The Hotwalls Studios

If you’ve lived in Portsmouth for some time, chances are you remember the Hotwalls a little differently to how they stand today. Once an interesting landmark, albeit a little neglected and well loved by local rebellious teenagers, the area has been entirely transformed.

The heritage site was given new life in 2014 by Portsmouth City Council, turning the arches once utilised for art sales in the 1950’s into 13 new studios and one very stylish new Café. It’s incredibly exciting to see such a creative haven in my city, especially nestled in old Portsmouth and right on the beach.

On Wednesday we took a walk down to check it out for ourselves, we spoke with some of the resident creatives, who dealt with the influx of curious Illustration students incredibly well.

We managed to arrive a good hour before anything opened, opening times can however be found on Facebook as well as the Hotwalls website. This gave us an opportunity to head into The Canteen, the cafe nestled into the heart of the studios.

The Canteen is beautifully designed, it incorporates the building that it inhabits beautifully with industrial style decor. The stone and brick walls still pockmarked by time are the backdrop to modern metal and wood furniture pieces and trendy Edison bulbs. Alongside this the food and coffee are equally wonderful, it is a perfect spot for an artist to hang out and work. I could quite happily have lingered here all day, but the studios were beginning to open.

I first wandered into the studio currently being used by I Can See The See, where I spoke with artist Lizzie Cornelius.

Lizzie was working on a commission, one of her distinctive pieces with a couple of changes requested by her client. She was able to chat with us a little bit as she worked about how working from the studios has given her opportunities and clients she wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Her bright Portsmouth landscapes can be seen throughout her unit, arranged to be part shop part working studio, which gives anyone who walks in a chance to see the process behind the pieces on the shelves. I’d highly recommend giving Lizzie a visit.

Next we came across the studio of Kim Edith, a textile artist from Portsmouth. (from this point on my phone had died, apologies for the google images!) Kim teaches stitch booking workshops, sells prints of her textile illustrations as well as originals and also created a book. ‘In To The Woods’ is entirely made up of fabric collage and is stunning to look through. After the original gained viral fame the book was developed into a paperback, and as we talked to Kim she let us know she was actually preparing to give a talk on it the following day.

Kim attended Kington University in 2004 and studied Illustration, it was so inspiring to see a working illustrator who had completed a similar course to us. She spoke about the experience of leaving uni and not having your hand held, a valuable lesson in self motivation. Kim’s day isn’t all creating, she let us know that much of it is made up of the other stuff that comes with being self employed, keeping up with social media, putting out content, tutorials and of course looking after the business side of things.

Talking with Kim was invaluable, it really showed me the importance of getting out there to meet and talk to experienced creatives. She spoke to us about having multiple revenue streams, attending fairs and markets, and the ups and downs of an open studio. The rent at the Hotwalls studio is subsidised by Portsmouth City Council, but tenants are required to open for at least 30 hours a week and can only have a 3 year term. The space and location are beautiful and inspiring, the footfall is great for new business, but having people pop in throughout the day as you’re trying to work can slow you down.

All in all it was an incredibly informative day, it is invaluable as a fledgeling illustrator to have an opportunity to learn from working artists, and to discover what creative opportunities lie on our doorstep. I can totally see myself nestled into this beautiful spot working away, is it even possible to get artist block if you can step out of the studio for 30 seconds and look out on the rolling waves and historic architecture of the shoreline?