Artist Linzi’s in a flap for all the right reasons

Linzi Cason
Linzi Cason
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The silk screen prints flutter like Nepalese prayer flags atop some improbably high Himalayan peak - or some very arty washing line...

But we’re decidedly down to earth in the very heart of Blackpool. The screens, actually made of cotton and hessian, billow in the breeze (and occasional gales each time the door to Squirrel & Tiffin’s pop-up art cafe and workshop at 57-59 Victoria Street opens).

Linzi Cason

Linzi Cason

The young woman responsible for the latest brief arty incarnation of an empty shop has pinned her hopes for the future on these fragile creations.

Linzi Cason, 29, erstwhile Blackpool Council’s first official photographer, then artist and now workshop provider, is in a flap for all the right reasons.

She has clinched an Arts Council grant of £10,000 to fund her dream. It takes guts to go it alone to the Arts Council, cap and project in hand, to sell an idea that doesn’t involve loads of support from like minded locals or match funding from other agencies.

But Linzi’s got what it takes to fight her own corner for funding.

She’s already won the support of influential artist Michael Trainor - whose glittering mirrorball They Shoot Horses Don’t They on New South Promenade is one of the definitive public artworks of Blackpool.

Michael has nothing but praise for Linzi’s project - an exhibition of screen printed textiles and art cafe open rom 10am to 4pm Monday to Wednesday through this month. There are also free workshops for 10-15 students aged from 18 upwards every Monday and Wednesday from 1pm to 3pm featuring artists from around the country. They will teach a range of techniques - from printing and collages to creative calligraphy and book sculpture. There’s even a workshop in how to make a message in a bottle.

Linzi admits that not everyone has responded well to her successful bid for an Arts Council grant.

“I sometimes think there’s an expectation of artists that we’re all arty-farty and don’t really live in the real world and know how it works - particularly where money’s involved - but there’s nothing to stop any one of us from applying to the Arts Council for aid as I did.

“I applied to the council’s Grants for the Arts so I could train myself in various areas of printmaking, make a new body of work to be exhibited in a pop-up arts cafe in Blackpool and hold free art workshops to the general public and residents teaching new skills I have learned during the grant period.

“I wanted to do something different with my photography and learn skills I could then pass on to other people in Blackpool. The artwork is all screen printed textiles - my photographic images made into screen prints and then printed onto large fabrics hanging on the wall.

“The theme is of various skeletal trees in various patterns and came about when looking back into my archive of images. I have always been drawn to the shapes and pattern these skeletal trees make against the sky and so I started to experiment with the images.

“I travelled all over the country to do the workshops where I learned new skills in monoprinting, devore printing, letterpress and how to repeat a pattern infinitely.”

Along the way she managed to build her new business Squirrel & Tiffin and allied website www.squirrelandtiffin.co.uk. It is subtitled “a little squirrel on a big journey” and Linzi admits: “The name just came to me, no great meaning or special significance but I can’t wait to see where it leads. It really does feel like the start of an adventure.”

Her photography business has been running for five years and she recently started screen printing onto textiles using photography and hand drawn designs. “But a big part of Squirrel & Tiffin includes running workshops that are creative and aimed at women and men aged 18 plus - and I would love to get more people involved. The emphasis is on local support too.”

She’s sourced materials from June’s Fabrics, of King Street, run by the same family for more than 80 years locally. Granthams, in business for more than 120 years, with 100 years’ experience in graphics locally, provides integral elements such as high quality diacetate. And Linzi has links with Blackpool’s FY Creatives, Lytham Hall and others.

“Blackpool’s like a big arty village,” she admits. “It’s hard to get across to people who aren’t directly involved just how incredibly creative the Fylde is. They expect it of cities or more picturesque locations but here - no. Yet this town has an amazingly creative spirit. It’s an inspiration. No matter how far I go I always want to come back here.”

Linzi says the timing and location couldn’t be better. “I’m grateful to Debbs Lancelott, manager of the Houndshill centre, and Mark Hickey, assistant manager, for letting me have this unit because it’s such a prime town centre location - and great for passing trade for the January sales. They have even prepared and kitted it out for me.

“I hope people call in and check out what we’re doing - and maybe sign up for a workshop.”

As an added incentive there’s a cafe within the pop-up shop run by staff from an outlet within the Houndshill.

“Where is art without coffee - or cake?” says Linzi who says she is out to show the world that “Blackpool has quality artists nestled between its quirky exterior and the Golden Mile.”

n Linzi will teach monoprinting, repeat printing and screen printing - and also discuss devore, a more complex chemical process. Gemma Lacey will host relief printing sessions and show how to use memories of Blackpool as a starting point to design and cut rubber stamps. Claire Bates presents book sculpture, aper folding, cutting and manipulation of second hand books into unique pieces of art. Tracey Eastham will introduce students to mixed media collage with found or second hand materials and Boz Phillips combines creative calligraphy and paper manipulation to produce messages in a bottle.

For more vist the website www.squirrelandtiffin.co.uk or drop in on the unit.