8:00 p.m. July 3, 2022
During the confinement, many people have found their creative outlets. Whether it’s painting, drawing, sculpting or even taking pictures, the arts have proven to be a great escape for many.
And one woman who wants to help people develop their artistic talents is Mikaela Rackham.
An art teacher and photographer, Mikaela has devoted her entire life to the more creative side of things – and this weekend has just opened the doors to her own studio, Illuminate.
A hub for all things artistic, the former Suffolk New College art and design student opened the space to help bring together Suffolk’s creatives, whatever their skills or level of experience.
“I’ve been teaching art and working as a photographer for about eight years now, and I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. When I was in high school and college, I had some really amazing and inspiring teachers, and I want to help inspire people now,” she explains.
After completing her masters in photography last year, she started participating in more exhibitions and workshops – and soon realized she wanted to give others the same opportunities.
“I’ve come to a point where I want to take the leap and do photography full time, while continuing to teach and inspire people through workshops. So I decided to create a space where everyone can come in and learn something new, or share their experiences and ideas. I want to create a nice and creative community,” she says.
Illuminate, which is located in Brightwell Barns, offers a number of spaces and facilities open to everyone, including an artists’ gallery, a photography studio and Suffolk’s first photography darkroom available for hire.
“Post-lockdown a lot has happened in Suffolk in terms of the arts, but there is room for so much more. I found a gap and realized that there were no public photographic darkrooms available for hire here in the area.
The space is equipped for color and black-and-white film processing and printing, and will use environmentally friendly developing and printing chemicals.
“The darkroom is available for hire for beginners, as well as for film photography, amateurs and professionals. The goal is to create an inspiring and comfortable space for artists and creatives to learn, develop and push the boundaries of analog photography.
There’s also a shop selling a range of art supplies – plus works by a number of local artists and designers.
“The shop is here to support a wide range of creatives and sell stuff so others can be creative too. We have a brilliant group of sellers, including Concrete & Wax with their amazing candles, Dulcie Makes with their handmade paper, The Shagrooms selling wall art and tufted pillows, and Apricot Poodle selling prints of her beautiful illustrations, to name a few,” she adds.
When you walk into Illuminate, you can’t help but notice how light, airy and spacious it is – and Mikaela admits the space is perfect for what she wants to achieve.
“I had been looking for a studio for quite a few years. I actually visited Brightwell Barns when it opened and thought it would be a cool place to have a studio. I visited a few other places after that but nothing looked good.
“But when I was off work with Covid, Ben from Brightwell Barns messaged me that he had a unit coming up and asked if I wanted to check it out. I went there and immediately knew it was the right place. It’s in a lovely countryside location, and the community is still very supportive there. It’s perfect.”
To kick off Illuminate’s grand opening, the gallery will host its inaugural exhibition to help showcase some of Suffolk’s most talented.
“It’s called ‘Origin’, because it represents the beginning of something, and I tried to choose a range of artists for it,” she says.
The exhibiting artists are Catalina Carvajal, Maria Clarke-Wilson, Matt Finch, Louise Craigie, Darren Beattie, Marie Soul and Christina Marie.
“My hope with the exhibition space is that the artists gain confidence in showing their work. As an artist photographer myself, I know it can be quite intimidating, so it was important to give the artists a smaller space to get an idea of the exhibition.
The final element of Illuminate is the studio spaces, where sessions and artist talks will be offered. Mikaela herself will lead individual, group and evening workshops, and will also invite artists to come and share their skills and expertise with others.
In the future, Mikaela hopes to organize creative meetings, as well as summer workshops for children and even art movie nights.
“Illuminate’s goal is to create a space where all types of artists and creatives can come together – whether it’s a painter, sculptor or photographer – to share their skills and learn from each other.”
To find out more about Illuminate, visit illuminatestudio.co.uk