Make it Up North Review by Rebecca Young

The Art Market – Make it Up North
The Guildhall, York, 4th – 6th October 2013

The Art Market’s pilot project Make It Up North brought together some of the best emerging and established artists, designers and makers under the decorated roof of York’s 15th century Guildhall. It seems appropriate that this building (once a meeting place for York’s guilds to discuss the quality of trade in the city ) was chosen to host this outstanding, well-curated and accessible range of paintings, metalwork and jewellery, ceramics, sculpture, textiles, photography and much more.

In addition to the main exhibition, in which visitors could purchase and commission work directly from the artists, some gave further insight into their working practices with talks, workshops and demonstrations. These activities and the exciting variety of craft techniques on display contributed to the unique energy of Make It Up North.

One of the event’s many highlights was Nottingham-based mixed media artist Gillian Lee Smith ( Gillian’s presentation ‘We All Cast Shadows’ was in anticipation of her new collection, to be exhibited at the Heart Gallery, Hebden Bridge in October 2014. Her work is in essence theatrical (she studied Performance Costume at Edinburgh University), and each piece contains an emotional narrative inspired by history or plucked from Gillian’s extraordinary imagination. Offering her precious sketchbooks for visitors to leaf through was a particularly thoughtful touch.


Cathy Miles


Helaina Sharpley

Helaina Sharpley ( and Cathy Miles ( both take traditional drawing beyond expectation – choosing to illustrate not with a pencil, but with wire and metal to create ‘three-dimensional’ sculptures of teacups and kitchen implements, birds, shoes, and in Helaina’s case, Edwardian architecture. Each depicted object or scene is rich with character; one wonders who uses these tools, who drinks from this cup, and who these shoes belong to. Helaina and Cathy’s wire sculptures are shown to their best in an exhibition space where the natural placement of light and shadow becomes part of the impact.

Friday 4th October was Make It Up North’s Cliff Wright Day. Cliff, an accomplished illustrator who is well-known for his innovative yearly drawing workshops ‘The Art of Seeing’ and for his illustrations for J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, led a number workshops and shared some of his thoughts about his career. Seeing Cliff’s iconic artwork and Hippogriff-inspired sculptures up close is a truly special moment, whether or not you are familiar with their source.

What really characterised Make it Up North was a sense of something being shared. It was lovely to see the artists in conversation not only with the public, but with each other; telling stories not only through their work, but by comparing their own personal journeys as creative individuals. The Art Market is clearly very conscious that events like this are much needed in the North – and I am very much looking forward to the next one.


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