TOSH Start Up Collab: Pen Gallery's festive glow up from local artist Nat Cook

Motivated by design that supports communities and social change, visual artist Nat Cook tells us about her recent collaboration with Pen Gallery

With a background as a window designer and creative lead for Lush Cosmetics, now working freelance in this industry, Nat is no stranger to print and large-scale design work in physical spaces. Emma Rowland runs Poole's wonderful Pen Gallery, a community interest company, focusing on showcasing local artists across the South West - part of the Kingland Crescent project that operates a rent-free scheme as part of a redevelopment for the area. Both graduates of our Start Up Programme with Plan Make Do, they teamed up this month to create something magical!

Nat says: “I had been working on some collages to launch a new little range for the festive period. It made sense to pull these through for the Em's window as we wanted to celebrate my graphic style but bring in the shop's colours. We were bored by traditional festive designs so instead picked the brightest colours we could get our hands on."

"I wanted to support her project as she has rallied behind me and helped sell my work through the year, which with the current climate was really cherished. We were able to draw up a couple of options in 3D. Luckily my other half Luke is very handy so he built the boxes and we all mucked in in my living room and painted them together!” 

Each design was originally made by hand and scanned to develop the designs further. Working both physically and digitally is always part of Nat's process.

"We made a tonne of mistakes and stayed up painting long into the evening but I loved every moment of our process and our thrifty natures meant we were able to create a lot from very little. The idea was to add some contemporary Christmas magic to the high street."

Emma says: “I always wanted to make art accessible for everyone and I wanted to find the best way to represent local artists. Having the opportunity to work with Nat meant not only creating something fun and dynamic but also supporting local creativity for them to do more work like this. After the knock on our high streets, we wanted to create something fun for the festive period and with the warm reception from our community, I think we’ve achieved this.”

Nat tells us she can't talk too much about her next project - however it does involve building more sets and working in real life spaces, which she's super excited about. Ideally Nat would love to be taking on more set design and commissions for her bold, graphic work. (She's also hoping that Luke will have some energy left to help her renovate her spare room!)

Find more of Nat's work here and more about Pen Gallery here.