Libby Ayres: Painting with synaesthesia

We’re always blown away by the natural talent and original flair of artists, how they’re able to put on canvas an image formed in their mind. Libby Ayres, a freelance artist currently based in Manchester, takes it one step further. Libby has synaesthesia, a phenomenon which enables her to experience sounds as colours; using wax as her medium, she takes songs and manifests them into the physical.

Generally something which enhances her enjoyment of music, Libby’s synaesthesia makes it very easy for her to notice changes in people’s tone of voice, experiencing it with everything from traffic to the tapping of keyboard keys.

For anyone with synaesthesia, it affects each person differently, making Libby’s work entirely unique to her. Here she discusses her painting process, how she formed her signature style, and why synaesthesia makes painting a gift as well as a talent.

Graphics: Hannah McCreath

For those who aren’t familiar with synaesthesia, are you able to describe what you see when you hear sound?

My elevator pitch is that synaesthesia is a neurological phenomenon where a stimulus to one sense causes a reaction in another. For me, this means when I hear sounds, I see colours.

Although I describe myself as being able to “see” what music sounds like, it’s a bit of a deceptive term and I only use it for simplicity. It’s more accurate to say I know or experience colour when I hear sound. The colours aren’t floaters in my vision and they don’t impede my ability to see. It’s much the same way you know when you’re experiencing deja vu; you know exactly what’s going on and how it fits together, but it’s not tangible.

There are many kinds of synaesthesia, and the strain of it I have is called chromesthesia. Some people get it the other way around, that when they see colours they hear sounds, and some people experience links between colours and numbers, or letters and colours. At art fairs, and online, people often come up and tell me about the synaesthesia they experience. It surprised me at first because I didn’t realise it was so common, but I love sharing stories. I like the way people who experience number/letter to colour synaesthesia talk about it; “Wednesday is red”, “M is green”. It simply… is. For me, sound is colour.

I don’t see myself as an artist, perhaps because I can’t draw or paint things realistically in a traditional manner. But also I see what I do as something closer to a language than a painting, because it feels more like a translation than an interpretation. I am taking what I experience and putting it on canvas, aiming for it to be as accurate as possible.

Did your synaesthesia inspire you to start painting or do you paint as a way to express your synaesthesia?

I think this question is a bit chicken and egg, as the two come hand in hand. The first painting I did was because I had cheap and easily accessible materials, and I wanted to try and put down what I was experiencing, to see if I could make the intangible tangible. At first it was very demoralising because what I painted looked nothing like I expected it to. I’d got the ratios of colours all wrong and I didn’t know how to transpose this impalpable image to a physical canvas.

I struggle to hold all the details of what a song “looks” like in my head. If you play me a song and ask me to tell you the colours on the spot, I could probably only pick out a few. What I like about painting is being able to get those main colours, generally the background, down, so I can turn my focus to the more intricate parts.

What does your painting process look like?

If it’s a song I’ve not heard before, which is often the case with commissions, I listen to it for hours beforehand. The same way you can’t look directly at the sun, I find it incredibly hard to sit down, listen to a song and pick out the colours on a first listen. Not only is the pressure immense, there are also so many small parts you miss on your first or even fifth listen. So I tend to put it on a speaker whilst I’m cooking or working, then listen on headphones, sometimes for hours until I feel I know it inside out.

When I paint, I like to sit down and paint in one go. Because of this, I don’t like to start until I’m confident I’m ready. On bigger pieces, I’ll do a miniature beforehand. So the paint doesn’t drip or run when it shouldn’t, I have to place the canvas flat on the floor and work around it.

I use purchased frames, I don’t build my own, but unwrapping and stretching the canvas is effectively the warm up before I start painting. Finishing is a lot harder than starting; I struggle to know when to stop, when adding more detail is just adding clutter.

