The Spaghetti Factory


Interview by Jessica Bennett

-

Published in March 2020

-

The Spaghetti Factory is a project (Jenny Mc Namara & Eve Cromwell) which began as a series of exhibitions in their house in central Newcastle. It’s now satellite, collaborating with existing spaces (including BALTIC 39, Middlesbrough Art Weekender, GOLDTAPPED, System Gallery) to programme workshops and exhibitions. They’re currently working with Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens to curate three exhibitions as part of a curatorial fellowship. The Spaghetti Factory aims to support early career artists to show a range of experimental work.

Jenny, Eve and Jess have previously all worked together with System Gallery for the exhibition Four Pack in 2019. They are currently based at The Newbridge Project in Newcastle upon Tyne and are on the Programme Committee. They are also on the More than Meanwhile Spaces || project looking at longer term artist workspaces with Newcastle University.

-

To start, what is the Spaghetti Factory?

J – We are still trying to figure this out, but I can tell you what it has been… I just don’t know if I can tell you what it is or what it is becoming. It has been a curatorial project which we started in our home when we lived in central Newcastle. We had 8 solo shows there, we aimed for one every month or two months. Then we moved to a new house, so unfortunately, we then lost that space, then we tried to work out where to go next. So we started doing workshops, guest curation in other art spaces which is what we are still doing.

E – We did two pasta making workshops in BALTIC 39 and GOLDTAPPED, which were fun, but I don’t think we advertised ourselves very well, as a lot of people just thought we were a pasta restaurant ha-ha.

J – Yes, we also have a lot of confusion where people thought we were The Biscuit Factory or Alphabetti Theatre. There is also a restaurant in London called The Spaghetti Factory, so we missed the Instagram name sadly

E – After that we went on and did more guest curation, we did the show FOUR PACK at System Gallery. That was a bit of an experiment, then after that we did Middlesbrough Art Weekender, where we did some guest curation with three other collectives, so we had a shared space with them which was cool! … and then we have just finished our solo show of our individual work at 36 Lime Street in Newcastle and now we are in the Sunderland Museum. 


Late Show pasta workshop


How has that been for you then in the past couple of months? I know it has been a bit of a crazy time for you both, having the exhibition at Lime Street and then going straight into Sunderland Museum.

J - It is a whole different thing in the museum, we are so used to DIY art spaces, and it is the complete opposite in the museum. It is quite formal, we have to give them a lot of time for things, and for the opening we just went to have canapes with the mayor…ha-ha yeah it is completely something else.

E – Yeah it was more formal, that there was a doorman with a guest list. I feel like a lot of our job in Sunderland though has been like writing emails, which is weird in comparison with what we did in our house. For example, a lot of what we did in our house was messaging people on Instagram, being like ‘do you want to go for a pint’ and maybe discuss showing some work. Then meeting them, organising the show, getting the work, and two weeks later it would be up and done!

J – In the museum there’s a lot of stakeholders and things do have to be checked over and stuff. It is a totally different way of working to what we are used to, but it is nice to see both sides and how it works.



Pasta workshop at BALTIC 39, Newcastle


Amazing! you guys have definitely done a lot of varied stuff over the years. SO – I want to go a bit further back then from what you have both done as the Spaghetti Factory. Considering I have known you both for a while, I find it weird that I don’t know how you guys first met? Or even how the Spaghetti Factory began? How did you both agree to be like ‘okay; we are both going to start putting shows on in our house’?

E - We both met on our degree course in Sunderland, we both studied Glass and Ceramics in the Glass Centre. She was actually my next-door neighbour in first year, but we didn’t really hang out that much. Then, in our final year of university, I think we were both rather frustrated with the Sunderland arts scene, in the sense we just wanted to see the stuff we liked in the arts in Sunderland. There wasn’t much of that at all before Sunderland Culture was around. There was this great thing called SOLO Arts and that was exhibitions in pubs which were fun, and that was like the introduction to the Sunderland art scene, but that was like as far as it went…

J – …we were both on our course making work which was more like sculpture rather than craft glass and ceramics. It was so skills based and technical and it’s right for some people but we are more into sculpture

E – …Then in final year, we were living together, and we were like... ‘We should do something! Like we should put some exhibitions on’…

J – … We went to Majorca together, on a placement in second year for three weeks to help this artist make a big ceramic installation. While we were there, we did discuss doing something in an abandoned space and we wanted to put work in the house across the street from us as it was empty… however it burned down…

E – ... for context, it didn’t burn with any one in it though like don’t worry. It was horrific…

J – … we would have done an exhibition at our own house in Sunderland, but it was so old and badly decorated that yeah, we agreed this is not the right place for it and then we moved to Newcastle and decided to do it there instead…

E - … yeah, we had been talking about it for quite a long time. To be honest, in third year we didn’t have the time to do it, and then something clicked when we went to Newcastle and we were like ‘We have been talking about this for so long that yes, we are bloody doing it!’


