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Creative Spaces in Manchester : Part 5 : Savwo and Textbook Studio at Islington Mill 09 May

This week we ventured a little farther-a-field to Islington Mill in Salford, to meet Illustrator and screen printing specialist Savwo, and graphic designers Textbook Studio.

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There are several ex-industrial Mills that have been repurposed as Studios in and around Manchester, and Islington Mill is one of the best. We spoke to John Powell Jones, aka Savwo, and John Newton, Chris Shearston and Vicky Carr of Textbook Studio about running your own creative business, and the different sorts of studios that are available to work from.

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Textbook Studio started up as a business around two years ago, after a work placement that the three designers were on ended prematurely. They had all studied on the same course at Stockport College, and decided that instead of seeking employment with bigger design agencies, that they would start their own.

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John, Vicky and Chris describe how they found the creative community in Manchester to be incredibly helpful and supportive when they were starting out, with people who could be their competitors happy to offer advice. Similarly, all three also occasionally teach at universities and colleges, giving the students a fresh perspective from people who’ve achieved success soon after graduation.

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Savwo on the other hand did not learn his craft at University or College, but instead simply fell in love with screen printing after completing a course at Hotbed Press. John a.k.a Savwo recounts how he had been producing illustrations and posters for bands, but found that with high quality screen printed t-shirts and posters he would be able to make a living from his craft. John agrees with Textbook Studio, that the community of designers in Manchester and the Northwest have been supportive and welcoming, with local businesses often eager to commission smaller design companies and independent illustrators.

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Savwo and Textbook Studio were previously based in  studios in a different, more dilapidated old mill – with holes and leaks being a common problem for artists’ studios. Now, working side-by-side in their newly refurbished studio space at Islington Mill, they they can share opinions on each other’s work, and create a dialogue around their projects. There is also a strong sense of community at the Islington Mill Studios, which is rare in large complexes where you can often go for a long time without seeing any of the other studio-holders. Sharing studio space is often inevitable for artists, but this needn’t be a problem – bringing a level of sociability to what can otherwise be a lonely pursuit.

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Written by Lauren Velvick / Photos by Elle Brotherhood

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