Capturing Imaginations in Meraki Create

Parents and teachers alike have often pondered the best way to encourage creativity in children, do we need to cultivate the seed whilst they’re young, can it be discovered later, can it be lost and rediscovered? Here at Meraki we believe that everyone is creative, yes even you Mums and Dads out there. Creativity is synonymous with being alive but as we get older we become more self-conscious and fearful of making mistakes. Not wanting to look silly and feeling that we’re too old to play can really put a dampener on creativity.

Meraki Create

Our Meraki Create class is a smaller, more intimate group, for children aged between 5 and 9 years old. This is such a special age group to work with because curiosity and inquisitiveness is still so strong. Our class focuses on capturing their imaginations, encouraging exploratory behaviour and building up a visual skillset, to positively reinforce creativity from an early age. We’ll support children to grow into brave adults who are more willing to take creative risks, who share themselves through their work with confidence and who never lose the fulfilment in life that only creative expression can bring.

With that in mind moving forwards we’re going to be dividing our sessions into two key activities. One will focus on supporting the children to build their artistic skillset, this will be a structured activity where the children are introduced to new creative practices and tools, such as painting or printmaking. The other activity will allow for maximum creative freedom and exploratory play. By building up the skillset in unison we will help to build a strong creative mindset alongside the artistic skillset that will enable them to express themselves fully at they grow up.

It’s art competition time!

All children in our Meraki Create class have been entered into an international children’s art competition, alongside our older students in Meraki Inspire. The competition is run by The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and the theme that we’ll be working towards as a group is ‘Forests of Land and Sea’.

Here’s a taste of some of the lovely activities that we have in store for our Meraki Create class over the coming weeks.

Marbled Woodland (with camouflaged creatures)

Paper marbling is always so much fun! In this session the children will discover how to produce patterns similar to smooth marble using this aqueous surface design process. Using woodland colours the children will enjoy swirling and dragging inks to create their own unique patterns, which they will transfer to an absorbent surface and use as a beautiful backdrop to a woodland art piece in a later class. Then to really get those creative brain cells working the group will all create an extra piece which they can then use as a basis for designing their very own camouflaged woodland creature.

Wet Felting (with rainbow weaving)

In this session the children will be introduced to the ancient process of wet felting. This is a wonderful activity where the children will learn how to interlock and compress wool fibres together, and how to then manipulate the felt into a lovely design inspired by our theme ‘Forests of Land and Sea.’ During our extension activity in this class the children will have opportunity to have a go at weaving, exploring different fabrics to create their own rainbow patterns.

Wreath Block Printing (with nature prints)

Children will learn the basics of block printing and will be supported in designing their own repeating pattern which they will print using coloured inks to create a wonderful festive print. To further encourage exploratory printing the children will have access to various mediums and natural materials with which they can explore using as resists, rubbings or as a material for printing.

Want to join us?

If you’re not already part of the group then we’d like to invite you to come along to taster class. Start your weekend the creative way!

Other opportunities to get creative!

Meraki Halloween Craft Workshops

We’d love it if you could join us for our first pop-up shop in the heart of Exeter on Sunday 31st October 2021. We will be running a number of quality art and craft workshops from the Guildhall Centre so come on by and make a Walnut Witch, Haunted Bird House, Pom-Pomkin Garland or the Ultimate Fly Catcher!

Fancy dress and spooky vibes welcome!

Forests of Land and Sea

What’s next for Meraki Inspire?

Wow, what a first half term it’s been!

This half term the children in our Saturday art class, Meraki Inspire, have experimented with a range of art mediums and techniques, creating wonderful work inspired by the theme of nature and by the work of both historic and contemporary artists. The children have enjoyed creating canvas paintings, ceramic models, watercolour illustrations and pastel portraits, with a few other artworks still in the pipeline. Even after such a short amount of time we don’t think it’s possible to be more proud of them all, and we would like to invite you all to come and view ‘Falling into Autumn‘ an exhibition of the children’s artwork at The Glorious Art House between the 8th and 14th of November.

But what’s next?

