Ideas Loading: Local artist Sharonjit Sutton on her many-stranded practice ahead of Hive residency

“I’m so excited to start,” says Sharonjit, sipping tea on a cold evening in Tilt. “It’s my first residency as well.”

Sharonjit Sutton is the second in a cohort of eight local artists carrying out residencies at The Hive, a community hub based in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter. Supported by the Ruskin Mill Land Trust, the residency invites creative practitioners to develop new work in response to the space and its archives, activities, community, and local environment. 

Sutton, who also goes by the moniker Ideas Loading, is a multi-disciplinary artist and graphic designer. 

“Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be an artist,” she explains “but when I got to uni my mum was like, ‘That’s not gonna get you a job”, so I thought, I’ll do graphic design. But I hated the commercial side of it. I didn’t wanna sell coca cola and trainers and stuff. I literally just work on heritage, educational and community projects, and then I have my art practice as well alongside that.”

Sutton’s practice covers various forms, including painting, ceramics, video and textiles.

“Every time I see something new, I have to try it. People say what do you do, but I don’t do any specific thing, I just like to make stuff. I hoard stuff. Our bedroom is full of cardboard; my partner’s a musician, I’m an artist, so the house is just full.

I just have to always be making something and for some reason there comes a point where everything just meets in the middle. My brain’s always worked that way, finding links between different things.”

“There’s a type of Punjabi embroidery called phulkari, inspired by Indian farmland. I was reading about the New Standard Works and it kind of has an Arts & Crafts movement vibe, all to do with nature and industry mixed together. In phulkari the patterns are all inspired by the farmland and the shapes of nature so I’ll be working with shapes from the roof garden and then mix it with stuff from the archive. I’ll just be sitting in the space, doing some embroidery. I’m going to do a couple of workshops as well, one with Make It Mend It and another one with the SevenUp group.

This won’t be Sutton’s first time teaching phulkari: she’s been hosting workshops alongside local visual artist Helena De Reybekill as part of the South Asian Arts Collective.

“Over lockdown, I got talking to Roo Dhissou, who started SAAC. She invited me to the group and since then I’ve just been involved in everything. It’s a non-hierarchical thing. So if you want to get involved you can just organise what you want; that’s how the SAAC Takeover at Moseley Hive started, and that went down really well, the first event ever. We didn’t get any funding or anything, we just did it out of our pockets. We got a fundraiser this time, trying to get so we can pay our facilitators – so we’ve got another one next month.”

Sutton’s work might be familiar to regulars at the Night Owl’s monthly night Kaleidoscope, where she’s been a big hit at the arts market. “I was trying to talk to people but I couldn’t because it was so loud!” she laughs. “The music was really good though. We haven’t been to a gig for ages! Last time was also at The Night Owl…I can’t remember if it was last year or the year before, but it was Joe Talbot from Idles giving a talk.”

All my practice is about making stuff accessible at the end of the day. Even when I go to fairs and stuff, I try to make the process as cost-effective as possible, so it can be accessed by people who wanna buy art. “

Heritage is another interest of Sutton’s, and forms the basis for a new video work. 

“I’ve started this project recently called “His Name’s Not Charlie”. It’s a reference to my grandad, because when he migrated from Kenya to London in the seventies, people started calling him Charlie. His name’s Rajinder.I started speaking about it at the Migrant Festival that the IKON did, and then people came up to me with similar stories about their names, their parents names, their grandparents names…I’m kind of collecting people’s stories.”

Sharonjit Sutton will be working at The Hive on Tuesdays and Wednesdays up until December 17th, breaking for the Christmas period, and picking up the residency again in January. She’s hosting a phulkari workshop as part of the Make It Mend It event at 6pm on 14th December, and you can join her for the Homunculi Games on 10th December at Vivid Projects as part of Black Hole Club’s current exhibition Welcome To The New Earth.

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