How did you decide on the name Spaghetti Factory then?

J – Oh this was actually from a sculpture I made my final year. It was loads of extruded, hanging, ceramic pieces so I ended up calling it the Spaghetti Factory and then it just stuck around…

E – yeah it was quite fun! I remember you were like I don’t know what to call it, I am thinking of calling it the Spaghetti Factory but is it like too silly. I remember being like NO! It is great!...


HOT NEW IT promotional image


As you know, I have been up here in Newcastle for nearly seven years now. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what you guys were doing in terms of curatorial projects especially the exhibitions in your house! I will be honest; I am actually gutted I missed out on that! Can you speak a little bit about that and how you did that in your house? For example, did you paint the walls white? What did you do with your furniture? 

E – When we first moved into the house, there was a bright maroon red wall, it was mingin!...

J - … yes, we were like we are lucky we have this 6 meter wall in our living/dining room but yes, we need to get rid of that colour … so we painted in yellow! We had many fights about what colour yellow we should paint it… but we went with this one in the end…

E – YES, the Pantone one…look it up it’s a nice colour

J – it wasn’t like a typical gallery space, like we had a sofa, a kitchen table and things we couldn’t move out the space. We just pushed them to one side to make sure that one wall was clear. We could only really have 2D works because the room was rather narrow. The room was a weird shape, like an optical illusion.

E - It was like that episode of Simpsons where they rebuild Ned’s house and they think that the hallway is really long. Then you find out the door is just really little when Barney pops it open and you just see his eye.

J - We found the artists in all different kinds of ways, we went to shows, we found the first one because they were in the show in Newcastle University, where I was doing my MA. We usually reached out to them on Instagram, and then we would always make a point to take them out for a drink (though most of time we were just late enough that they’d already bought their own drink) to get to know them a bit and ask them what kind of work they would want to show. Sometimes we would put the work up ourselves or sometimes we would do it together. We then had the opening – which was a bit like having a house party every single month!...

E – …We cleaned the house and then had £1 beers, and served spaghetti…

J – … I remember we tried to make fresh pasta for the first one - it all went into clumps in the pot, we had like 4 on the go at once and it all burnt in the slow cooker, and it was so bad!! Disgusting – never again! And then we changed it to spaghetti hoops…  Yeah so it was 6-9. We would have to remember at the end to kick people out, I would flick the lights on and off and be like we are off to the pub!

E – My dream would be to have a Slugtown situation, where they have a front room dedicated to it – clean, no furniture…

J – It was nice though as it was so homey, like it made people relax, it was informal, I do miss things like this


HOT NEW IT, installation view, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Sunderland 2020


SO moving on from Spaghetti Factory as I know you have this duo together, but of course you each have your own individual practices. Do you want to speak a little about this?

J – We have just had a show at 36 Lime Street together, it was the first time we’ve shown our work together as our own individual practices. I made some new paintings for it; I work between both 2D and 3D. I am really interested in pattern and visual perception and I’ve been seeing my sculptures as pattern machines, so I have been making 3D things with reflective parts and stripes… and then making 2D work from that. So, I made paintings from patterns made by my sculptures. The idea is the work changes as you move around it and the pattern gets distorted. I like stripes a lot and I use them pretty much all the time.


I love this idea that you have made something as finished work i.e. a sculpture, and then taken it on a process and developed it again, and then again. Do you think you will continue to do this with your work?

J – Yeah, I think so, I think I now want to make some prints of these paintings. I also have some more ideas that I can use to upset the patterns, so for example the stripes, using 3D objects and then taking that into 2D again.

E – I like to think about the idea of Utopia and Sci-fi. I concentrate a lot on the insignificant; but the insignificant that becomes significant when it stands in the way of creating a utopia, if that makes sense. So, for example, I am looking at potholes at the moment, the idea that a utopia could not exist if it has potholes in it, I like this idea of us building and regeneration but when you construct a building, you are making a statement. You are building the future you want to see so I am interested in that and the idea that in the future, we might decide that the world is perfect. If we create a perfect world, we would never have to build ever again… so I like thinking about this idea of the creation of perfection and what that problems might be.


The perfect world has no potholes essentially…

E – Yes no potholes! I like casting potholes and reproducing the ones that exist. I really like this idea that you can never have a utopia because I’ve made another bloody pothole. I am very much into the idea of utopia and I guess, utopian concepts and playing with them.