We’ve been dying to let the cat out of the bag, and have managed to exercise considerable restraint considering how excited we are for what’s coming up! Next half term we have entered both our Meraki Inspire and Meraki Create groups into an internationally renowned children’s art competition.

The competition ‘Global Canvas 2022‘ is run by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, a highly effective wildlife charity funding key conservation projects across Africa and Asia. Both Saturday groups will have the opportunity experiment with new artistic practices in creating artwork inspired by the theme, ‘Forests of Land and Sea.’ With forests being found all over the world, both on land and beneath the water, and which home a vast number of our planets wildlife, there’s so much inspiration to draw upon! This project is a fantastic incentive to get creative, consider our planet’s environment and express appreciation for the incredible wildlife that inhabit it.

What to expect

As a taster here’s a little glimpse into some of the activities in store for the children in our Meraki Inspire class in November (we’ve also got some magic in store for Meraki Create, stay tuned for that next week!)

Glowing Forest Painted Canvas

Children will follow the teacher in a guided approach to create their own canvas painting. In this session they will learn how to portray the effect of light on trees and add depth to their painting by adapting colour to show perspective. Children will continue to widen their understanding, and use of, different brush types.

Porcelain Coral Sculptures

In this session the children will be introduced to porcelain. They will create intricate sculptures to show the beautiful fragility of coral. Through observing the abstract forms found in nature the children will work from the middle out to create coral clusters in a design unique to them

Dry-point Bird Prints

For our very first lesson in printmaking the children will receive a thorough demonstration of dry point printing, a method which is likely new to most, if not all, of them. We will be taking an experimental approach to creating prints of birds, using variation in line to build up our images and using layering and collage techniques to add colour and texture.

The competition deadline is February 11th and so this project will extend slightly into the new year. We will enter as one big group so both the children in Meraki Create and Inspire will unite in their efforts to make a winning entry. As if the creative masterpieces created along the way weren’t enough, the competition prizes include art supplies, digital animal adoption and certificates.

We’ve been gifted with such lovely groups of young aspiring artists and we want to congratulate them on their focus and commitment to their art, but especially on each and every one of them being brave enough to try new things – keep it up!

Want to get involved?

We still have a couple of places left in our Meraki Inspire class on a Saturday morning but it is very close to full capacity. However, with expressions of interest still coming in we’re thrilled to be launching a second Saturday session at 2pm. Same place, same great content! We’d love it if you could join us 🙂

Other opportunities to get creative!

Meraki Halloween Craft Workshops

We’d love it if you could join us for our first pop-up shop in the heart of Exeter on Sunday 31st October 2021. We will be running a number of quality art and craft workshops from the Guildhall Centre so come on by and make a Walnut Witch, Haunted Bird House, Pom-Pomkin Garland or the Ultimate Fly Catcher!

Fancy dress and spooky vibes welcome!

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Getting Meraki off the Ground

We welcome this opportunity to write personally to you all, a select group of people that have shown interest and support during these early stages. We couldn’t have got Meraki off the ground without you!

So many people seem surprised when we tell them Meraki wasn’t even a seed of an idea before late April this year, I believe that was also the last time either of us slept, but what an INCREDIBLE few months it’s been!

The birth of Meraki, the times no one saw…

As often happens when you put two creatives in a room together, idle chit-chat soon gives way to the discussion of ideas and conceiving of the dizzy heights of what’s possible (also known as ‘mad rambling’). We’d get together on Friday nights, eat pizza and throw business ideas across the table. It took a while, and a fair few pizzas, but once we’d decided that it wasn’t the right time to save the world’s population of stray dogs, we came back to the three things that we feel mutually passionate about – creativity, education and “I really want a studio with a coffee machine in it, you know the one’s with the little pods” – and thus MERAKI WAS BORN!

…and then you lovely people came along!

