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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Soma celebrates 10 Years: an interview with founder Fiona Hamilton

Bristol based Soma Gallery celebrates its 10th anniversary with a fabulous set of 10 prints by some of the best artists that founder Fiona Hamilton has worked with over the past 10 years.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Soma Gallery - 10th anniversary prints

Like Amelia’s Magazine, the fabulous Bristol based Soma Gallery launched in 2004. Founder Fiona Hamilton was a big supporter and stocked Amelia’s Magazine in print from the very outset. Since then we have kept in touch and Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration visited Soma Gallery on tour back in 2011. I caught up with Fiona to talk about ten years of working with emerging and established artists. Read on for more and to view all ten of the wonderful prints featured in the 10th anniversary celebration show and box set.

Soma Gallery - spencer wilson
Print by Spencer Wilson, available here.

How did Soma begin, and how has it changed over the years? Can you give us a short potted history…
Soma started way back in June 2004 and opened with an exhibition by Anthony Burrill, Jon Burgerman, Richard May, Container and Dettmer Otto. The original idea was to exhibit work by a mixture of illustrators and graphic designers alongside ceramics, jewellery and textiles. In that respect, things haven’t changed all that much in the last 10 years! We started off in a small single room space in Clifton Arcade and in 2010 moved to a much larger space on two floors over the road. We are now able to have larger exhibitions in a separate gallery space and we’ve also been able to hold events like book signings and a Tatty Devine jewellery making workshop in this space. We’re currently in the process of installing a small print workshop in a small room at the back of the shop.

Soma Gallery - peskimo
Print by Peskimo, available here.

Soma Gallery - Graham Carter
Print by Graham Carter, available here.

How did you pick the artists who have contributed to your 10th anniversary collection of limited edition prints?
It was very hard to choose just 10 artists. Some of the artists we have chosen have worked with Soma since the early days including Adam Bridgland and Lucy Gough who both exhibited in our second exhibition in 2004 and have continued working with us. Alice Pattullo is one of our newest artists and joined us before Christmas last year. Hazel Nicholls joined us for Pick Me Up graphic art fair in 2013 and has continued to work with us ever since. Andy Smith, Peskimo, Gemma Correll and Crispin Finn have also exhibited with us at Pick Me Up as well as many solo and group exhibitions in our gallery. Graham Carter and Spencer Wilson are both original founding Peepshow (illustration collective) members and have been with us for a long time!

Soma Gallery - gemma correll
Print by Gemma Correll, available here.

Out of the 10th anniversary collection can you recommend your top tip: for a child’s room? for a new boyfriend? and for a mother in law?
The perfect print for a child’s room would be either Peskimo’s ‘Flying Saucers’ (which glows in the dark!) or Spencer Wilson’s ‘Bring the Noise’. For a new boyfriend, Crispin Finn’s ‘Double High 5’ or perhaps Graham Carter’s ‘Oh James!’. A good mother in law print would be HelloMarine’s ‘Jungle’ print.

Soma Gallery - crispin finn
Print by Crispin Finn, available here.

Which other artists are amongst your favourites at the moment?
Tom Frost and Nicholas John Frith are other artists I would have loved to have been part of the 10. Both were unfortunately too busy to take part, Tom was working towards his solo show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park which opened just after the prints were launched. There will be other projects in the future, I’m sure!

Soma Gallery - hellomarine
Print by HelloMarine, available here.

Soma Gallery - hazel nicholls
Print by Hazel Nicholls, available here.

What are the biggest trends (that you have spotted) in prints in 2014?
We don’t tend to follow trends here at Soma, but something I have noticed is that tropical plants, birds of paradise and very bright colours are very much on trend. One thing about not being led by trends too much is that we hope people will treasure our prints for years to come and so for that reason don’t want anything that might date too quickly. Bright colours are definitely something we fully embrace at Soma though!

Soma Gallery - andy smith
Print by Andy Smith, available here.

Which artists should we look out for in the coming years?
I think it’s worth keeping an eye on Alice Pattullo and Hazel Nicholls. And maybe the next young artist who joins us!

Soma Gallery - Alice Pattulo
Print by Alice Pattullo, available here.

What do you love most about producing prints and selling specialist designer goods?
One of the nicest things is working directly with the artists and building good relationships with them. We work with a great bunch and it’s a pleasure selling their prints and goods.

Soma Gallery - adam bridgeland and lucy gough
Print by Adam Bridgeland and Lucy Gough, available here.

What have been the high points and low points of the past ten years?
There have been some great high points. The most memorable are moving to the larger space in 2010 and exhibiting in Pick Me Up for the first time in 2012. Andy Smith’s solo exhibition, ‘Sunny Side Up’ in 2011 was a huge success. Our 10th anniversary print project and event was also quite a high! The low points are thankfully few, but the long hours and how hard you have to work as a small creative business can feel quite thankless at times. But in the end it’s all worth it!

Each print is 30 x 40cm to fit in a standard size frame. They are available as singles at £30 each or as a boxed set of all 10 at £275. All prints are printed on GF Smith Colorplan or Mohawk Superfine.

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