Arts Inspiration – Andy Eathorne

For the Arts Inspiration section of the Bronze Arts Award: Level 1 Award in the Arts qualification, young people need to research the work of an artist that inspires them. During lockdown we have been working online with students from The CE Academy to support them in gaining these qualifications – the equivalent to a passing grade at GCSE. Rudi met and interviewed artist and technician Andy Eathorne after previously working with him on a woodworking workshop.

1. What got you into woodworking?

I’ve always had a practical mind, right from when I was young, mending my bikes and adding lights on and working out how to do it. I guess I got into working with wood as it’s easier to work with and join together as opposed to metal. I’ve never had training, it’s just having a creative mind and thinking “How am I going to make that” and visualising how it will come together. I worked with wood when I started building luxury yachts at Fairline Boats in Corby and in the end I was fitting out cabins with all the wood and taking it to a finish. Then I worked at a college helping artists visualise their art works which included a lot of working with wood, building big installations for them.

2. What is your biggest inspiration?

I guess it was when I happened to be the first person to ever go into Tate Modern when it opened in 2000. I was doing an Art A-Level evening course as a mature student at the time and it definitely started my career off in the arts.

I found the whole occasion inspiring, but the actual building was inspiring too. I went on to create a piece of work based on what I learnt about the building. I found out who built it and then found out that they had designed the phone box as well!

Tate Modern used to be a power station and it was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. There are lots of similar design features between the red phone boxes and the design of the turbine hall.

Writing this has got me thinking about this time. I have just realised that it was 20 years ago this year that it first opened on 12 May! It’s brought back lots of memories. So I thought you might be interested to see my sketchbook with pictures, newspaper cuttings and the art works that I made as a result of the visit.

The chimney at Tate Modern was a huge inspiration. No-one can access this bit, so my project imagined that phone boxes were being built in there and slowly going up the different layers until they floated away out of the top to their destinations. This idea was also influenced from the Pink Floyd album cover with the pig floating over Battersea Power station.

And to prove that I was the first member of the public to go into Tate Modern, here is a newspaper cutting – I am holding up the Tate Modern guide book which Sir Nicholas Serota had signed for me.

I have kept in touch with Nicholas over the years and I was invited to both the 5th and the 10th anniversaries of the opening of Tate Modern. Funny story for the 10th anniversary: the official photographer didn’t turn up and so they asked me to do it!

Here are some photographs I took from that night – there are some famous art names amongst the crowd! And Nicholas Serota presenting me with my own gingerbread from the cake!

Nicholas recently visited Fermynwoods Contemporary Art, which we were very excited about, but unfortunately I had another job booked on so couldn’t be there – how annoying!

3. What is the hardest part of being an artist?

Sadly it’s the money side that’s hardest if you’re an artist. There tends to not be a lot of money in it but there are ways to make it work. I think you need to be quite clever on the business side and it’s not every artist that can do that. Usually you have either a creative mind or a business mind, some are lucky to be able to do both!

4. Do you make money from your art and do you manage to keep financially stable from it?

I didn’t make any money for a long time. But gradually other artists realised that I could do photography and video and I slowly started to get paid by artists to do work for them. I was able to make a bit of money making things for artists through woodworking too. So that was mainly how I made money rather than make it from my art directly.

5. What has been the best period in your art for your career?

I would say working for the last 20 years for Fermynwoods Contemporary Art as a technician, helping artists to show their work in galleries. It needed my creative engineering side to troubleshoot how I could do it – that’s something that’s been with me all my life.

Untitled (believe) at Lyveden New Bield, Caroline Wright, 2011. Installation and photography by Andy Eathorne

6. I draw a lot – when I finished a piece of work I’d be really proud of it, but when I woke in the morning I hated it. Do you ever have these issues and how do you resolve them?

That’s a very common thing with a lot of creative people! Actually they say to do that, come back the next day and if you still like it you are on to a winner! If I’m not happy I would work out why and try and put it right, or just move onto the next thing.

7. How do you find new ideas for your projects and how hard is it for you to put your ideas into reality?

My new ideas usually come from my last piece of work, having the eye to see something that worked and then trying to include that into it. Sometimes they work sometimes they don’t but it’s all about experimenting with whatever you are working with. Happy accidents come along too when you didn’t mean to do something but then you remember it for next time. Again it’s keeping your eyes open and experimenting when these happy accidents happen. It can be hard to make the idea work sometimes but that’s the exciting part and don’t give up!

8. How do you promote and sell your work?

Sadly I rarely sell anything as I find marketing very hard to do and finding the right words is my stumbling block. I am quite proud though that I have found another way to make money by actually helping other artists –  and let them do all the hard wording applying for funding! Shsh don’t tell them!

9. How hard is it to juggle between the different types of art you do?

Photography is my main art form now but there are lots that branches out from it: teaching, running a studio and working for other people. It can be hard pleasing everyone sometimes. My paper diary is a lifeline to remind me what I’m doing next.

10. Is art for you more of a hobby or a job?

At this point in my life it is a job now. I wish I could have got into it all earlier in my life. When I left school it was only the brainy kids that got to go to Uni so we all had to get a job. So I have learnt all I know by going on workshops, talking to people, looking at magazines, books or more lately the internet. So make the most of learning when you’re young as you will need these things later in life so that you have a job you LOVE DOING. That’s very important!

Best of luck to you Rudi. Great to be able to work with you.

Andy Eathorne

Read more about our Arts Award activity here.