Meraki took off at quite a speed, this was somewhat unexpected but incredibly exciting. Often we’d just look at each other and shake our heads in pure disbelief that our pizza fueled imaginings were turning into something so incredible, and so quickly! We couldn’t quite decide whether the business had somewhere to go or whether it was trying to get away from us, either way we’ve had to consume an unholy amount of coffee to keep up with the developments and opportunities that came our way. We want to extend a HUGE thank you to everyone who has played a part in our Meraki journey so far, whether we’ve met you at one of our events or you’re just following our stories on social media, we think that you are all off- the-charts-AMAZING!!

What a summer!

There’s been so many highlights this summer, from Guildfest to the scrumptious creations at St Sidwell’s, and of course our taster sessions at Exeter Community Centre. However, now Autumn looms and there’s NO HOLDING BACK the momentum of Meraki, we’ve got so much in store for you over the coming months! Some we can share with you now, some you will have to stay tuned for 🙂

Upcoming opportunities to get creative

Contemporary Craft Festival.

10th – 12th September 2021.

We’re thrilled to be part of this multi-award winning craft festival in Bovey Tracey. If you’ve never been then this is an absolute must! You can join us in the Craft Den across the weekend, where we will be running some great workshops for little crafters, inspired by the theme ‘illumination’.

Saturday Art Classes

Starting September 18th, Exeter Community Centre

For our classes, Meraki Create and Meraki Inspire, we pull on nearly two decades of experience in planning and delivering arts in education. Each class is carefully designed to help young people to develop their artistic skills and provide an outlet for their creativity to blossom. Our classes encourage young people to feel proud of their achievements and provide ample opportunity to come together to celebrate the artworks that they create.

Halloween Pop-up Shop

October 31st, Guildhall

Seriously, this is definitely one for the diary! Join us for our first pop-up shop in the heart of Exeter. We will be running a number of quality art and craft workshops from the Guildhall Centre on Halloween. Fancy dress and spooky vibes welcome! Activity and booking information COMING SOON…

Thank you everyone, and DON’T BE STRANGERS. Remember, if you see two girls pushing a huge orange trolley around Exeter with a bin-bag hanging over the side, that’s us! We don’t work for County Council and yes, we are aware of how loud the trolley is and we’re really sorry about that. Please come and say hi, it will give us a wonderful excuse to stop – you have no idea how heavy that trolley is to push!

Much love,

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Exeter Living Magazine Issue 282

Meraki has hit the headlines!

It was great talking to Exeter Living Magazine about Meraki Art School and all of the exciting things that we have in the pipeline. We’re thrilled to be featured amongst such an amazing line-up of artists, workshops and creative initiatives coming to the city this summer! You can read our full interview below:

Firstly, can you explain the name…. 

Meraki is a Greek word that means to do something with soul, creativity, or love – it refers to instances when you put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing, and that’s just what we wanted our art school to be about.

Tell us a little about your journey towards starting the art school…

This is a story of two friends with a shared passion for art, education and community who enjoy pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. We knew if we wanted to see an Art School in Exeter then we would have to practice what we preach, be brave and create one ourselves! 

Chloe has worked in teaching and leadership for 16 years, she is also an artist teacher as well as a Specialist Leader of Education and International Coordinator. She is currently studying towards a Master Degree in Arts Education at Oxford Brookes University. Carrie has a background in PR and Marketing, she is also a photographer and digital designer with over a decade of experience in education, youth work and community support initiatives. 

What can young people expect when they attend 

Our classes will be a wonderful opportunity to explore different mediums and techniques, and to make friends with likeminded creatives! Through Meraki Art School young people are able to get involved in global art projects, use art to contribute positively to their communities and most importantly focus on developing their individual expression.

Tell us about some of your projects 

A driving factor behind many of our classes is to provide a means for young people to actively engage with their communities. Through aligning creative skill with regional incentives our workshops will teach young people that there are many ways to have an impact and generate positive change. 

Our pupils will also be invited to participate in global art projects, where we connect with other schools from all over the world from Spain to India and even Africa. These workshops will be a wonderful opportunity for children to meet other young creatives, learn about our interconnected world and to produce and share artwork inspired by different creative customs.   