HOT NEW IT, work by Sarah Winslett, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Sunderland 2020


So I have a weird question, I know your practices both differ from what you do as Spaghetti Factory but are there are crossovers – where you ever think, wait is this my practice or is this Spaghetti Factory? I know Spaghetti Factory is more curatorial based, but do you ever have that happening or do you think they are very separated?

J – We have some things in common, we have similar taste when looking for artists. Not always, but a lot of the time we are on the same page. We also have a lot of materials in common, we both like industrial like plastics, bright colour, light…

E – …I guess this show in Lime Street was a real testing point for us. It was very much is this Spaghetti Factory or is this our practices? ….

J - … And are we the Spaghetti Factory?...

E - … Yes. This was the first time we have ever shown our work as The Spaghetti Factory, but it also was The Spaghetti Factory with our work if that makes sense. It has made us think about a lot of questions like The Spaghetti Factory isn’t the space anymore because we are satellite, so are we The Spaghetti Factory? Or are we only the Spaghetti Factory sometimes?

I do have moments sometimes where I see things, or have ideas and I have to stop myself and I am like ‘No, it is too much like Jenny’s work’ and I have to force her to use them or make them instead… or I do have ideas were I am like we have to collaborate on this at a later date.



HOT NEW IT, work by Katie Watson and Kevin Petrie, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Sunderland 2020


So going more towards The Spaghetti Factory, do you both have a specific process when it comes to putting on a show? I know you have done call outs and things are obviously different now with you not having a space, but would you say you have a process or method working together to put on a show?

E – I think we have quite a direct method to be honest…

J – …we do have a list of artists we keep in mind to work with in the future… we go to a lot of shows and openings to meet new artists and we like to work with past artists as well…

E - … Yes, I like to look after the ‘Spaghettos’ once we show them, as I really appreciate the relationship we build with them. For Middleborough Art Weekender we took our past artists, as we know we liked working with them, they’re reliable, they had work ready to go so that was quite nice and easy. We have done call outs too…

J – We did a call out for the first ever thing we did. However, it was such a failure as we got loads really good applications from artists who were out of the country, not north East based and with no funds it would be so tricky. We also did a call out for our show at Sunderland Museum, as we are not as familiar with the art scene now in Sunderland, so we wanted to see what was out there. We didn’t put the call out with shows in mind, we just wanted to see what comes back, so that was a bit more exploratory…

E – … I feel as though we are very on it now, like this is what we want to do, this is who we want to see, we have a clear thing in mind. We are not as unsure of ourselves anymore…

J - … For example, we know it’s best to meet artists face to face to discuss things as early on as possible in the process. We have gone to artists houses before, building those relationships. Even when we used to do shows in our house and we couldn’t pay the artists, I think the most important thing was that it was useful for the artists…

E - … Yes definitely! We would give them something in return like our labour and time. We always have to remember though that it is a mutual exchange so if anything, we do more work. The shows in our house, we were very, ‘you just tell us what you need from us for this show and we will do it’. If they just want to hand us a folder of work and we choose them and curate the show, then that is fine. However, we do get other artists who want more input and involvement, it is always on the artists terms which I think is so important when they are working for free…


Would you ever then say work with an artist to make new work? Giving them that support and encouragement for a new show?

J – We have never done that actually! We usually, so far, have preferred to show their old works. We usually know we like the work, it’s something finished, and we haven’t had the budget to commission people so I wouldn’t expect artists to make new work. I know one artist did, but he really wanted to…

E – Yes, his work is very site specific though, he makes work about the place the work is shown in. We invited him, and we were like just give us old work, but he was really keen to do something new. That was quite uncomfortable for us not being able to pay him, but we supported him as much as we could, he was totally fine with that though and it went so well! It was definitely fun!



HOT NEW IT, work by Anthony Amoako Attah, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Sunderland 2020


It would be interesting to see in the future if you did commission an artist, whether your own practices do come in on that… or do you think you would try and keep it in that situation, that you are very much a curator?

E – Maybe. If I had money to commission people and to mentor them then, yes. I guess this is what being on the Programme Committee at The Newbridge Project will turn out like, I think I would like that opportunity to work with an artist and go through ideas. We have never had the money to do that though and I think it would be unfair for us to do that when we are not paying them. However, this could be something we do explore on the Programme Committee and y’know work with some amazing artists to make new work…


SO very interesting question… Do you ever think Spaghetti Factory will have a space again?