When I paint, I have to listen to the song on repeat. If I know it very well I can put it on a speaker, but generally I need to have my headphones on to hear properly over the heatgun. I can’t paint from memory. In fact, very often, shortly after finishing the painting and taking my headphones off, I’ll see it and think, “Hmm, shouldn’t that have been a brighter red?” and I’ll have to listen to the song and remind myself of why I chose that colour.

Using wax sets you apart from many artists. Why is wax more suited to you and your style? 

Except for drawings that got stuck on the fridge when I was a child, I was never into art before I started painting music. I’d only done one painting before I started this project, and that was barely a painting at all. I sellotaped a row of pastel coloured wax crayons to the top of a 9×12″ canvas, propped it upright, and blasted them with the heat gun until all the colours melted and ran down the canvas.

It was doing that painting that made me realise I wanted to paint with wax. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I wanted to start painting as quickly and cheaply as possible, and that piece made me realise wax crayons and a heat gun were a perfectly viable medium.

I’ve tried painting with watercolours and oils and never had the same amount of success. I’m yet to connect with another medium like I do with wax. I quite like that now I have six or so years experience working with it, so I know how it behaves and how to manipulate it in a way I would have to relearn if I changed tack.

Perhaps it’s a bit individualistic of me, but I pride myself on the fact that I’ve had to teach myself it all. There’s no guidebook to melting Crayola until it looks like a song – or if there is, I haven’t read it. For the first few years I didn’t use any ‘professional’ artists’ tools like palette knives to manipulate the hot wax, I used old debit cards and membership cards. Sometimes I still use them but… they also melt, so they can’t get too hot. I only upgrade to traditional artists’ tools when I feel that what I’m using isn’t the best tool for the job, so to speak. The heat gun I use is Bosch.

There is a type of painting called encaustic painting or hot wax painting, where you melt beeswax and add pigment to it, but I don’t know if that definition is broad enough to include what I do.

I see what I do as something closer to a language than a painting, because it feels more like a translation than an interpretation.

Libby Ayres

Every so often someone tells me I “should” be using acrylic paints instead, but I don’t like what I make being seen as inferior because I use cheaper materials. I think the quote unquote world of art is past art being made using the most expensive materials, and it’s now more about the piece itself. I think Tracey Emin’s My Bed reflects that, and it was first exhibited over 20 years ago.

Experimenting with acrylic is certainly on my list, but it’s not at the top. I’m more interested in what I can create with mediums like collage or spray paint.

Which song has been the most difficult to paint and why?

When I just started painting, I found every song hard! It took me a few years to be really satisfied that what was on the canvas accurately reflected what I experienced.

Logistically, two stand out. I found Vital Signs by Frank Turner a pain – literally. It was quite a big canvas and it needed a variety of coloured dashes along the diagonal. One of the disadvantages of painting with hot wax is that to make sure the paint doesn’t run when you don’t want it to, you need the canvas to be flat. That meant I spent about four hours squatting over the canvas to get it right. I still hurt the next day, but it was worth it.

The other piece that springs to mind was a triptych of There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake. It was the first triptych I’d painted, and it remains the only one, and deciding both the logistics and how to divide the painting over three canvases was tricky.

Whenever I get a commission to do a song that I’m very fond of, I find it especially hard. A good example is Lua by Bright Eyes, which is from my favourite album, ever, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. I delayed and delayed doing this until I couldn’t anymore. I put too much pressure on myself to get it right the first time. Sometimes songs I love are the easiest to paint, sometimes they’re agonisingly hard.

As a freelance artist, how would you like to develop your art and business?

The problem I face at the minute is that it’s not very accessible. At fairs or online, there’s a lot of preamble to explain what synaesthesia is before people really “understand” the paintings. As you’ve mentioned, painting with wax is unusual and I want to better understand the art of the possible in using it as a medium. I’m trying to get into painting landscapes. Growing up I visited a lot of small galleries in Wales and Scotland where the walls were filled with local artists’ work, almost always landscapes of the nearby coastline or moors. I think that’s a world I want to move into.

Equally, there’s so much I could do with synaesthesia beyond painting songs. I could move into the world of painting people’s voices – or laughter! – or how cities or the countryside appear to me.

