Not even the Beast from the East could dissuade me from attending the Spring Exhibition launch and the first After Hours Social at The Biscuit Factory. And so, on Friday 2nd March, Mark dutifully held me up as I skidded through the snow slush in my non-grip Chelsea boots towards the gallery.
The Biscuit Factory is an achingly cool art and crafts gallery set within the walls of an old warehouse. Based down in the Ouseburn valley, the gallery is the largest commercial art, craft and design gallery in the UK. It will also be one of the hubs for the forthcoming Great Exhibition of the North.
As always, the setting is as impressive as the art itself. Wandering around beneath the beams and amongst the exposed brick walls is a delight - particularly with a free glass of Prosecco in hand. Not gonna lie.
The ground floor has been newly decorated and repositioned as the gallery’s contemporary craft and design space. A mix of sculpture, paintings and functional homewares adorn the walls and tables. I had my eye on some Insta-worthy earthenware; tactile, rustic, handmade, but far too precious for a Yorkshire brew.
Also on the ground floor, was a botanical themed jewellery collection. Taking their inspiration from the natural world (though perhaps not from Storm Emma) and just in time for spring. The collection includes more than 350 handmade pieces of jewellery and showcases a varied mix of styles, materials and techniques.
It was lovely to note all of the people milling around with their glasses of fizz, appreciating the art in this wonderful setting - despite being wrapped up in layers of snow-seeped clothing. Perhaps that just added to the charm. At least in hindsight. I guess it's true that art brings people together.
Cornish seascape artist John Brenton headlines the spring exhibition. Brenton regularly visits the North East, painting ‘en plein air’ to capture the North East’s capricious coastlines and charismatic castles, including Bamburgh and Lindisfarne.
Another stand-out event of the exhibition is Rosa Luetchford, who’s ‘Three Women’ painting featured on the event flyer. With a timely theme throughout her recent work, Rosa comments on the forgotten female artists, throughout history to the present day.
Positioned in a quiet corner, Scottish ceramicist Wendy Kershaw’s ‘It Was A Windy Day With Butterflies’ brought a smile to my face. A woman after my own heart, she uses porcelain to illustrate an intimate world in which small acts of everyday life are imbued with importance.
So, I can’t lie, I also braved the snow spurred on by the promise of the Factory Kitchen’s first foodie event. The After Hours Social guaranteed a selection of Mediterranean street food and pop-up bar including beers from local fave Almasty Brewing Co.
The Cafe manager, Harriet Edgar said: “We wanted to create an event that reflects who we are as a café and share with our guests the food we love to cook and more importantly, the food we love to eat! Plus, we’ll be pouring beer from one of our favourite local breweries, Almasty Brewing Co. So, with a combination of great food and great beer, what’s not to love?”
I couldn’t believe the beauty of this hidden gem. The space was adorned with fairy lights and lantern garlands, while tables were topped with plant pots, candles in jam jars and menus on wooden clipboards. We sampled all 3 of the bar snacks: homemade crackling, olives with lemon and herbs, and cheese accompanied with celery salt. You know, for research purposes. Plus - art makes me peckish!
This venue would be absolutely perfect for a cosy catch up with friends or a Sunday filled with art, books and good food. Their menu includes harissa roasted leg of lamb served with tzatziki and a pearl barley and pomegranate salad for just £8.50. Might I add that they create cakes to order and churn up alternative ice-cream flavours such as mulled pear and dandelion and burdock!
Great news for me, the cafe also serves up an all-day brunch, which I’ll be back to sample.
The gallery have also released a series of workshops for the public to attend this spring, from block painting to teapot or soy wax candle making and modern calligraphy.
Experience the Biscuit Factory for yourself as part of Ouseburn Open Studios on 17th and 18th March, or at The Late Shows on 18th and 19th May. Or, you know, just any day of the week when you're feeling arty.