The Creative Twinning Team - From L-R , Debbie Bryan, Nora Rochel, Brigitte Adolph, Angelika Schmidt, Hannah Lobley, Jayne Childs, Philine Kempf
Hundreds of miles and over sea from the rain soaked planes of New Market Square lies the south German city of Karlsruhe. A far cry from the thundering groundswell of frittering, urbane life in Nottingham, Karlsruhe is perhaps most well known as birthplace of cycling pioneer Karl Drais, indie actor Sebastian Koch and eminent German technical death metal band, Necrophagist - naturally. More importantly (leaving the glorious Necrophagist aside) it bears the privilege of a city twinning with Notts, a partnership held for over 40 years. Whilst to some this bond might mean little more than a relic of local trivia, a group of Nottingham artists have taken the cultural partnership to help develop a unique design show which shares work, talent and independent creativity across both cities.
Creative Twinning was formed earlier this year between fellow designers Jayne Childs, Hannah Lobley and Debbie Bryan. Childs and Bryan are both established retailers and revivalists of Nottingham’s lace heritage which Childs reiterates “Nottingham’s lace is a well known part of the city but when you talk to people they’re not really aware the of what makes Nottingham lace Nottingham Lace” Their fierce enthusiasm has already propelled them into international acclaim, when both were invited to present their work to the British Embassy in Paris back in July.
Lobley, a woodworker by profession, has also invented herself as something of an entrepreneur, inventing a unique method of paper compression which turns ravaged paperbacks and broadsheets into delightful, eco friendly pottery and sculpture, the likes of which have been exhibited across the globe. Inspired by their own achievements, the three set out to accomplish something that would put Nottingham design on the map.
Following “a fact finding” mission as well as plenty of meticulous research, Lobley, Bryan and Childs put forward the idea of an arts show, which would bring established and burgeoning designers from Nottingham and Karlsruhe together. As Bryan explained at the CT opening ceremony in Hockley, it didn’t take long to find others who were just as inspired about the idea as they were “It was kind of like infectious... we were being really positive and then they were being really positive back ...we pitched the idea to Nottingham Trent [and] the City Council and they really liked it.”
Emphatic praise at the CT exhibit launch
Having travelled to Germany to exhibit their work, the trio had already been met with some tremendous praise from their public abroad “It’s really exciting – like with Hannah’s work where she compresses paper and turns it into woodwork, the German community were amazed with it, they thought it was a really innovative process and she was on television and actually filming her at the show. She was there talking about Nottingham and how great it was for creativity - it was a really positive statement about our city.”
Now with the backing of funding from the Arts Council, Notts County Council as well as Nottingham Trent University think tank Future Factory¸ the group have been able to take further steps by inviting Karlsruhe designers, Philline Kempf, Brigitte Adolph and Nora Rachel to the UK for a follow up show that will continue across the next two weeks. They too had been thrilled to take part, as Philline Kempf mentioned “For me it was a big surprise because I’m always very open and I love to change out my ideas as well as to other persons. I can say honestly with all my heart that I love the open personalities, the creativity, the hipness. I don’t want anything of these people here and they organize something fantastic and they made it with heart”.
But what makes Creative Twinning unique from other arts festival is the emphasis it made to model Nottingham as a bountiful, hub of artistic growth. Rather than manipulate the premise of the show to make their own fortune, the CT team wanted to ensure that our European cousins, knew what Notts design stood for. Both Childs and Bryan are wanton enthusiasts of Nottingham lace and heritage design so they were ideal candidates to flaunt the city’s textile fashion history. When asked how they chose to parade this over the pond, the results Bryan got were very revealing “We provided them with a DNA book of Nottingham design and people wrote the most beautiful things – they were making comments about our work or the history and making comments about that...I feel that’s what came across, that’s what it says on the stand “Debbie Bryan – Nottingham”, “Hannah Lobley – Nottingham”. People identify with you straight away. They pool that connection without saying anything. It was brilliant”
With proceedings in full swing, Childs eagerly explored with me the potential that CT has in the future, following the success of this year’s venture “Oh blimey, well we do have plans for next year. We want to go to Ghent, we’re going back to Karlsruhe and were hoping to have an exhibition in Karlsruhe opening out to other designers in Nottingham as well.”
Regardless how far the scheme will hold water, the entrepreneurial drive, the dazzling commitment and the embracive approach harboured by the organizers of Creative Twinning remains tough to ignore. Despite a plague of austerity in the arts, their efforts may yet offer a rare opportunity for young, hopeful talent from across the county to be taken somewhere beyond a village craft fair. Whilst taking a brief moment away from the exhibit to say what she had enjoyed about her trip to the city, Philine Kempf perhaps hit on why Creative Twinning deserves its accolades too “It is the energy of your city, it is very special. It’s multicultural... it’s fresh... perhaps in Europe you don’t see it as much, it’s more conservative but I really think what’s happening here, really, is the way forward”.
The launch for Creative Twinning took place on 12 October. The exhibit continues at Lace Market Gallery, Stoney Street, Nottingham until 28 October. Creative Twinning are also looking for further artists interested in joining their program. For further details see the CT blog below.