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Olivia Punnett: one year on

Olivia Punnett is is in her final year on the Yorkshire Artspace Starter Studio for Engaged Practice. Her work is a way of arranging found and made materials and objects, in installations and sculpture and she often makes work that directly responds to site. Often these sites are historical, for example her installation at Cromford Mill pictured above. Whilst in Parson Cross Oliva has been exploring more recent domestic histories. She has made connections with local people gathering stoires and images of family life which she has incorporated into her work.  Along with new prints she has also made some interventions within the area referencing the people and lives of this inter-war housing estate.  See more on her website

What have your experiences been on the Starter Studio Programme to date? When I was finishing my degree I knew I was walking off a cliff in a way.  Going from full time support, guidance, technicians and equipment into doing that purely for myself, using the tools I had gained, was a bit daunting.  I was worried about what kind of time commitment the starter studio was, (having kids and living relatively far away from the studio) but a tutor underlined the value of having help after the degree again, and encouraged me go for the opportunity and find out more about it if I was offered a place.  The programme turned out to be flxible enough to accomodate other ocmmitemtns and they understand you may need to do other things to support your career in this early stage.  The main benefit of the starter studio programme for me has been having a support network in place which has provided me with professional development, training and advice (as well as a small amount of money to actually make soemthing happen), just knowing that this has been there has been invaluable.  

What has been difficult? What has been fantastic?Having Kate Genever as my Mentor has been the most fantastic thing. Struggling with the value of my work in a tough area has been the most difficult thing.  Reading Ania Bas' quote (Artist in Residence in Parson Cross) “Never in the past was I so strongly struck by what my presence is doing to a neighbourhood like Parson Cross – working class, post-industrial, under regeneration, classed as ‘deprived’. This residency made me question my practice on many different levels. What do I do as an artist? Who is benefiting from my work? Who is upposed to engage with me and what for? How is this engagement influencing people’s decisions and lives?... This residency opened many political and social questions for me." was very reassuring because I felt all those things. In fact I posted this to my artists Facebook site and a friend commented "these are some good questions to be asking" and I think he was very right, they are questions that need asking, and continually fire your practice if you let them.

What have you been able to achieve whilst being part of the programme which you may otherwise have not? I have been accepted for opportunities that I may otherwise not have secured such as Factory Nights (run by Rednile Projects) and I have been offered MA places!  I have also gained commissions because of where I have been working and the things I have been exploring, such as the Ruskin Archive.  I was able to run applications by Kate my mentor and Rachael the Programme Manger which has helped nd improve my skills.  

What do you hope to do after completing the programme in October this year? I would like to do an MA and research a bit more.  Hone my writing and critical skills a bit more, partly so I can write my own briefs and get better at grant applications which seem to be more and more important in our current climate!

Best thing about Parson Cross? Roses Hardware shop I think, it's saved my day many a time now, but this was a tough choice because the Yorkshire fish cake at the chippy along the road a bit is very very good too!