Tell us about the next few months…

We’ve got such an action packed summer! We’re excited to be involved with Guildfest in Exeter and The Craft Festival in Bovey Tracey, our workshops will be a great opportunity for children and parents to get creative and have some fun in the sun! We will also be holding a series of free taster sessions throughout August, before launching our first set of routine classes in September. 

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Catherine Knight ‘Isolation Windows’, Exeter Phoenix

This week we popped down to the Exeter Phoenix Centre to see Isolation Windows, a solo presentation of paintings by Bristol-based artist Catherine Knight running until 27th June. There was nice warming bustle of energy in Gandy Street and this exhibition really was the cherry on the top of a lovely morning!

The show comprises of a collection of small, peaceful, intimate works created in gouache during the first lockdown. The paintings were made from photographs taken by people around to world of their view of the world from their lockdown environments.  Individually each painting is a quiet, solitary showing fragments of someone’s life – but together the paintings represent a strength of a global community.

Best of all you can keep this work and treasure it as a keepsake of this crazy time in her beautiful book.

I have been thinking about the work a lot over the past week as community, togetherness and creativity is what gets us through the tough times and that’s what its all about. We were so excited to be able to catch up with the artist behind the work…

Interview with Catherine Knight

MERAKI: Congratulations on your solo show now showing at Exeter Pheonix until June 27th 2021.  I’d love to know about your lockdown experience and how you came to creating these works in the first place? What was the first one you created?

CATHERINE: I was in complete shock at the start of the first lockdown, like many people were. I have two young boys who were 2 ½ and 5 at the time and I suddenly was doing full-time childcare, with local playgrounds shut, no friends to play with and the ‘Stay Home’ rules. I felt incredibly claustrophobic and with my partner working from home as well, very much on top of each other in the house. We were lucky that we could work from home and stay safe but it did feel very surreal and stressful. I was looking out of my window early on in the first lockdown at the quiet street and beautiful weather and I realised that I could re-start an earlier version of the window project but on a global scale.

MERAKI: This work must have taken a lot of self-discipline, you also have a busy family life how did you manage to carve out a time to do the work?

CATHERINE: I quickly realised that I needed to make time for painting in order to stay sane so made use of the time in the evening when the boys were asleep but before it got too dark to work.

MERAKI: How did the creation of small paintings, and the posting to social media,  develop into such a big project?

CATHERINE: The paintings are small and made with gouache in order to be able to work in a small space at home. I worked on them individually and then put them in a box after I photographed them. They then existed in the space of Instagram and I set myself the challenge of posting one a day, early in the morning. This daily rhythm and routine helped me through the odd and unsettling time that was occurring outside in the world. Every so often, I would pop to the studio and lay them all out on the floor and I gradually realised that they were growing into quite a collection.

MERAKI: The way you have arranged the work in the space gives these small, intimate pieces a lot of strength; there is order and structure, every painting has its defined place and is equal in importance. Did you always intend on showing the paintings together in this format?  How did that come together?

CATHERINE: I knew that I didn’t just want to sell them, I had a strong feeling that they should be seen all together and that they were more than just individual paintings. I played around with the grid format after the first lockdown and enjoyed how the eye moved from one to another and how they related to each other. I then painted more in the Autumn and then more again in the recent Winter lockdown. The format on show at Exeter Phoenix was in response to the larger space and the shape of the windows in the gallery.

MERAKI: How do you know when you have created a good collection of work?

CATHERINE: I felt totally absorbed and obsessed by the project which is often a good sign and it also seemed to speak to a lot of people.

MERAKI: Although each photograph you worked from was the documented, lived experience of an individual, the process of the making and installation feels strongly about connection – I very much felt a participant looking at the work and felt the presence of others through the work. Did you feel this connection as the project grew, and what role did art play for you during the lockdown period?

CATHERINE: I loved the sense of connection that the project gave me. It was an example of social media being a positive tool and when I painted someone’s window it really felt like spending time with them, quite meditative, like a little gift to them even if I didn’t know them. I enjoyed the small details- the type of plant on their windowsill, the style of their chair, window catch or architecture beyond the frame.

