In 2005 Fireworks Clay Studios were successful in receiving a Capital Lottery Grant from Arts Council Wales.
Although these type of grants are no longer available, this case study is an example of how initial funding can be the impetus for a whole range of projects, partnerships and developments within an arts organisation.
Fireworks Clay Studios in Cardiff was established in 1995 by six ceramics graduates all seeking collective strength and support in their bid to set up as practicing artists. Over the past thirteen years the cooperative, which started with very few resources and equipment has not only survived, but has flourished into well established studios. Now housing seventeen artists, it is the largest cooperative of its kind in Europe and has grown in reputation in the UK and internationally.
Dan Allen, founder member and chairman until 2007 attributes Fireworks success to two things. "It's steady and measured growth and the energy and commitment of its members. Members are selected not only on the strength and diversity of their practice, but on their ability and willingness to continue driving the group forward. Each and every one of the forty four past and present members have invested much if their time and energy developing the cooperative. Against all professional advice, these members have not only proved that cooperatives can be hugely successful, but have helped numerous budding artists establish their careers that would not have otherwise done so."
In 2005 Fireworks approached the Arts Council of Wales for a Captial Grant from the Lottery fund. Virginia Graham, a Fireworks member since 2000 explains why:
"For the decade up until 2005 Fireworks had worked well. We had built ourselves up from practically nothing to become a well established and respected group of artists, but our facilities and equipment were beginning to falter. Our one and only shared kiln was on its last legs and the rest of our equipment, that had mostly been second, or third hand when we acquired it was no longer fit for purpose and was certainly not going to attract the best artists to join our group for much longer.
"We also had lots of plans for the future but were unable to go ahead with these due to lack of funds and the poor state of our facilities. We wanted to expand and take on extra space within our building, start an international residency programme and provide a graduate scholarship space to ensure that we could continue to achieve our initial goals - to nurture and facilitate talent in the ceramics fraternity. It soon became apparent that if we wanted to survive and grow into the future we would need to apply for a grant because our reliance, up until then, on rent and donations from members was certainly not going to cover everything we needed.
"We spent the money we received on three new kilns, wet-back spraying facilities, a large compressor capable or supplying pressurised air for power tools to individual studio spaces, and re-equipping our photography studio with a new digital camera, lighting and backdrops. The rest of the money was to be used to upgrade our electricity supply for the new kilns and install a fireproof enclosure and extraction ducting to our kiln room.
"Although the grant application and building / installation work was a time consuming process it was well worth all the disruption. Firework's now has state of the art facilities that not only benefit our members but also people outside of the cooperative through our hire system.
"In 2007, in order to celebrate our tenth anniversary, as well as increasing our public profile and awareness of our new residency schemes, we set about arranging a touring exhibition and accompanying publication. Again we turned to the Arts Council for a small project grant to help us do this. The £4000 we received was put to good use with the exhibition touring to six destinations across the UK including Oriel Myrddin in Carmarthen and Llantarnam Grange. The catalogue is a showcase for what we do and the artists we house and has been really useful for encouraging applicants to our residency schemes.
"Over the last three years we have been able to establish and develop our residency programmes, with three space in the building set aside for this purpose. With the help of Wales Arts International we are now able to house American artists on an exchange programme between Wales and Philadelphia Clay Studios in the USA that has already seen three Welsh ceramicists spend time in the states. The first artist, Amy Santoferraro joined Fireworks at the end of 2008 and the work she created during the residency is on show throughout February 2009 at Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre.
"Our second residency programme is a scheme open to all international artists. It will be an annual residency of three to four months and will kick off with Chinese ceramicist Geng Xue joining us in April 2009. The Arts Council of Wales are supporting this project for the next three years and have enabled us to create partnerships with other organisations in Wales in order to offer the resident artists more than just space and equipment. Geng Xue will receive technical help and materials from UWIC and the University of Glamorgan, exhibition space at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff and lecturing opportunities at the International Potters Festival in Aberystwyth. We are really hopeful that this scheme will not only benefit us at Fireworks but will bring international ceramics to a wider audience in Wales through the various partnerships we have made.
"Our Graduate Scholarship scheme is also going from strength to strength with our second intake of Graduates during 2008 -09. Two emerging artists are offered space and facilities for one year, bringing new talent from all over the UK to settle and begin their careers in Wales. We hope to develop this scheme in the future to include opportunities for professional development and career advice during their year with us.
"Over the past four years Fireworks has gone from strength to strength. With the support of the Arts Council of Wales we have been able to realise our ambitions and can now offer so much more to the wider craft fraternity in Wales as well as offering our members a more stable future."
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