The hotly-anticipated Hotwalls Studios in Old Portsmouth opens Friday 8th July following major renovations and investment of more than £1.75m.
In August 2014, Portsmouth City Council’s concept received funding from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund. This approval allowed plans for 13 working studios and a brasserie on site.
After a year of restoration, the historic site in Old Portsmouth houses some of Portsmouth’s most talented artists and makers.
The empty arches, once artillery barracks, have also benefited from £100,000 of council funding and £40,000 from the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire.
Portsmouth’s creative sector has blossomed over the past decade. The Hotwalls Studios development has fulfilled a need for more affordable studio space in Portsmouth.
It’s an innovative business model which supports economic growth in Portsmouth’s creative industry, while respecting this part of the city’s heritage.
A new eatery: The Canteen
Feeding all this creativity is The Canteen, a deli-style eatery offering wholesome, seasonal, and locally-sourced food.
Lucy and Bill Branson, the team from The Tenth Hole Tearooms in Eastney, are behind the new venture. Lucy said: “We were blown away by the prestigious location and unique opportunity at the Hotwalls. Having established ourselves in the city we were looking to expand, but with a new offering.
“We’ll be serving artisan sandwiches, freshly-baked pastries, great coffee, and fresh juices.”
The Canteen is set in truly unique historic surroundings, including a stunning waterfront deck and views across the Solent.
Making the concept a reality
Councillor Linda Symes, Portsmouth City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, said: “This has been an incredibly exciting project and the transformation of empty arches into functional and attractive studio spaces is remarkable.
“With all the studios occupied, we can look forward to the artists and makers building a creative community alongside the additional attraction of The Canteen.”
Conservation architects EMRC and construction company Mountjoy were appointed to transform the historic monument into modern, functional workspaces.
Deniz Beck, EMRC conservation architect, said: “This site is of historic importance and has to be handled incredibly sensitively. It was such a unique opportunity to be involved with a monument where parts date back 1300s. There aren’t that many scheduled monuments where this work is undertaken.
“All work carried out has to be superficial so it doesn’t damage the original appearance, which means we have to find creative solutions. It’s about minimal changes but maximising the character of the Hotwalls.
“We trialled ideas in one studio so we could make adjustments. The site has changed over the years and you can see the different methods of construction, which at times weren’t great, but we have to preserve everything because it all tells a story.”
When to visit and who’s there
The site is fully-accessible to the public. Studio opening times vary depending on the working hours of artists and makers in residence.
The Canteen is open from 8:00am to 5:00pm all year round. It stays open until 9:00pm from May through September for wine, craft beer, and sharing platters.
Artists at the studios currently include:
- Alex Hagen: organic fabrics, naturally-dyed. Printing and resist techniques are used to make furoshiki, bags, and wearable textiles. A furoshiki is a versatile Japanese wrapping clothing — a square piece of fabric which can be folded and knotted into various bags or used to wrap gifts for special occasions.
- Alice Hume: specialists in woven textiles and studied at the Swedish School of Textiles. Alice runs frame loom weave workshops around Portsmouth, using recycled wood.
- Electric Sheep: recent film production graduates undertaking a new venture. Ambitious, and rapidly-expanding, with a diverse portfolio.
- Emma Nicol: illustrator and designer. Creates embroidered homeware such as cushions and lampshades. Uses freehand machine embroidery and appliqué techniques to create illustrations of British architecture and landmarks.
- Fay George: a potter who trained with a tenth-generation traditional Greek potter 30 years ago in Athens. Living in Greece and Berlin and travelling to Central America to work with native potters has influenced her work.
- Fire Monkey Arts: collective of artists and makers. Great deal of variety. Some are artists with paint, easels, and brushes. Others make textiles, craft gifts, or work with hama beads.
- James Mouland: artist and designer based in Portsmouth and Istanbul. Specialises in traditional and contemporary Ebru, the historically-fascinating Turkish art of marbling/painting on thickened water.
- Karl Rudziak: professional artists based in Portsmouth. His work is based around people and portraiture. His portrait of Pompey supporter John PFC Westwood was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery and Southampton City Gallery in 2009.
- Laura Bennett: inspired by nature and organic forms, Laura’s ranges of beautiful handmade jewellery are crafted from precious metals and stones.
- Lizzie Cornelius: captures images of seaside life by deconstructing photographic images and reconstructing them as paintings in her unique, simple, honest style.
- Makers’ Table: collective of three contemporary artists — Sarah Radford, Ruth Lacey, and Emma Plato. Their shared influences stem from vintage design and their immediate environment.
- Sacred Obscene: partnership of two traditional creatives on an exciting new venture. Purveyors of fine textile interiors, grand décor, art installations, and apparel. Sacred Obscene take an interdisciplinary approach for contemporary craft.
- Batch-Maker print studio: each of the printers has their own style. They take inspiration from a vast array of culturally-scattered source, but are united by a preference for hand-pulled prints. They all love the quiet thrill of technical triumphs, and the fun of unpretentious affordable market art.