Just beyond the Mancunian Way, past Castlefield, where all the old buildings are being re-purposed or knocked down to make way for the ever-growing apartment lifestyle, Joe Hartley and a number of other artists and makers occupy a three storey building.
His shared space is neatly divided into three, a woodwork area, a ceramics area and a middle space dividing the two which is the office/garment area. The woodwork area is the space you enter into and it is full of activity, sawdust filling the room and the sound of cutting, sanding and shaping rings through the floor. We quickly move past the noise and through the office into Joe’s ceramic space. The use of different mediums is obvious all around the room – as you enter you have to pass a set of stools, stacked in a row, the first is made out of coppiced hazel foraged from the space over the road, the slick looking stool next to it is made out of oak he found in the skip downstairs and the furthest on the right is a set of stools he’s designed for an upcoming pub, neatly stacked on top of each other. Just past the stools is a kiln with a few ceramic pieces scattered on top, and past that, an area with a bike leaning just below a huge wall mounted world map. This sets the tone for the rest of the space, an eclectic mix of objects and materials, tools and equipment.
Joe describes himself as, “Butcher, Baker, Designer, Maker – which sums up the cross discipline way I work.” He is a product designer who works with wood, clay and cloth. The “Butcher and Baker” refers to Joe’s time before university when he worked in more traditional jobs and it wasn’t until he was 26 that he went to Manchester Metropolitan University and did a 3D Design degree. He graduated and left after winning the Business Design Centre’s New Designer of the Year award 2012. That helped kick-start his career and his exhibition at the Craft Centre Manchester opened him up to the Manchester scene. Shortly after that he moved into the workshop he shares today, a mixed use building full of makers and artists.
Throughout his space there are lots of experimental pieces dotted around, each piece has its own story to tell. We found a wooden box that holds a shirt and then turns into a hanger; a garment made out of an old Litchfield tent, utilising everything from the toggles to the guy ropes and a coffee cup that measures the exact amount of filter coffee needed. Each piece has a personality and playfulness of its own. Before his current project, ‘the Pilcrow pub’, everything he made was relatively small, using his bike to dictate the size… if it didn’t fit in his panniers he didn’t make it.
He is currently working as lead maker and facilitator of the Pilcrow pub. A pub, which is being built in Manchester by an army of volunteers. Joe’s job is to facilitate the making of the pub through a variety of workshops. He says “With so many people involved, the prospect of group making is really exciting and it will be great to see what we will end up with.” Although he doesn’t make everything, Joe will be involved with everything that is made at the Pilcrow. Joe and a skilled team of volunteers with years of knowledge will help produce something that will become completely unique in its realisation and execution. Everyone is excited to see what will be produced, none more so than Joe, who is involved until September when the pub opens, but there are plans in place for the Pilcrow Legacy to continue so it can, as he put it “dovetail into the future”.
The projects Joe has been involved with so far in his short career are as varied as his style of work. It is safe to say whatever the future brings, for Joe it will be a creative hive of activity fuelled by his curious nature and playful personality.