Caroline Dowsett loves her hometown. Despite offers from several universities across the country, she chose to stay in Manchester to study art and design. Formal study did not fulfill her need to draw inspiration from the broader cultural scene of the city and at 22 she left university and rented a studio at Islington Mill. The former cotton mill, now a working hub of creatives, including grime musicians, screen printers, ceramicists and painters. It was here that Caroline had her full university experience.
At 28, Caroline developed an immune disorder and had to leave the mill. This was at the time of the first lockdown and she found herself working from home. During this period Caroline had time to reflect on her art and began to develop a new, more graphic style. Caroline is now happily back working in the city centre studio with her best friend Ben.
How do you find inspiration for your work, what's your starting point?
I start with words. Words from conversations, songs, books I've been reading or quotes. I'm constantly making notes on my phone, lists of words. The lines around them are the way I feel about the words.The movement of the lines expresses the emotion.
Do you use words outside of your designs. Do you write?
No not really. Actually, that's not true, I write a journal every day. Each morning before my brew, I write two to three pages. It helps me to focus as my pieces are quite emotional.
You seem to be very happy to be back working in the city. What is it about working with others that brings you such joy?
Being socially engaged is important to me, being part of a community. Community makes people feel safe, that anything is possible. There are so many artists and organisations in Manchester bringing people together.
And you've been using these community connections to help fellow Mancunians. Can you tell me about the Artists Raffle?
I was inspired by Freya Iam (jeweller) who pulled together creatives in lockdown to raise money for the foodbanks. I decided to do it in Manchester, with artists based in the city. I managed to get 42 artists involved and got to know loads of artists and printmakers. We created a little community. By donating a pre existing- piece of work, it meant that artists could make a difference.
The online raffle was a roaring success and raised thousands for this great cause. Now that lockdown is over, Caroline will bringing the artists together to host a live auction.
2021 has been incredibly productive for Caroline, and earlier this year, she was invited to paint a mural at her favourite gallery, The Whitworth. The mural was inspired by their art garden and sponsored by Little Greene paint company. She got to play with a gorgeous selection of their tones and palettes—colours like Acorn, Baked Cherry, Pea Green and Olive Oil.
I've been going t the Whitworth since college, I thought, this is mad. It's a really beautiful building with green surrounds.The mural was 12 x 4m and took two weeks to complete with the help of family and friends, even my mum joined in!
How does physical art differ from creating digital images?
The Little Greene paints are emulsion which means that you need to use four of five coats. The thing about urban or large scale art is that there is more graft involved. You finish the day and your arms are hurting and you feel delusional. I love digital, but I love to be moving when I work, to feel like I've really made something.
2021 has also seen an exciting residency for you. Can you tell us a little about this project?
I've been working with Fred Aldous, a stationery business established in 1886. Graffiti is illegal, but many cities create 'Legal Walls' where permission is given to artists to beautify the space. They invited me to become their artist in residence, which involved a mural in Stevenson Square. It's been great fun being back out in my city!
Manchester has a booming arts scene and is a city with a social conscience. It's also a great place to live and work and Caroline has kindly given us a few top tips on things she likes and places to visit. Here are some of her favourites.
ERST - A Place to Nibble
FLAWD - For a Little Tipple
RAMONA - For the Best Cocktails
Islington Mill - For Local Artists
Fred Alduous - For all of Your Stationery Needs
Deadstock General Store - For Everything You Need
Village Books - For All Your Reading Wants
I'd like to thank Caroline for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk about her work. To shop Caroline Dowsett VISIT.