About Roby Workshop (full career bio at the bottom)

 

Roby Workshop is the maker studio of artist Wendy Roby (that’s me). I predominantly work with thread, fabric, wood and screen print to make contemporary textile art and occasionally sculpture. I often start with cheap, second-hand or waste materials; researching, experimenting and playing until I find something that sings. In the course of this exploration I often discover construction techniques or textile treatments that suit practical objects. When that happens, I make a small edit of jewellery, accessories or more affordable/decorative art available for purchase. The current Roby Workshop product line is here. I’m also happy to work on commissions if you see something you like and want it slightly bigger/in a different colour palette etc etc.

Transformation and the satisfaction of making something-from-nothing have been my preoccupation since childhood. As an artistic process it offers a more satisfying design and construction challenge than simply Buying New Stuff. There’s also an obvious environmental benefit. In addition, it seems to me that craft and art is often – with its word salad gallery descriptions and artisanal One True Way methods – hugely exclusionary in presentation and manner. I want to approach art and making in as fair and accessible a way as possible, which is another reason for using more unassuming materials like house paint or scrap wood.

My studio is in Stockport in a very sunny room inside a Brutalist concrete block on the side of a Victorian Mill that also happens to be styled inside like Ye Olde Medieval Shoppinge Village. I find this unusual mix of architectural ideas rather baffling but the people inside Ye Olde Medieval Shoppinge Village are a delight and my room is the best room you will ever be in; filled with masses of old tools (many of which belonged to my father), shelves groaning with vintage fabric and a life’s worth of craft supplies.

On the wall it reads; WHAT DOES THIS BUTTON DO?

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Career Biography

(old website here)

I have sewn and made things all my life, but my route to full-time making has been rather circuitous. I spent nearly ten years in London being wildly patronised doing secretarial work and eventually became a manager, working in film and television. I scrabbled around under desks fixing printers whilst TV producers barked down the phone above me; rewired the patch panel and hired runners so they could be paid absolutely bugger all and shouted at when someone’s artisanal corn flakes were ‘too wet’. It was a wild world of absolutely extraordinary egos literally throwing croissants across boardrooms and it was every bit as brilliant and awful as you think.

Then one day, I saw a competition in The Guardian for aspiring journalists and decided that the prize WOULD BE MINE. I mean, it wasn’t, because I sat on the entry form for a month before downing a bottle of wine and emailing my ideas to the editor one minute before deadline (in many ways, behaving very much like a journalist, but I didn’t know that yet). In the end, I was a runner-up which meant being able to attend a very fancy Guardian party where I was commissioned to write my first two page feature. Having absolutely no idea what I was doing but with opinions in no short supply, this sparked a career in writing, during which I wrote pop culture, music and fashion journalism (including a weekly music column for four years) and co-editing a blog the Sunday Times named one of the best 100 in the world. I was also commissioned to write humorous non-fiction books (one of which was a Sunday Times bestseller) and acted as a ghostwriter on a couple of non fiction titles.

I then moved to Norwich, where I continued to freelance and became a mentor and tutor at a music college. I ran the Music Business course at Access to Music Norwich, gained an FE teaching qualification and taught young people to freelance and set up their own music business. I also managed to convince Latitude festival to let my students film and interview bands backstage and persuaded the local BBC to allow my students to make music videos in their studio on a budget of approximately fifty pence.

I moved to Stockport in 2014. After having children and the death of my father, I found myself more committed to art and sewing than ever. In fact, I found the restlessness and busyness of making to be profoundly helpful in my grief. As a member of the wonderful Manchester Sew Social group I gained the confidence to start calling my work art and began to slowly build a body of work. I started my studio in 2021, exhibited work at my first exhibition that year (at Stockport Art Gallery) and had my first solo show comprising over 20 works at the fabulous Arc Arts Centre in Stockport Hat Museum in early 2022. I now make art and products on a full time basis, running occasional workshops on making print-and-stitch artworks.

Further information on my writing career is on my old website, www.wendyroby.com.