J – OOOOO this is something we go back and forth on all the time! I was always like I want a space, and so did Eve at one point, but then we were also like it is going well though without a space. We did have discussions a long time ago now, about having a gallery space but then having another separate section like a learning space. However, things have changed so much since then…

E – yeah and I think this suits me as there is no responsibility. We don’t have to pay rent, worry about bills, generating an income…

J - … yeah this is a big problem for us, as it is the question of if we got a space, how would we keep it open. We have seen places open and close and lose their Arts Council funding. So, we have discussed a ‘side hustle’ with the space, whether that be café, laundrette, a corner shop, but all of those come with such hurdles…

E - … yes, and it’s like you would also have to pay yourself to be there. So, it’s not just the rent, it’s your income as well. I like the idea of temporary spaces and pop up ideas, but I also like the ways of getting around it like a gallery in a van… you know…

J – However, on the flip side if we did have a space, we wouldn’t have to answer to anyone, we could shape it exactly how we want it to be, we can programme it. It comes with a lot of work and responsibility and hurdles but in return, I think it comes with a lot of freedom! Like we really like Pop Recs in Sunderland – it’s a music space rather than art but it’s a café, a record shop and a community hub that do gigs

E – the thing I’m interested in … is this thing we are doing isn’t about producing monetary worth or value. We don’t show artwork that is necessarily for sale, however, I am really interested in showing experimental work and weird stuff. I guess it’s that the worth that isn’t cash value, I want to exist outside of that system of having to make money and pay rent. But then it’s how would we even be able to go outside the system to do that? BIG QUESTIONS! HORRIBLE QUESTIONS! HAHA!


Sorry guys! Well doing exhibitions in your house was a great idea! Do you think you would ever do exhibitions in your house again?

E – Well no I wouldn’t do it in my house right now…

J - … well you can’t do it in my house either ha-ha…

E –…  My dream really is to have it back in my house and have an actual front room which is a gallery. If I had a nice big old house and paid the mortgage… put my flatmates elsewhere! Or even the garage as I feel like it solves everything! It is so much nicer to have people over and have a DIY, informal vibe, no canapes, experimental work…



Eve Cromwell (left) & Jenny Mc Namara (right)


…It is true, I think it can make something more honest. Lastly, do you have any plans for Spaghetti Factory long-term?

J – I feel very committed to it… *looks at Eve* omg your face haha!


Don’t! I don’t want to break up Spaghetti Factory…! haha!

J – I don’t know where it will be a year from now or two years from now. I feel I have really been enjoying the project so far and want to see what opportunities come our way. For example, we didn’t think we would get into Sunderland Museum a year ago and that’s happened…

E - … I know isn’t it weird… considering we started off by just putting paintings up in our house…

J - … I know it’s mad! So, who knows what will happen next year! I feel pretty committed though; it is not something that I want to stop. I only finished studying a few months ago from my MA, but I am not looking for full time work as I know I would not have time to do this and this is really important to me…

E - ... Yes! I guess we just take things as they come, and we have been fortunate to get the opportunities we have! We do not need to think about what we are, who we are and what we will be as we will just find an opportunity that we feel like we can do and that can shape the future of Spaghetti Factory!...

J – … It is definitely easier to look back and appreciate than think of the future. It feels spooky I think as we don’t have plans currently for after the Sunderland show but see what happens… whoever’s reading hint hint give us an opportunity haha


When you started Spaghetti Factory, did you think it would go on for as long as it has?

J – No, we were worried nobody would come at all…

E – I didn’t really think about the future of it when I started it, but I feel more determined now, as the more we get involved in these conversations in the city, like More Than Meanwhile Spaces II to look at the importance of spaces and art communities. However, they also talk about projects which have failed – and it makes me feel more determined to be one of the ones that do stick!

J – When I went to Nottingham last year, I got to speak to different art spaces there which started out as artist-led projects. I feel like the art scene there is a little further along than Newcastle. I went to several now permanent spaces which started as grassroots projects and it gives me hope that this could grow and become something more…

E – on a boat!


...on the Tyne!

E – Spaghetto Princess!

J – quick write this down!


-

Hot New It is currently on show in the Art Gallery at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens from November 2019 - June 2020. Hot New It is a series of three exhibitions curated by us which showcases contemporary talent from Sunderland.

Our second exhibition in the series is currently on show (running from January - March) featuring the work of local artists Kevin Petrie, Brenda Watson, Katie Watson and Paddy Killer. The work in this show has been selected in response to the museum’s current Arts Council Collection exhibition, Received Wisdom and its theme of celebrating age and creativity.

-

If you like this why not read our interview with Isobel Neviazsky

-

© YAC | Young Artists in Conversation ALL RIGHTS RESERVED