'Art should be social' - Q&A with Mhairi Lockett

This year the Settle Stories Festival programme illustration was created by a local young artist, illustrator Mhairi Lockett. We're proud to have supported local, young talent and increadibly blow away with the fantastic result! She's come up  one of our most powerful, eye catching festival covers to date. We caught up with Mhari to discover what inspires her, what she strives to achieve in the future and ask if growing up in a rural community has inspired her as an artist.

Q: Tell us more about your practice?

A: I’m an illustrator, currently living in Brighton and in my final year studying Illustration at the University of Brighton. My practice is slightly all over the place at the moment, as I’m trying to figure out what direction to take once I finish uni. At the moment I’m obsessed with painting wooden pallets and sign-writing, a skill which I hope to continue to develop in the near future.

Q: What inspires your work?

A: It’s difficult to pinpoint one source of influence, it mainly comes from different characters I meet and from the energy music and stories carry. Also the belief that art should be social and a part of everyday life. I want to use whatever skills I have to try and make a positive difference to people’s lives.

Q: What are the highs and lows of your creative process?

A: Like many artist and designers I have creative blocks, I can have a few months where I’m constantly making work and one project seems to lead to the next, then the next month I have no energy for creating whatsoever. I guess the way I deal with this is to see it all as a constantly moving and changing process and trusting that the next wave of motivation will come, as long as I keep my eyes open!

Q: Did growing up in Settle inspire your creativity? What did lead you down your creative path?

A: I do reckon growing up in the Yorkshire Dales and in a small community has influenced me in my creative ventures. The pace of rural life is slower and being surrounded by a lot of open space and hills definitely encouraged creativity.

I’m one of four, raised with a slightly alternative upbringing consisting predominantly of lentil soup and no TV (much to the scepticism of our school friends). But not having a TV meant we had to make up our own entertainment, we’d write and act out our own stories, build dens out in the woods, sing and make music. So creativity was something which was kind of naturally inbuilt in us all from when we were little. Something which I’m incredibly grateful for now!

I didn’t study art at GCSE or A-level but I was constantly drawing in lessons, even when I left school at 16 and went to music college, doodling was always a constant. I managed to get onto the foundation course at Leeds College of Art by building up a portfolio over a few months and then it all started from there. For any one wanting to study art at uni, I’d definitely recommend doing a foundation course, it’s fast paced but you get to experiment with lots of ideas and figure out which is the best route to take with your art. It was honestly one of the best years of my life so far and I’m still motivated by the things I learnt there.

Q: What do you want to achieve with your creative practice?

A: My dream for the future is to set up a social enterprise which runs art and music workshops in schools, charities and communities, to help encourage people to realise their own power and strength through creating art and voicing their stories.

With public sector cuts and the arts not valued as much as other subjects by our current government, the number of students choosing to study creative subjects has constantly been decreasing. I’d love to create art and do work which helps to counteract this. Every child should be allowed space and the tools to be able to play and make art, it shouldn’t just be something which is only accessible for people who have money. The creative industry is a large percentage of the UK’s economy and we should be encouraging young people to be part of that.

Art is powerful!


Check out the full Settle Stories Festival programme, click here.