An interview with the artists and heads behind the social enterprise Arthouse Meath. Learn more about what they make and how they make it.
Based in Surrey, Arthouse Meath works to present the skills and talents of people living with epilepsy, learning and physical disabilities. Through creativity and high quality products, Arthouse Meath aims to create a platform for people who so often feel marginalised. The artists work alongside instructors who enable them to create beautiful and unique artworks which go on to adorn a variety of products from artisan chocolate and soap to homeware.
We were so excited when they agreed to be our Artists of the Month for May and couldn’t wait to read their interview and learn a little more about this wonderful enterprise!
Can you tell me a bit about how Art House Meath began and what inspired the founders to set up such a brilliant organisation?
Founded by Becky Sheraidah in 2005 and based in Godalming, Surrey, ARTHOUSE Meath is a thriving non-profit business that now boasts over 300 stockists internationally, and has worked with such names and brands as Fat Face, Lush, Oxfam, Scribbler and the Royal Academy of Arts.
In 1999 Becky started to run workshops for adults with severe epilepsy, learning and physical difficulties. She loved getting to know each personality, each individual’s way of working, each person’s refreshing outlook.
“They didn’t have much belief in themselves and their skills were not recognised, just because they needed 24-hour care. They were colouring in someone else’s drawing or sticking tissue on paper, all of which was thrown away at the end of the day. I felt we could easily make a change.
“Each person’s unique style came with a fresh, raw, honest feel, a style which I knew mainstream artists were striving to achieve. I knew there was room for this work in the marketplace. I knew people would want it in their homes.”
The majority of ARTHOUSE Meath artists are residents of the Meath Epilepsy Trust, a charity offering housing and support services for people aged 19 and over living with severe epilepsy, learning and physical difficulties. In 2005, the Trust accepted Becky’s proposal and funded the foundation of ARTHOUSE Meath.
For people who aren’t familiar with Art House Meath, could you explain why freedom of expression and creativity are so important to the artists you work with?
Many of the artist’s verbal communication may be limited, so having the ability and opportunity to create artworks provides a source of communications that is not restrictive. The artworks produced tells the story of talent and skill, qualities that are sometimes overlooked in people living with disabilities. The artwork gives a voice to the artists saying ‘I can, I am!’
What inspires the artists?
Hear from the artists themselves:
Art is therapeutic, I have always found it therapeutic and also love the tea that Matt makes on a Friday session. I love seeing my artwork being sold and it makes me very proud when someone buys it. I feel very independent when I come to ARTHOUSE as I can be creative. Elanor Sinden
I love it because I like coming up with ideas for cards. My favourite card design is my design crazy as a coconut as it makes me laugh. It makes me feel so good when I see my work being sold. Karen Brown
I have a real passion for creating anything that involves making artwork. Whenever I have these ideas I’ll always have a go at creating them. I have always looked for similar people who have the same issues and it’s been great to meet and work with so many other similar people at ARTHOUSE. The best thing is someone going ‘WOW’ when they see it or hearing how much they love my work. Amy Sherratt
What has been Art House Meath’s finest moment so far? And what do you hope to achieve in the future?
The finest moments are always the artists meeting the people who buy their work. The artist recognising that their skills are truly valued and having a great sense of achievement is vital. Many tear jerking moments have happened when an artist painting or design sells when the artist is actually present – that moment is always so special.
The future aim is to offer more people more opportunity and become a household name in order to change attitudes and help people to feel integrated, accepted and respected.
Do you have any projects you are working on right now that you can tell us about?
There are lots of exciting projects and designs in the making! Look out for Rainbow Shark Popping Candy Milk Chocolate, Panda Mint Chocolate and a brand new toiletries range.
Finally, if you had to choose one flavour of chocolate from the range, which would be your favourite?
All the flavours, it’s just so delicious we can’t choose!
You can view our full range of Arthouse Meath products here.