Another problem is that the vast majority of people are interested in a specific song for a commission. I can only think of one occasion where I’ve painted the same song twice. That means there’s no substantial market in prints, which have a higher margin. I feel there’s a culture of shying away from discussing money in the world of independent artists, but it’s a tricky topic that deserves light shining on it. We make something and deserve to be remunerated for it, but there’s often a discrepancy between the worth of a piece in the eye of the buyer and seller. Some people tell me I’m charging far too much, some people say I should be charging much more.

At the start of the year I worked with a band, Blood Like Honey, to create the cover for their single Rooftop Beach. The projects I like best are when I get to work with someone on something and this was one of those.

There are many avenues I would like to explore with both synaesthesia and wax. If nothing else, all this time cooped up indoors is giving me an opportunity to investigate some of them!


Interview: Jessica Howell

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“Nice girls can make it” – filling the North with colour with Myro Doodles

Words: Hannah Molyneux

If you’ve spent any time in Manchester or the surrounding towns, then you’ve probably seen some Myro Doodles artwork. In fact, it seems that there are few pockets of the North West that haven’t had the Myro Doodles touch. Myro Coates is the illustrator and window artist whose doodles have graced the windows of Paperchase, John Lewis, and M&S, the wards of North Manchester General Hospital, and the boardrooms of Bruntwood. Her art radiates joy and positivity in a myriad of colours that shine out of the grey Mancunian landscape. 

The same joy and positivity beams from Myro herself when we meet at one of her favourite Prestwich spots. She speaks with a real love for her craft that goes back to her childhood. “I was the kid that always had to make the poster; I was the kid that drew on the paper tablecloth at the restaurant. I’ve got no background in art really, but on the other hand it’s something I’ve been doing almost every day for my whole life.” Perhaps this is why Myro is still so humble about her work and its place in the world. “It’s mind-blowing that people want my work for their weddings, for their kids’ bedrooms, as a gift… That’s real trust. I’ve seen some customers through lots of milestones in their lives: I meet them as boyfriend and girlfriend when they ask for a Valentine’s card, then they’re getting married and they ask me to do their stationery. Next they’re pregnant and they come back to me again… I’ve seen some couples all the way through and become part of their lives.”

“Whatever I’m doing, a bit of me gets left behind in it.”

There is a little bit of Myro all over Prestwich. She laughs, “My husband calls me the mayor of Prestwich because we can’t go anywhere without someone stopping me to ask if I’m the lady that does the drawing!” Myro’s art is ubiquitous in this north Manchester town, bringing a pop of colour to shop windows up and down the high street. It’s fitting that she should be so well represented here, as the town holds a special place in her heart. “Prestwich will always be home; it’s where the more public part of my work started.”

“While I was working at a local community shop, they found out I could draw and soon I was doing all of the labels and signage – I think there’s still some doodles of mine on their A-board! The windows were always empty, and one day someone handed me a pack of chalk pens and asked me to draw on the window. And I remember being horrified – ‘you want me to draw on the glass?!’ I was gobsmacked that you could even do it. My first design left a lot to be desired but it wasn’t awful – and people loved it. I didn’t invent window art, but there wasn’t really anything like that around here before. People started to look forward to the next designs – it was a labour of love, but it became a real feature.”

And what began as doodling on the job quickly became a job in itself. “Over time, other local businesses started to come in and offer to pay me to do theirs. And it grew and grew. I did more in Manchester and Altrincham, and then in Cheshire and the Midlands. Suddenly, I found myself with a job live drawing for Chambord at an event at Kensington Olympia in London, and that came about because someone had been out for a drink in Prestwich, seen my artwork, and looked me up on Instagram. It was a real wow moment.”

