Artistic ability can be learned: it’s all about your perception

Artistic ability can be learned: it’s all about your perception

Artist of the month: Caroline Gaytor


Caroline Gaytor has come a long way from playing with buttons in her grandma’s tins. Since graduating from Leicester University in 2003, the community arts practitioner has delivered a wide range of projects with children, teenagers, adults, families and disabled people in the Sheffield area.

Caroline works with groups like Don- caster Community Arts (DARTS) and Art in the Park, across a variety of different disciplines, including: mosaics, textiles, sculpture and printmaking, to make art accessible for everyone.

“I love my job,” she grins as we meet at the Old Junior School’s cafe in Sharrow. The location is particularly fitting since, together with local artists, Caroline is currently planning a weekend of creative art activities and an exhibition as part of the Sharrow Community Creatives event, which will take place at the school in May.

“The Old Junior School is an important hub for the community and for creative opportunities in Sharrow,” Caroline explains. “What I love about the school is that people actually use it: they are taking part in all of the different activities, so there is a really exciting community vibe.

“There are so many amazing events in Sharrow, such as the recent Lantern Carnival, and it’s brilliant that somewhere like the Old Junior School can help bring people of all ethnicities and abilities together. The exhibition will allow everyone to get involved with the art scene in Sheffield.”

Whilst Caroline works across a range of disciplines, her specialism is mosaics – and it is this art form that inspires her the most. Citing playing with her grandma’s buttons as her first real taste of art, she says that mosaics appeals to her because she “likes the concept of putting things together.”

In a recent project with Heatherwood Special School in Doncaster, Caroline worked with all the children in the school who have severe learning and physical disabilities. Each class created its own series of sensory inspired mosaics to form outdoor educational resources that provide stimulation and opportunities for creative play.

The concept of creating functional mosaics is something that Caroline is keen to explore and develop – she believes that it is important to select materials that people can respond to; a concept she also implemented when working with the Broomhall Visual Improvement Project and the British Stammering Association.

Caroline’s most recent mosaic work is based around incorporating mural work and mosaic, and tends to favour the direct method of mosaic as this tends to be the simplest method in a workshop setting. This involves creating a paper based design which is then cut out as a template from marine ply wood, and a colour scheme and materials are chosen. The base is sealed and scored and the tiles and materials are then glued. Once completely dry, grout is applied over the top of the design and then removed in layers with a damp cloth to reveal the piece beneath.

For Caroline, inspiration can be found in the simplest of places. “There is an endless source of inspiration that can be drawn from the things that we see every day, whether it’s freshly painted graffiti or the graphics on the back of a cereal packet,” she says.

“One of my favourite pieces is ‘Field for the British Isles’, by Anthony Gormley. It’s made from thousands of tiny clay figures that stand together and seem to be staring at the viewer. It’s such a clever idea. Strong design ideas appeal to me: I think that’s why I like mosaic art, as it is essentially made of individual elements that fit together to make a complete design.”

“When I’m in a workshop, I know I’m in the right place when people say they can’t draw or they’re not creative enough. My work is all about offering a wide range of creative opportunities that think outside the box and don’t necessarily rely on drawing skills. I believe that artistic ability can be learnt; it’s all about your perception of it.”

As part of the Sharrow Creatives project, Caroline will be installing a series of mosaics for an open art exhibition at the Old Junior School. The free event will showcase and promote artists of all backgrounds within the Sharrow community. There will be an opening night on the 18th May from 7.30 pm – 10pm where there will be entertainment, refreshments and the opportunity to meet the artists. The exhibition will be shown on Sunday 19th May from 11am to 3pm.

Jonathan Roberts

About Jonathan Roberts

Basically I manage the strategic and day-to-day work of SCF with responsibility for ensuring our work matches our aims and objectives. I am accountable to the Trustee Board, our funders and stakeholders. However, my concentration and focus is always to ensure SCF serves the people who live and work in the Sharrow area. There is never a dull moment! Flexibility is the key to the role and ensuring that we work as proactively as possible.