MERAKI: This must have been quite an epic project; how did you go about sourcing the photographs  

CATHERINE: All the photos came to me via social media and a call out that I put out at the start of lockdown. Word spread and friends told other friends and then as I was posting windows daily, people wanted their window to be included, so it grew that way.

MERAKI: Communication through technology played a big part in the periods of isolation, and the world suddenly has become much smaller, and we are now connecting virtually to one other more frequently.  Making global connections have always played an important role for you and this work feels like a natural progression from your previous projects, why do you feel global connections are so valuable in your life and your work? 

CATHERINE: I’m not sure! I enjoy working in solitude in the studio and need that time in my inner world but I also have a strong need for connection and real people! I really missed everyone during lockdown and turned to social media to find connections. The internet has made it easier to connect with people from all over the world and also to find people on your wavelength. For example, I have a follower in St. Petersburg who also loves windows and really engaged with the project and a woman in Germany who loved the project and shared it far and wide.

MERAKI: What is next for you, do you have any more projects on the horizon?

CATHERINE: I am just back in the studio experimenting and testing. Windows are still an ongoing obsession, but I will see what happens next. I am looking forward to the world opening up again and being able to travel again.

MERAKI: What advice would you give to your 16 year old self?

CATHERINE: Value your work and your ideas! You are at the start of an amazing journey!

Questions from the children

CHILDREN: What is your favourite medium for creating work?

CATHERINE: Ooooh, actually such a tough question…either oil paint or gouache…it has to be fluid and painty. I hardly ever draw just with a pencil.

CHILDREN: Who are your 3 favourite artists?

Edvard Munch – Has always been and will always be my number 1

Peter Doig – His freedom with paint and colour

Georgia O’Keeffe – Her watercolours and clear vision

This is not the last you’ve heard of Catherine Knight!

Follow Catherine’s creative endeavours via her website at or by following her on Instagram at @catknightart

You can get yourself a copy of Catherine’s book as a keepsake here

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The Meraki Bird by Illustrator, Sophie Deller

The Meraki bird says everything we wanted it to as it soars through the sky. We love that a new, super talented young artist, Sophie Deller created our logo for us!

Sophie Deller manages to transport you to a whole new world full of quirky characters and mysterious figures.  Stars wearing stilettos, dark shadows full of promise and in a world of vivid colours she brings you into her world full of questions and curiosities. 

Scrolling through her Instagram is like falling down a rabbit hole – you never quite know what you are going to find next, as you come across her characters @oddlyblob and her collaborations with @nicepearceramics amongst her many funny and quirky creations.

We hope you love her work as much as we do, her illustrations are super popular with the kids and the adults alike so we were really grateful when she agreed to speak with us so we could find out a bit more about her and the inspiration behind her work.

Interview with Sophie Deller

MERAKI: We love our logo, you did such a fab job – we just gave you an outline of what Meraki Art School is about and you came up with the concept, talk us through how you came up with the idea and why you went with the bird in flight?

SOPHIE: The definition of ‘Meraki’ was a big influence on the logo design. ‘To do something with soul, creativity or love, to put something of yourself into what you are doing’. Having followed Chloe’s beautiful ceramic creations I decided to put her work at the forefront of the design, the bird comes from Chloe’s work, the bird in flight seen as a metaphor for moving on to new beginnings. I wanted the design to be simple yet bold, attractive for both children and adults whom will come to enjoy the classes at Meraki.

MERAKI: I’d love to live inside your head for a day, where do you think your ideas come from?

SOPHIE: Good question, ideas/ insights are funny things. If I am being honest I get most of my ideas when I am just mucking around, experimenting, browsing the web, out in the fresh air. I’ve noticed that I get inspired by colour a lot. Sometimes just noticing a particular colour can spark an idea for a new drawing. I’ve learnt to never force things and just be gentle with myself.

MERAKI: Your work has developed over the last few years when I started following your work we were fascinated by the character Oddly Blob, tell us about him – how did he appear and how has he evolved over the years?

