Sonia’s First Year at Sunny Bank Mills

Our Gallery Assistant Sonia fills us in on her first year at the mill!

April 17th, 2020

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The fear and uncertainty of the last few weeks has ground the fast pace of life to a halt. I’ve retreated back to my family home in Glossop (an ex-mill town in-between Manchester and Sheffield) to be with my parents, dogs and a back garden full of chickens. With all this extra time on my hands it feels like a good opportunity to reflect upon my first year at Sunny Bank and my top 5 favourite things about working at the mill.

  1. Looms-

Anybody who knows me will confirm I can spend hours and hours on tedious jobs; helping Agnis warp the loom was right up my street! The hand looms have been lovingly rescued and restored by William (managing director), and they’re an integral part to the mill’s history, so I’m hoping to learn some weaving skills and immerse myself in the history of this craft- which will hopefully inform my own artistic practice too! During lock down I’ve kept myself busy by rag rugging using recycled t-shirts- it’ll be interesting to see how I can incorporate this sustainability into weaving!

  1. Events-

Vintage fairs, Christmas markets, heritage weekend and exhibition openings are a joy to work at; all that hard work behind the scenes comes to fruition. Finding the artists and makers, social media scheduling, setting up the old woollen. Waking up early and heading into the gallery accompanied by 8 litres of milk- for all the teas and coffees. Cutting up the cakes and a team briefing on how to tackle the day. Walkie talkie tests for when back up cake is required. And then our visitors arrive, and the mill is full of bustle, chatter and music. One of my favourite parts of the day is getting to have a look around myself- I always end up coming away with something! I also get to meet makers and artists I’ve followed on Instagram for ages and old friends from university.

  1. Artists and Makers-

This past year I’ve met some wonderfully creative people. Painters, jewellers, print makers, weavers and sculptors- I’ve commissioned several of our makers for unique gifts for family and friends (and some for myself of course). Most recently commissioning Cathy Woodhall to make a rough-cut emerald ring- it’s beautiful. The creative community established at sunny bank is such a supportive network. My own practice has some folklore narrative, I’m interested in exhibiting artists who are also concerned with storytelling and mythology- I’ve got several artists in mind, watch this space!

  1. Curating ones to watch-

This first time I came to Sunny Bank was to set up my work in the 2019 Ones to Watch and a few weeks ago I helped curate and set up the work of Ones to Watch 2020. It was a big personal achievement for me. Although we have yet to open to the public due to the current circumstances, I had a lot of fun setting up all work. From unwrapping Boo Everett’s beautifully detailed pots, to slotting all of the jigsaw pieces of Amelia Woods ‘well-behaved teacup and saucer’ together. There was a new challenge with every piece, what works in what space/against which colours/in contrast or compliment with the other works. It was a privilege to put these works up in this exhibition- it’s been my favourite show to date!

  1. The team-

And taking the top spot is the rest of the team of course. I miss our lunches and fruit trips to Sutcliffes, cake breaks, ideas meetings and logistical compromises.

I can always chat to William about chickens and sheep, we are currently enjoying his remote updates on the lambs. I miss seeing Maggie, John’s old border terrier in the office as she accompanies me to the printer, and thank you to John who was a great first aider when I got paint in my eyes during set up week.

I think everybody staff and customers a like love Janes bakes, a particular favourite of mine is the delicious parmesan shortbread that makes its appearance at events. Me and Jane have a similar style when it comes to the shop- we both have quite eccentric ideas! And thank you to Alice for all the lifts to and from work and all the life advice and giggles. Thank you for your patience when it comes to admin- my resolution is to get Alice efficient!

I’ve been made to feel so welcome- you’re all ace and I’m very lucky to be part of the team.

Find out about Sonia’s work on her website.

Read about our team here.

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Arts & Culture General