when I was accepted that I didn’t have to stay in the stinky, badly lit, back room of the village hall! My first space was a shared studio with 3 other artists, so straight away I was able to integrate and understand the workings of the building. After the refurb I moved to the brand new 4th floor and share with one other.”

How has being based at Wasps Studios impacted your work?
“Having the space to leave work in the middle of the creative process is invaluable. You don’t have to tidy up to make way for dinner plates or homework. You can escape from dishes and vacuuming, it’s all about the artwork. Also having other artists about to talk with definitely helps because you’re not working in a creative bubble like you would at home. They often have a solution you haven’t seen or thought of and wee kitchen conversations can unblock a thought process.”

What responsibilities do you take on when you hire a space at Wasps Studios? Are you left to do your own thing?
“Yeah – you’re left alone to do your own thing. The only real responsibilities each resident has is to make sure the communal spaces are left clear and tidy but everyone here is left to their own devices.”

Do residents become part of a ‘community’?
“Yes, but not straight away, it does take some time, tenants are usually holed up working when they are in, so it’s mostly when there’s an event of some kind we start to come out of the woodwork. There are more opportunities for socializing now we have an exhibition space; we regularly have public events and gallery openings. There is also a communal seating area, where we hold meetings or just sit for lunch. And there’s always the kitchen for a good blether.”

What advice would you give to creatives who want to join Wasps Studios?
“Get on the waiting list ASAP! Also come along to the open days, there might be people who want to share their studio but they haven’t met someone to share with yet. Ruby Coyne who has Dreamland Clothing is a great example as she came along to the open studios last year and then moved in shortly afterwards. If you want to get on the waiting list then see details on the Wasps website about how to apply.”

What is the application process?
“We require an up to date CV, 6 images of recent work and a statement on why you need a studio. Wasps like to try and keep a balance of disciplines within the studios. By being on the waiting list you’ll be kept up to date on studio availability. The studios are substantially cheaper than commercial rates and are targeted at professional fine and applied artists. There are also graduate spaces available within a large shared studio.”

Scarlett Erskine, Jewellery Designer

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“I first came to Wasps Studios in 2012 as part of Vanilla Ink, a jewellery studio with the aim of developing new talent by providing a supportive studio space for a year. After completing that I hired a bench in their studio for another year as I enjoyed the community feel at Wasps. Another year passed and I was ready to get a studio with some other designers from Vanilla Ink – we knew that we didn’t want to look anywhere other than Wasps. I was lucky that a few studios were available at the time and the studio I have acquired along with some other designers originally belonged to my Vanilla Ink mentor, Nikki McWilliams, so I was already familiar with the space.
I like working in Wasps studios because there’s a whole variety of artists and designers and we’re all in the same boat, being self-employed businesses, so we can ask each other for advice. The open studio days are also great as it allows customers who already know about Wasps to discover the different creatives here. Being in Wasps is great as I can display my work so that when customers come in to the studio, they can see where I make my jewellery while make purchases without having a shop premises.
My advice for creatives interested in joining Wasps is that it needs to be your passion and you should have a drive for what you do. If it’s something that you love then go for it, apply and come along to an open studios day. At the open studio days feel free to ask designers any questions you have – the people at Wasps are very helpful and can offer advice from their own experience.”

Bruce Shaw, Artist

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“I was a mature student at Duncan of Jordanstone after having an engineering background. I went to university to satisfy my creative curiosity and graduated back in 2009. Since then I have been working on my art work.
I like being based in Wasps because it’s such a creative space. I’m in amongst a lot of other artists and it gives me an opportunity to actually go somewhere to work. It’s very hard to work from home – you’ve got to be disciplined but if you’ve got a space to work in each day you’re more productive. Wasps has also got a good name and I do feel that when speaking to other artists or gallery owners, saying I have a space in Wasps gives my work a bit more weight. It adds a bit more professionalism to say I’m based at Wasps.
I live in Perth but there’s a lot more things going on in Dundee creatively with the DCA, DJCAD, and Wasps to name a few. My advice to visual artists starting out in Dundee is to make contacts with as many people you can – there’s a great creative community in Dundee.”


Valerie Norris
, Artist

Valerie Norris, Suprema Persian, 2014, Screenprint

Valerie Norris, Suprema Persian, 2014, Screenprint

“I studied for my undergraduate degree, and a few years later, on the Master of Fine Art course at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design and have continued to make work since graduating from both. I’ve worked at Dundee Contemporary Arts since 2005 and not long after starting a colleague offered me a space in a shared studio at Wasps, and I’ve been here ever since. The studios were refurbished a few years ago and although the old spaces were great, they are much nicer and warmer now! There’s a nice sense of community at Wasps, everyone is friendly and supportive and there’s a good mix of disciplines.

I like having a studio at Wasps because it’s a defined space – this is where I come to work. It’s great to be able to have that focus and I can be messy here and have all my work and materials in one place. Along with having a dedicated studio, another benefit of being at Wasps is being able to use the project rooms. A lot of my work is fairly small in scale, but if I’m working on larger sculptural work or an installation, I can book one of the project rooms for an afternoon or a day which gives me a much bigger space to work in. It can be quite difficult to find spaces like that and it’s really useful if I’m preparing for an exhibition; it helps me to see what is and isn’t working and to figure out how best to finish and present the work.

