Can you tell us a brief history of ARTHOUSE Unlimited and how your own experiences led you to start this amazing and inspiring company?
After I finished my Fine Art degree I started working with adults living with disabilities and was shocked to see how little people’s talents and skills were appreciated. People were just sticking tissue on paper which would be thrown away at the end of the day, or making pompoms; working, but with no value to their skills or recognition of their potential, or who they were as individuals and what they could offer.
I saw that every single person was creating artwork that every artist strives to create: pure, open, honest mark making. I knew there was a business there, where people living with disabilities could feel valued and validated. I believed that there was a model we could create that would help make a change and head towards better inclusion of people living with disabilities.
We could create a place where individuals would really feel respected for who they are; feel embraced, included and accepted. I wanted the artists to be able to feel real achievements and be recognised for their skills. I believed that through their work they could offer other people new ways of seeing the world.
I felt strongly then, and still do, that there is a need for change in attitudes and perceptions towards people who live with varying difficulties. I also felt a need to prove to each individual we worked with of their importance, to help each person feel a true sense of purpose.
The majority of ARTHOUSE Unlimited artists are residents of The Meath Epilepsy Charity. For those readers who aren’t familiar can you please share some insight on this charity?
The Meath Epilepsy Charity is an exceptional residential care home which aims to enhance the lives of people who have complex epilepsy and related disabilities.
The Meath ensures that people receive the support, expert care and encouragement required to build confidence, acquire new skills and maximise independence in their daily lives.
The Meath believes in ability not disability; they have always believed in what we are aiming to achieve and we are very grateful for their unwavering support.
What are the benefits of ARTHOUSE Unlimited for your clients?
Fundamentally, the benefit is purpose. Feeling purpose is important to us all. Feeling truly purposeful through the use and recognition of your own skills, to feel included, integrated and accepted is important to everyone.
At ARTHOUSE, each person’s contribution holds real true value, affirmed by the sales of artwork and products; to realise this and to develop self-belief based on it encourages better well-being. People who might not have had the opportunity before can be involved in drawing, painting, design, in selling, in distribution, in so many different areas that can result in a really positive end product.
Can you tell us the most moving experience that you've had through ARTHOUSE Unlimited?
It’s always moving when you see an artist meet the customer who is buying their work. I have seen an artist, Peter, cry with happiness when a customer loved his painting so much that they bought it there and then. When I first met Peter I was told there was no way he could draw. Since then he’s gone on to have his own solo show at Pallant House and his work is some of the best-selling we have. He is proud and confident and loves to talk to everyone about what he creates. The customer that bought his painting was emotional, Peter was crying, we were all so happy. It absolutely summed up what ARTHOUSE was about in one joyous moment.
Can you please tell us how your workshop runs?
Over 70 artists work alongside instructors who enable groups or individuals to create artworks which are developed into designer products for sale. All work derives from the skills each artist brings and every contribution holds true value.
Once the artwork is complete, it is passed over to the design team whom – whilst carefully maintaining the integrity of the original work – turn it into designs that fit onto products for sale.
At every opportunity, the artists work with the design team and later the marketing, admin and sales teams, helping to take their artwork to the end customers whether they are individuals or stockists - of which we now have over 400!
Can you describe your workplace?
Fun, creative, collaborative – it’s genuinely brilliant. The whole of ARTHOUSE, the shop, studio and office are all under one roof. The whole team is here; artists, instructors, designers, volunteers, support staff, sales, marketing, logistics, finance – everyone together working towards the same goal. It’s a very special place to be.
Can you define the uniqueness of your products and why they are so special?
The artwork is special because it is raw, honest and unpretentious. There are no layers of hidden meaning, there are just simple, truthful marks, lines and brushstrokes; beautiful, warm, sometimes funny and always moving artwork. And it’s all displayed on the highest quality products; fine bone china, organic soaps and candles, handmade chocolate, hand printed cards, ethically sourced textiles. There is nothing else out there that competes!
What is your favourite ARTHOUSE Unlimited product?
Honestly, there are too many to choose from. It’s hard when you know the artists, their personalities and ways of working to then be able to pick one over another. I love the original paintings and drawings but I also love seeing them come to life on products that then end up in people’s homes all over the world. At the moment, I particularly love the luxurious velvet cushions featuring beautiful abstract work, finished with pink neon fringing.
If we wanted to volunteer how would we go about it and what would this entail?
Just get in touch! We’re always looking for volunteers from all walks of life, with all types of skills. Whatever time or talent you have to offer, we’d love to hear from you. ARTHOUSE wouldn’t be where we are today without the help of volunteers, they’re a central part of the team.