There’s a huge amount of pressure in the art world to succeed, whether it’s by selling your creativity for agencies and publishers or risking burnout in pursuit of fame and fortune. But it doesn’t have to be like that. The employees of Glasgow art store Cass Art have found another way.
Leun Gwynne became an artist in response to a childhood struggle, “From about 12 years old”, he told us, “I realised I wasn’t the best at communicating with written words, which was affirmed when I got to college and was politely informed I was “very dyslexic”. I started to gravitate towards communicating through imagery and layout, coming to the conclusion that graphic design could be a great creative outlet. This realisation really shifted my focus from academia to the art world.”
His recent work is inspired by data collected by NASA and Odyssey’s telescopes. “I normally try to have a project outside of what I’m spending most of my time on”, says Gwynne, “I find it’s useful to have something that’s purely creative and non-brief based to work on and blow off some steam with.”
“Working in Cass Art means I’m surrounded by creative people and all the tools I need for pretty much any endeavour, I’m 100% certain being immersed in art in this way has made me more creative. Having colleagues from many different disciplines is an incredible way to get inspired as we all enjoy seeing what each other are up to and asking for advice.”
It’s shocking how often young creatives looking to forge themselves a space in the world overlook the importance of finding an environment in which your creativity is encouraged and supported.
Leun’s fellow artist and Cass Art employee Matthew Bainbridge has an excellent insight in this regard:
“Talking about what you’re doing is such an integral part of an art school education, once you’ve graduated it’s easy to miss the support of tutorials, crits and studio conversations that left you with so much to think about; I’ve been really fortunate in landing a job where people want to talk about that kind of thing just as much.”
Another problem we often hear about from aspiring artists is that they don’t have the time or energy to develop their vision within the confines of working environments. It’s something that we should know is needed from our early experiences with creativity, as Matthew makes crystal clear when he tells us about how he got into art:
“When I was a kid I used to hoard cardboard tubes and ask for sellotape for Christmas to make model playgrounds with, even then I remember feeling a really pure sense of satisfaction from having made something myself.”
It’s a feeling everyone knows to some degree, but yet few think to seek out in their workplace. But doing so can pay dividends.
Emma Hislop produces work that, in her words, is “inspired by questioning the world around me and those who have a unique perspective of this, looking back at important feats reached by past generations and considering what my generation is and can be.” Addressing work is this way needs the a workplace that facilitates and frees your work.
She says that Cass Art has really helped in several ways, ”Staff discount always helps! There’s also fab opportunities such as visits to the Cass Sculpture Foundation and a Staff Show in London this November, for which I am submitting an A3 piece”. She’s clear about the best part of the job though: “Definitely the workshops, as I use workshops in my practice as a source of research it’s great to get more experience through Cass.”
With Cass Art now celebrating one year on Glasgow’s Queen Street, it’s clear that their formula for exciting and encouraging their staff and customers is paying off. The question is, will other businesses follow their trailblazing approach to looking after their creative staff? We certainly hope so.