One of Myro’s most special projects, however, came about in 2018, in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing. Wanting to mark the first anniversary of the tragedy while raising money for the charity set up to help those affected, Myro launched the 22 Bees Project, which aimed to see 22 bees – one for each of the victims of the bombing – doodled in the windows of local businesses. The urge to do something to commemorate the anniversary came from Myro’s great love of the city itself, and its people. “I think, in some other places, belonging is to do with being born there or living on the right postcode – but in Manchester, whether you were born here or you arrived six months ago, you’re in. You don’t have to have the accent, wear a parka, or eat gravy, but you’re part of the community. I think it’s very rare to find an identity like that, that’s so precious but also so welcoming and inclusive.”

It’s a Mancunian identity and community that has strengthened the wake of the attack. “I didn’t know anyone directly affected by the bombing,” she tells me. “But at the same time, I felt like I knew everyone. So often, in big cities where these things have happened before, there’s a massive focus on keeping calm and carrying on – I’m thinking of images like the man walking down Tower Bridge with a pint in his hand. And I understand the need to do that. But here, it seemed to hit everyone. The next day, it felt like everyone was in mourning – it was the saddest day.”

It wasn’t long before the bee – the long-time emblem of Manchester inspired by its industrial past – became a symbol of hope and togetherness. Completing the 22 Bees Project, with help from two other local illustrators, Myro tells me how real that hope felt. “On the day we did the 22 Bees Project – the first anniversary of the bombing – I had the privilege of being in Manchester all day. I was expecting it to be sad and horrible, but it was one of the most uplifting experiences of my life. In a city of millions of people, it felt like everyone was a friend.” The 22 Bees Project ultimately included over 200 bees around Manchester and the surrounding towns, raising almost £10,000 for the charity Forever Manchester

From charity work, to local businesses, to big brands, Myro’s distinctive style shines through in all of her work. It’s bold and colourful, with swirling text and floral nods to her Ukrainian heritage. This style is what gives every Myro Doodles piece – be it a shop window or a wedding invitation – a truly personal feel, one that Myro is rightly proud and protective of.

“Sometimes I get a commission and it’s not really my style, but I know that it would be a great fit for someone else. So I put them in touch – or it works the other way round, and someone will put a client in touch with me. I’m part of a collective with two other local illustrators and this works really well for us.” It’s refreshing to hear about small business owners that are collaborative rather than competitive, bettering themselves while building up others. Myro is a vocal advocate for creative women, and often uses her social media space to champion other female business owners. “The world is competitive enough without us adding to that!” she says. “Bitchiness is almost expected when women work together, there’s a definite stereotype there. And that’s a problem.” It’s a stereotype that Myro is keen to overcome. “There used to be a business narrative of the ‘boss bitch’ but I think that’s over now. I’d like to be able to prove that you don’t have to be like that, that nice girls can make it.”

Thought Bubble’s Lisa Wood on the comic art industry

Thought Bubble is the largest comic art festival in the UK, taking place across Yorkshire and based for the first time this year in Harrogate convention centre from 4th – 10th November 2019.

This year Thought Bubble will host artists whose work is known and loved all over the world, with guests and exhibitors attending representing Marvel, DC, Black Horse, Image, The Walking Dead, Rick & Morty, Star Wars, Nickelodeon, Netflix, The Guardian, New York Times, and countless more.

Leeds-born and based Lisa Wood founded Thought Bubble to bring artists together, with the festival now moving into its 13th year, celebrating all of Yorkshire with their move to the new North Yorkshire based site. As well as founding Thought Bubble, Lisa is an internationally acclaimed comic book artist, currently working on Scarlet Witch for Marvel and All Star Batman for DC. She also recently received the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award from San Diego Comic Con for her community work with Thought Bubble – all achieved from her rural Yorkshire home. 

Here Lisa tells us of her start in the industry, her motivation for a far-reaching festival, and the future of Thought Bubble.

How did you get your start in the comic art industry?

I’ve always loved art. As a child I used to go to Batley market with my Dad to pick up my weekly comics which I loved getting! That’s definitely where my love of comics came from.

After that I went to Bradford university and studied Art & Design there. I dabbled in some freelance illustration after that, but because it’s so difficult to start a career in freelance illustration, and art generally, I was working other jobs around that time.

