Last month we found ourselves with a gap in our Manchester window display programme so we got in touch with the Engine House Studio collective to see if they would like to put something together for us. The result was a fantastic display of creative disciplines; we wanted to find out more about this talented collective so we met them for a coffee and a chat at Ezra & Gill.
Comprising of Aliyah Hussain, Caroline Dowsett, Daniel Russel, DR.ME, himHallows, Manchester Custom Framing, Mariel Osborn, Rob Bailey, Steve Hockett, Studio Up and Textbook Studio; the collective was formed when they moved into their shared studio space, the Engine House at Salford’s Islington Mill earlier in the year.
They explained how last December Islington Mill put the Engine House out for tender, accepting public suggestions for how the studio space could be used. Previously occupied by design studio Raw, the Engine House is now home to the eleven multi disciplinary creatives. The Engine House is one of the nicest spaces in the whole complex at Islington Mill; with three floors, bathrooms and a kitchen it is easy to see why the group wanted the space. Once the tender went public the group discussed the pro’s of having a shared studio space
“we had all separately discussed the idea of having a shared space… and because we are such good mates, we knew it would be incredible to do it.“
Across the three levels of the Engine House, you will find Studio Up and Manchester Custom Framing on the ground floor who produce texiles and upholstery and framing services respectively. Up the first flight of stairs Textbook Studio, Rob, DR ME, Daniel and himHallows produce their work which covers illustration, design, sculpture, collage amongst others. And finally the top floor is home to Caroline, Aliyah and Mariel who work across illustration, jewellery, textile and spatial design.
Rather than restricting the group or creating divisions, the layout opens up more potential working space; “If we need to do a big build we head downstairs and vice versa if Callum or Lulu need to work on something upstairs.”
A typical week in the Engine House can be varied with a core group in 9-5, some people doing the night shift and the weekend warriors. But every other week the group meets for lunch to eat and chat about how things are going and what they are working on. And of course there are always evenings down the pub or at an exhibition launch. The way in which the artists use the Engine House shifts depending on who has a project on; most recently, Steve was preparing for the launch of his cycling zine, The Coefficient of Drag. In the run up to the launch, the group explained how Steve expanded out his working space in the Engine House and when someone else does a big project they will expand out.
Having such a range of practices and resources under one roof means that for the artists, the Engine House is a bit like art school.
“Since leaving university Textbook have been collecting things, printers, riso scanner, camera so now we have all these resources its amazing to see what we can all make producing in a different way. Having all our shared resources is incredible.“
Working together in the studio means the group gets constant crits and feedback; “We all influence each other…the resources are everywhere in the studio and everyone has advice about the techniques that they already know“. Recently Rob Bailey, who usually works on computer produced some wood blocks with vinyl for the One of One pop up shop, “seeing people making work based their hands more made him think ‘I’m going to try that’.” By working in a communal space and seeing everyone working on their process it has demystified it, making it much more accessible, “No one is precious about their practice, so everyone is willing to help each other.”
Being based at Islington Mill has provided them with the support and the space that has allowed them to push their own practices in lots of different directions. “They always have the motto of giving you a base to do whatever you want to do, which kind of sounds wishy washy or bogus but its really true.” The community spirit that has been fostered at Islington Mill has meant that the group are never short of a helping hand;
“there is always some invisible help going on in the background because people are happy to just help someone else but not take any ownership, just celebrate it because working in that way makes us all stronger, everyone helps everyone.“
For example, last month Caroline had a solo exhibition in the gallery space at the mill, and it is these kind of opportunities that arise by being a part of that community.
“At Islington mill, if you ever have an idea, and you think it might be too crazy, you look around and you realise, actually its not that crazy. You can never do anything too weird. You feel really liberated by the fact that you can do anything.“
The collective all agree that The Mill, as it is more fondly referred to, is a pretty special place. “It offers so much to people in Manchester and gives opportunity to people that haven’t previously had a platform, whether it’s a space for gigs, exhibitions or all day festivals.” The group have recently produced a series of posters to help spread the word about Islington Mill’s fundraising campaign for desperately needed match funding to help repair it’s roof. “There aren’t many mills like it and there aren’t may artist mills any more and it would be a real shame if it isn’t able to continue doing what it is doing.”
Its been a busy few months for the collective with creative projects, collaborations, exhibitions and book launches. Most recently; Aliyah has launched her jewellery website, where you can buy her beautiful ceramic creations, Mariel launched the new collection for Covet Interiors and DR.ME ‘s book Cut That Out hit the shelves, featuring many Manchester creatives.
So there aren’t many months when you won’t get a chance to see and buy the work that the Engine House Studio collective produce, this month alone you can head to One of One at Caustic Coastal or Manchester Print Fair during Design Manchester.
If you aren’t able to make it to either of those, the head over to the Engine House Studio print shop where you can pick up a limited edition print for a mere £15!
We can’t wait to see what the future holds for the collective because with their, drive and creative talent anything is possible!
“We like working together, we get to hang out and work on big projects together and as a group we can do something really exciting. “