Stage One: art production on an industrial scale in North Yorkshire

Yorkshire has a formidable list of artistic exports, both contemporary and historical, including Damien Hirst, Henry Moore, David Hockney and Barbara Hepworth. However, one if its latest contributions to the art world is through the services of a creative engineering workshop called Stage One, its conspicuous series of hangers nestled near the small Yorkshire village of Tockwith. An arts and business model, the studios operate as a commercial atelier which has recently attracted the attention of well-known artists such as Edmund De Waal, Clare Twomey and Bertrand Lavier. Trading on their ability to realise challenging, large scale creative projects by offering innovative engineering solutions, Stage One are the logistical brains and brawn behind projects such as Thomas Heatherwick’s Olympic cauldron and Smiljan Radic’s papier-mâché pavilion, which has since found its home at Hauser & Wirth Somerset.

In addition to more straightforwardly commercial work for the likes of Chanel, Land Rover and Nike, the specialist technicians at Stage One are equally equipped to work with contemporary artists. The workshop environment and ethos have parallels with the traditional artist studio, the main difference being the scale and range of activities. In today’s artistic landscape, which has made obsolete the requirement for artists to ‘master’ a particular skill, the atelier offers a new routes and possibilities to realise conceptual artworks. In this way, Stage One addresses the increasing demand of artists who seek to outsource skills or produce work on an industrial scale.

Artistic collaboration with commercial production companies is an inevitable result of the ever broadening definition of art and the practicalities of delivering large scale projects. The name ‘Stage One’ refers to the company’s origins in prop and scenery production for theatre, projects which remain the company’s bread and butter. The current scale of the operation attests to how far entrepreneurial co-founders Mark Johnson and Jim Tinsley have come since working out of a garage in Leeds city centre. Stage One’s three enormous hangers house some of the most cutting-edge creative technology and equipment available today, whilst pooling together highly skilled craftsmanship from a variety of disciplines.

The studios’ commercial remit and open-minded approach to creative projects has attracted work from Karl Lagerfeld, Zaha Hadid and Madame Tussauds, as well as large-scale contemporary art contracts. 2016 is the eighth consecutive year that Stage One has constructed The Serpentine’s annual pavilion, and they have recently produced ambitious works including ‘The Necropolitan Line’ by Katrina Palmer at the Henry Moore Institute (2016), and Wolfgang Buttress’s ‘Hive’ for the 2015 Milan Expo. Spaces for cross-disciplinary production are essential for progression in the arts. The output and culture at Stage One seems to indicate a wider tendency in the creative sector to traverse commercial, industrial and conceptual boundaries. Stage One realises some of the most ambitious ideas of artists, architects, and fashion designers, and all out of some extremely large sheds in rural Yorkshire.

Zara Worth is an artist and writer based in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Image credit: Adrian Ray/Stage One

Published 12.10.2016 by Lara Eggleton in Reviews

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