I trained as a 35mm projectionist at an art house cinema, alongside that I was working part time in several comic shops. One of those comic shops was Travelling Man, it was there that I decided I wanted to set up Thought Bubble – that was back in 2007. 

The festival is in its 13th year now and it’s just huge! It’s amazing to see it grow and grow each year. Alongside all of that, I started drawing comic books about eight years ago which has become my main profession.

Photo credit: Howie Hill

What was the first comic art project you worked on and what has shaped your style since?

I kind of did a few different ones all at the same time… the first one I ever did was during Thought Bubble: through the festival we set up an anthology and collected stories from our guests, selling the anthologies and donating the profits to the children’s charity, Barnardo’s. I did a short comic book in that with film director Stuart Gordon who is probably most well-known for the film, The Animator. That was published by Image Comics and the first comics work I did.

Very quickly after that I did the cover for Elephant Men as well as about five pages of interiors for Elephant Men #54. That was around the time I set up social media pages and started sharing my work on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter etc. I was posting illustrations up on there and ended up getting work from people like DC from that. That was my first big bit of comics work, working on DC’s Vertigo.

Getting started in Leeds, did you ever find that you had difficulty reaching out to the comic art community?

Not really, while I was working at Travelling Man I was surrounded by a lot of people in the comics industry, a lot of writers and artists. I think we’re quite lucky in the North of England to have a lot of people working for the big American publishers, that’s made it quite easy to speak to people, to find friends, and get them involved.

I think the only drawback we’ve had regionally has been getting publicity for the shows. We’ve found a lot of the press is very London-centric and so they don’t tend to cover things in the North so much. In terms of getting the actual comics industry involved though, that’s been no problem, from the beginning we’ve had so much support!

What was your main motivation for the creation of Thought Bubble and how has that motivation been realised over the years?

When I set up Thought Bubble 13 years ago, the main thing I wanted to do was to use the medium of comic books as a learning tool, to help young people and adults with literacy issues. I wanted to put on free workshops and create a stronger support network for them. 

I struggled with dyslexia growing up and left school unable to read or write properly. My experience of education was quite bad in that regard. The way I really learnt to read and write was through comic books and it showed me what a powerful medium it is and the impact it can have on young people with these problems.

I love to read now but I don’t feel like I’d be able to do that if I didn’t have those comics at the beginning. I really feel comics are a medium in their own right, an incredible medium for adults or anyone to read now. That’s why I set up Thought Bubble, it was that community aspect. That’s also something we’ve been able to grow with support from The Arts Council, The Charlie Adlard Foundation and comiXology.

How will the move from Leeds to Harrogate make the convention more accessible for a wider Yorkshire audience?

It opens up opportunities to more people in rural areas around North Yorkshire, it’s much easier to get to for those people while remaining very easy to get to for people in say Leeds (where we’re still based).

Photo credit: Kendall Whitehouse

The projects you have developed through Thought Bubble have been far-reaching and so inclusive of diverse groups and backgrounds. How would you like to continue supporting people through the festival?

We just want to continue doing what we’ve always done! We’ve put together some more ambitious funding applications to various organisations to help further our outreach work and constantly getting in touch with new organisations and working alongside existing partners. Those existing partners include some really valuable organisations like Leeds Autism services, asylum seekers & refugees organisation and Leeds LGBT organisations.

We work very hard each year to bring as diverse a group of guests as we can, that’s something we’re going to be working very hard on in the next few years.

Which comic character would you say you share the most traits with?

Uhhhhh! That’s a really hard question… Not a comic book character, but one I feel could be adapted very easily is Napoleon Dynamite. I feel more similar to him than any other fictional character I know…

For more information, including a full line-up and to buy tickets, see the Thought Bubble website.