SOPHIE: Blob! I love that he comes up in conversation. So, ‘Blob’ evolved in my last year of university – my tutor set us a months worth of tight editorial deadlines. Basically, in short I needed a character or ‘a face’ to use repeatedly, something I could morph to suit the brief. Blob was made. I call him ‘he’ but in reality there is no gender, ‘he’ is just a face, an ever changing – topic suiting face. After the editorial month I couldn’t let him go, since then I have continued to draw the little face over and over again. When I met my boyfriend later that year he started to edit Blobs face on top of paintings, historic photos, celebrities. I thought it was brilliant so we teamed up and created ‘Oddlyblob’ (found on Instagram: @oddlyblob) where we work together to de-face old masters, athletes, motivational speakers, actors – people who have inspired and continue to inspire, sounds a bit harsh that we replace their face with Blobs but it places more emphasis on their words and allows you to step into their world a little more.

MERAKI: Pattern and colour feature a lot now – It always make me think of Henri Matisse’s later works what is the process of selecting a colour palette for each piece.

SOPHIE: Yes, funnily enough I used to work solely in black and white – I guess I never felt brave enough to match colours together. Pretty much 180’d that one. I usually start with one colour and then using photoshop just literally cycle through different colours until I find something that looks right (to me anyway). The colour wheel is great too, I try to use complimentary colours a lot because they just work so well.

MERAKI: All of your characters are distinctly yours, their tiny eyes show so much personality – do you have a particular favourite one that keeps popping up and can we expect anything new from it in the future?

SOPHIE: I mean, OG Blob has to be my favourite (just the black and white, miserable looking kinda Blob). I then went through a phase of drawing another version of blob but with arms and legs, mostly in silhouette form – that was fun too and gave me new options because of the arms and legs! For sure more characters in the future, no huge plans but I am sure they will continue to make an appearance…

MERAKI: We noticed you are always exploring new mediums, pencils, printmaking, digital art, painting and more recently punch needle – how important do you think it is to keep pushing yourself to learn new things and what is your favourite way to work?

SOPHIE: I used to punish myself for working in so many different mediums, like c’mon Sophie – stick to something! In recent years I’ve come to understand that it’s just the way I work and learn. I get ideas for things in different mediums and then just go ahead with them. Art is constantly evolving, before university I had never drawn anything digitally, now most of my work is digital. It’s just a bit of a funny one really… I don’t not want to try things If I have an idea. I also don’t think I’ve come across a medium that I don’t like which is a reason they stick. I don’t know, I guess I just enjoy lots of things and have ideas for lots of things so why not branch out. Now that I have more of a noticeable style, when I do chip and change medium I can maintain my original self, so that’s pretty nice.

MERAKI: For as long as we’ve known you have made and loved art – why is art so important to you?

SOPHIE: Art is just a bit different to other subjects, I’m not sure how to explain it. My brain is wired to think more laterally than others and I think most creatives will say the same. We don’t like rules or rights and wrongs so art allows you to escape that, it has room for play where other subject don’t. What people often assume is that artists are stuck in their own little world, but in reality art is all about problem solving and problem solving is a skill that you need in day to day life so it is actually very important and something that Is continually in training.

MERAKI: What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?

SOPHIE: Chill out, it’ll be fine.

Questions from the children

CHILDREN: What gets you out of bed in the morning?

SOPHIE: Lots of things, In general I am a very motivated person – If I set myself a new project or task I like to get it done. I always have bits and pieces to be working on so there is always a reason to get up and start the day early!

CHILDREN: Top 3 favourite artists?

SOPHIE: I don’t think I can pick three, here are 6 out of the hat: Henri Matisse, Tara Booth, Tove Jansson, Sara Hagale and David Shrigley.

CHILDREN: Top 3 pieces of art equipment you couldn’t live without.

Another one where there is definitely more than 3 again but I would say – Laptop, Wacom and pen. I’ve just blown the whole lot on one piece of equipment. (other bits would be scissors, punch needle and material/paper) I’m not good at this whole top 3 thing It seems.

This is not the last you’ve heard of Sophie Deller!

Follow Sophie Deller on her creative journey on Instagram: @sophiedeller

Thank you for our wonderful logo Sophie, we can’t wait to see where your art takes you next!

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