A calligraphy project inspired by the Lindisfarne Gospels has drawn to a close.
It’s been a year since the historic manuscript first went on display at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, on loan from the British Library in London.
To mark the occasion, I applied for a Project Grant from Arts Council England so my weekly calligraphy groups could create work inspired by the Gospels.
The Gospels has long been acclaimed as the most spectacular manuscript to survive from Anglo-Saxon England and it represents an outstanding artistic achievement.
They were written on Holy Island in Northumberland in the early eighth century.
Inspired by Lindisfarne
The bid was successful and we received £2,664, which enabled us to visit the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition at the Laing, covering the cost of transport and the entry fee, work with guest artists and create artwork for an exhibition.
Carrie Dennison, from Crafts for Wellbeing, introduced us to Celtic knotwork, while Yvette Ja, from Yvette Ja Studio, showed us how to make a book, bound in the same way as the Gospels had been all those centuries ago.
Many participants used Celtic knotwork in their final pieces, as well as uncial script calligraphy and illuminated letters. The overall theme of the exhibition was: What do you take as Gospel?
Exhibition welcomed by three venues
The Inspired by Lindisfarne exhibition opened at The Customs House in South Shields in January this year, then moved to 17Nineteen in Sunderland in March and South Shields Museum and Art Gallery in April, where it remained until September 30.
More than 20 works of art were created, along with over a dozen handmade books, which have now been safely returned to their owners.
I would like to thank every single one of them for pushing themselves out of their comfort zone and creating something as a collective of which they can be very proud.
I would also like to thank Rory Williams, from The Customs House, Lily Daniels, from 17Nineteen and Geoff Woodward, from Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM) for their support from the very start.
My former colleagues at the Shields Gazette and Sunderland Echo were also kind enough to give the exhibition some coverage and we were able to tie it in with the UK-wide National Lottery Open Week campaign in March.
ACE was also very supportive and Nicholas Baumfield, senior relationship manager, attended the exhibition launch at The Customs House. (I sent them a cheeky invitation, but didn’t expect anyone to turn up!)
Some takeaways as an artist
It’s been a learning curve as a freelance artist and tutor.
When you’re self-employed, there aren’t many avenues for funding other than ACE, even if your work benefits the community. Most pots of money are aimed at charitable organisations, social enterprises and community interest companies.
I’ll definitely factor in a budget for contingencies in future – we needed more sessions than initially thought with Yvette, for example. Coptic stitch is tricky!
I really enjoyed the curation aspect of the exhibition and learned a lot from Rory. I’m still amazed that we managed to fill the space in the gallery at The Customs House! I also learned a lot from TWAM in terms of protecting your work in a busy public space.
South Tyneside is a priority area for ACE at the moment, so watch this space – I might be tempted to apply again for another project!