Getting to know Domino Panton-Oakley: Founder of Cotton On MCR

Cotton on. phrasal verb. If you cotton on to something, you understand it or realize it, especially without people telling you about it. [British, informal]’

Passionate about Manchester and its visual culture, Domino Panton-Oakley, Founder of Cotton On MCR, a one-stop-shop guide to the city’s ever-changing art and creative scene, is on a quest to create a space that brings together the best of Manchester’s arts offering.

From exhibition listings, art reviews and interviews with emerging artists and makers, Cotton On is much more than a listings platform. A launching pad for the city’s creative talent, Domino’s passion and enthusiasm for accessible and impactful art is inspiring, necessary and timely.

We recently sat down with Domino to learn more about the evolution of Cotton On, delved deeper into the accessibility and diversity debate and of course, picked her brains, to find out what we should all be cottoning on to in Manchester this year.

Can you tell us the story behind Cotton On MCR?

It’s an on-going debate who came up with the name, my husband thinks it was him – it wasn’t! When thinking about creating this organisation, we wanted something that said ‘Manchester’ and link to it’s history. We wanted the people of Manchester to see what was happening here. We wanted people to realise how much talent we have in Manchester’s art scene, how many galleries we have and see the amazing things those galleries are doing. We wanted people to realise art can be for everyone, it isn’t as pompous and elitist as some people think. We wanted to shout out about how awesome this city is – we wanted people to Cotton On!

The idea of “cottoning on” to something sits at the heart of your concept, at what point did you realise that the people of Manchester were not seeing or accessing the best of the city’s art scene?

It was when I was going on to every galleries website to see what exhibitions they had on and what their opening times were. I would have about 5 tabs open comparing one gallery to another, thinking which exhibitions can I go to, which ones look best, signing up to their newsletters… There are other websites out there that list Manchester exhibitions, but they tend to focus on the big boys, Manchester Art Gallery and the The Whitworth for example. But Manchester has so many smaller, independent galleries which house some great work and fantastic artists, and it was these that were being missed! So I saw a gap in the market, which Cotton On MCR now fills (I hope!).

Having studied Fine Art and clearly having a passion for it, what ways do you think we can make it more accessible?

I think we need more affordable art classes and workshops. Running Cotton On MCR means I get invited to attend these classes which is fantastic! But sometimes they can cost £25 – £35+, and that may not be affordable to a lot of people. Yet most of the people that attend these workshops are new to art/painting and haven’t done anything like it before. So there is massive potential for more workshops, it’d just be great if there was a way to make them more affordable. Also, galleries and artists should try and be more open to people, stop with all the fancy artists statements, the ‘deeper meanings’ and elitist talk. Be more open and real, and you will appeal to more people!

One of the articles you posted on your site talks about female representation in the industry and drew attention to the fact that only 10% of galleries have 50% or more female artists, what do you think is the best way to tackle this imbalance of representation?

This is a real tricky one. That article had a lot of responses and interaction from readers which was great and continued the conversation. I think the imbalance needs to be looked at earlier, in schools for example. What I found fascinating was that the majority of people doing art courses/degrees are women, but then they aren’t being represented after that. So what is happening after the course finishes? I think we need to encourage women to continue with their work and passions, to continually push and try new things. I think we need to shout louder and ask for more. I always say, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. The worst that can happen is someone says no, and you are in the same position as when you started. Just keep going until they, or someone else, says yes!

Leading on from this, have you ever felt your gender has held you back or limited your access to opportunities?

Not quite, but subconsciously I think being female has changed the way I worked. On setting up Cotton On MCR I was keen not to put my face to the organisation. I was very much hidden in the background. Perhaps I did that so I wasn’t judged as a woman? It has only been recently, as Cotton On MCR grows, that I feel confident in saying ‘Hey, this is me and this is what I have created!’  

The variety and sheer volume of listings on the blog is impressive, how do you manage to cover all this ground?

