Behind the scenes with Susi Bellamy in her Newcastle studio.
Why did you decide to start your own creative business?
I knew I was obsessed with interiors and I was sat here one day looking at my shelves thinking my paintings are quite flat and hard. I then met someone who prints on to fabric and it was a light bulb moment, I realised my pictures could come off the shelf and on to something soft, so it would be made into ‘art for the sofa.’ I thought that this was a way of going to trade fairs or working with magazines and getting featured. It’s all a bit unknown but I was delighted to be picked for the Northern Design Festival as it’s like a seal of approval. It’s like a second career for me.
When I moved to America, I felt there was a creative gap after having my first child. So I decided to go to a painting class twice a week at the Delaware Art Museum and picked painting up as a hobby, and I haven’t stopped since. It just kept developing with everywhere we moved, until I moved to Italy.
What was your first design?
The very first thing I did was at the art class in America, it was a charcoal drawing using a stomp and leather. It was very realistic and hard work. In America they had ‘do your own’ framing shops, which is where I connected the painting and the frame. The two have always been very connected for me. After coming away from my MA in Fine Art at Northumbria University, having previously done a lot of geometric work based on colour, I was also very interested in Russian constructivist painting.
Who or what inspires you?
The inspiration for the abstract images that became the cushions is the crumbling plaster of the walls in Italy. The buildings crumble and they leave pitted spaces, which is very interesting; landscapes and layers inspire me. On the other hand, I’m very inspired by fashion and the fashion colour palette, working with a select group of colours and the way fashion evolves each season. That is the essence of my work, the reinvention of colour that fashion allows – so that you don’t get bored.
Where are you based and what is your studio like?
I’m based in Cobalt Studios in Newcastle. My studio is bright, sunny, happy, colourful and joyous. It’s my space. I’m always moving things around and rearranging in here.
What are you most proud of?
I like to make the most of wherever I live, and when I lived in Florence, they do classes that teach you how to paint like an old master, so I did a couple of courses there. I did a portrait of one of Van Dyke’s paintings and I still have it at home, I can’t believe I did it. It took hours, it was painful and hard but I did it, and I could never sell it. So that’s my proudest painting.
What is the most interesting collaboration / commission you have worked on?
I’ve worked with an artist called Theresa Poulton in Newcastle. I went to the MA degree show at Newcastle University and I was doing the show at Northumbria. I saw her work and thought it was amazing. So we collaborated and did an exhibition at Northumbria named Two Angles on Abstraction. Since then we often meet up and share ideas that help each other to step out of our comfort zones. I’ve also collaborated with Jennifer Stafford, who is a potter. We met and we played around with things. That’s ultimately where the collaboration then came with the ginger jars.
What’s the most unusual project you have worked on?
I’ve done commissions for people who want me to respond to the landscapes outside of their house in my way. I start painting and they come in as the painting is developing. We tend to discuss colour, as I often end up talking about colour rather than form.
What would be your dream project?
I’d like to have my designs on a fashion collection such as Prada, Miu Miu, or included in a fashion photo shoot backdrop. I like the idea of art and fashion meeting somehow.
What are you exhibiting at the Northern Design Festival 2015?
At the Festival I will have my cushions, small paintings, prints and cards.
The Madonna collection will keep developing and I’m going to be showcasing it in Florence at the end of September. I’m going to work on deconstructed images, combining pattern with collage, and I’d like to print some reverse fashion images onto metal. I’ve also just launched my new website, which will make my work globally available.