The best advice I can think of is just to keep making your work and be committed to your practice, even if it’s just a small amount of time each week. It can be hard trying to maintain a practice alongside a job that pays the bills, but I know so many artists who do it – it is possible! Keep applying for opportunities, go to exhibitions and events and organise your own if you can. Talk to like-minded peers and colleagues and keep researching and learning about your field. If you think you’d like to get a studio space at Wasps, it’s best to get your name on the waiting list as soon as possible! It’s a good place to work.”


Cally Booker
, Weaver

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Photo courtesy of Cultural Enterprise Office.

“I came to weaving just over a decade ago and was immediately smitten. I went back to college to study weaving and when I finished, I was weaving from home but found it difficult to find the space and time to fully commit to my craft. When Wasps was refurbished in 2012 and more studios were available, I applied for a space and have been here just over 3 years but I feel as though I’ve been here forever!
Having my own studio has made a huge difference. I love having space for my looms and that I can host classes here. I also like having neighbours – how lucky can you be to have a place full of looms that you can come to each day in an environment filled with great people?
Being based at Wasps has allowed me to offer workshops which I couldn’t offer at home – the workshops have grown over the years which has helped me to get my name out there. Also, being part of a bigger community means that I’m more aware of opportunities available and collaborations can occur through people I meet with here.
My advice to creatives in Dundee is to just make things. Don’t worry about if people will like it or not – just keep making your work and enjoy what you do.”

Ruby Coyne, Dreamland

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“I came to the open day in October last year all alone on a cold day and it was like something out of a Disney film opening these little doors and seeing everyone’s creations behind them – I was totally blown away!  I went home and told everyone I needed to have a studio space here and was very persistent with the Wasps team in Glasgow who review submissions. I had my heart set on the space I’m in – 308 and I ended up not getting it. I was devastated as I felt studio 308 was going to be Dreamland’s HQ but fortunately for me, the person who was meant to be here ended up cancelling and I got this space which made me appreciate it even more.

I finally feel that I’m established by having this studio space. I studied at Gray’s School of Art and have taken part in internships but now when I turn the key in the door, this is my personal space where I can make my creations and it would not be possible if I wasn’t here at Wasps – it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me!
When people visit me for interviews or photoshoots, it’s great to show them Wasps as there’s so much going on here, it’s a place where people make things happen. 2 doors down from me is one of my best friends who also has her own clothing label, Hayley Scanlan, and then on the 4th floor you have Isolated Heroes who are absolutely killing it right now so it’s good that we’re all here – there’s a whole mixture of specialities and I think in the future a collaboration with other people who are based at Wasps would be amazing.

My advice to creatives starting out in Dundee is to be realistic. It’s important to have a bit of money behind you and you need to have a clear vision. You must also be very determined but appreciate that opportunities are not always going to knock on your door – you need to go out there and grab them with both hands. There’s a lot of creative things going on in Dundee but really lasso people and get them to come to you. Determination is key.”

Judith McDowall, Textile Designer

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“I moved into Wasps studios in 2014 and have found it to be an affordable, fantastic place to harness my creativity.  To be around a supportive group of likeminded people is crucial. There is always someone around to bounce ideas off of which helps me with my creativity process.
I started designing and making hats and scarves recently with a focus on women experiencing hair loss. I work closely with Maggie’s Centre Dundee and volunteers to create more informed designs. I find this is very exciting as it combines my interest in health care and my love of making hats to create meaningful designs.
My advice for any new creatives in Dundee is to leave the chaos and distraction of home (I have 3 kids) and find a separate place to work from and surround yourself with likeminded people. Wasps studios is a great place to be based and I would highly recommend anybody who is interested in a space here to come down to an open studios day.”

 

Wasps Open Studio Weekend

Dates: 24th & 25th October, 12noon—5pm both days.

Location: 2nd, 3rd & 4th Floors, Meadow Mill, West Hendersons Wynd, DD1 5BY.

Visit many of artist studios and take in some additional weekend activities:

Meadow Mill Social. Saturday, 7pm-9pm. Join the Meadow Mill Artists for a late opening of the exhibition space including music, drinks and good company, sponsored by the Taybridge Bar.

Guided Tours. Both days 1pm. A special tour of the studios. Ask any question as you go around. Refreshments will be available on each floor.

Just Judith Design Demonstrations with Judith McDowall. Both days on the hour. Textile artist and maker Judith offers demonstrations throughout the day. See her making patterns on water using marbling techniques and then transferring them onto fabric. Participants of all ages are welcome.

Introduction to Sand Casting with Robin Bell (The Wee Robin). Saturday 11am-1pm and Sunday 1.30pm-3.30pm. Have a go at melting down some silver to make lovely new jewellery. Suitable for those aged over 16 and is limited to four participants per session.

Sketch, Draft and Draw. Both days. An exhibition of tenants’ sketches, sketchbooks, doodle and the development drawings for the final works.

Drop In and Draw. Both days 12pm-4pm. Visitors of all ages can try out a variety of drawing tools. There will also be some very special pages drawn by our artists for participants to color in.

 

Top image: Ross Fraser McLean.