Caffeine and bananas! It does take an awfully long time to go through the galleries in Manchester and add them to the What’s On Calendar. Since launching Cotton On MCR back in November 2017, all I have asked from the galleries is to include me in their press lists, or remember to tell me, or tag me, in their new events and exhibitions. But for whatever reason, I am still fighting that battle. I am still having to go on each galleries website to find all the exhibitions. You’d think this would be high on their list, I am pretty much offering them free advertising! Some of them are very good at keeping me informed, so thank you guys! Not all of galleries are bad.

I also have a pool of volunteer writers and photographers which helps massively in giving me time to focus on other parts of the organisation and the growth of the business as a whole. I owe them all a massive thank you!  

One of the features on the blog, Manc of the Month sounds great, can you tell us a bit about what criteria you’re looking for when bestowing this honour?

Out ethos has always been to promote the art and artists of Manchester so we really love doing this feature. It’s a mix really in terms of what we look for. We have featured a number of artists who’s work we are fans of. This ranges from photographers to collage artists, painters to sculptors. We try and mix it up so it’s something different each month. We recently featured a curator whose exhibitions we have been following from since we launched. We do want to feature more people ‘behind the scenes’ of the art world – gallery owners, event planners etc. We love helping promote people’s projects, whether that be a new event or exhibition.

You have recently added the Cotton On MCR Shop can you tell us a bit about what we can find there?

Here we sell the work of Manchester based creatives. We stock everything from prints, photography and original pieces. We are in the process of adding more craft including ceramics and jewellery. We wanted to introduce another platform that we can promote and help the artists across the city. It is free for them to sell with us, which is obviously a massive bonus for new and up-coming artists. When it comes to adding items to the shop, we look for contemporary, affordable pieces. It is tricky when deciding who to feature, but we try and stick to what we like and what we think will sell. So far that has worked for us and the shop continues to grow, and we are getting more and more sales each month!

Heading into summer, what events and exhibitions across the city are you particularly looking forward to?

Manchester International Festival this summer should be good. It’s the first one since the launch of Cotton On MCR so we are pretty excited to attend the events. Then there is the launch of Factory next year which we are pretty excited about too.

There is also our first ever event, the Cotton On MCR Pop-Up Art Fair, which will be held at Leaf on Portland Street, Saturday 7th September! This is the first time we have put an event together and we are so excited. The fair will be selling original art, prints, craft, jewellery and more! We can’t wait to be working with the artists directly and selling to the public. We’ll be there to introduce ourselves too, so make sure you pop in and say hello – free entry!

Can you tell us your favourite thing about Manchester’s art scene/and your favourite thing about Manchester?

I think Manchester’s Art scene is thriving. I think we have some amazing artists coming from the Uni, they are so talented and I can’t wait to see them develop. We have some great galleries that host some really outstanding exhibitions too. I just wish we had some bigger names here. I know they won’t build a Tate in Manchester, so close to Liverpool, but we need something like that to draw in the huge artists names. Maybe Factory will do this?

My favourite thing about Manchester, outside of art, is the sheer volume of things to do. You can never be bored in Manchester! If you aren’t visiting one of our many shopping centres or high streets, you can chill with a nice craft beer at one of our many breweries or beer gardens. You can see football, watch a play, play crazy golf, visit museums, eat at food markets, dance, bottomless brunch, summer festivals…. Honestly, it’s a fantastic place to live! Maybe I’m in the wrong business, I should work for the tourist board!

Buttercrumble – The Female Twin-Team proving that two heads are better than one

We’re sure there are many of you out there who dream of starting your own business, whether you aspire to be your own boss, or be a trailblazer in your field, we know that making the jump can sometimes be the hardest part about realising our dreams. With this in mind, we wanted to introduce you to the women behind Buttercrumble. Not only are they one another’s cheerleader, but they are also big supporters of female collaboration and empowerment, who want to inspire strong women so that they too can run their own teams and partnerships.

Continue reading “Buttercrumble – The Female Twin-Team proving that two heads are better than one”

Strength in Numbers

Written by Gilly Piece

Someone once told me that the physical shape of a theatre building reflects the work that happens in it and the people who engage with it.

Continue reading “Strength in Numbers”