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Wall - Big Shop Friday

Wall - Big Shop Friday present a 3 month residency of the Blackened Sun Brewery from artist and grower Katie Ellen Fields

We are proud to support WALL, a 3 x three month residency project organised by Big Shop Friday and the Blackened Sun Brewing Co.

WALL is about supporting local independents. Whether that’s art, beer, food or music. Working in collaboration like this will help build audiences, bridges and hopefully new opportunities to help grow your business or creative practice.

Katie Ellen Field is the first resident artist/grower to take on the space at Blackened Sun Brewery. We were lucky enough to be invited to the Residency Celebration where we had a chance to chat to Katie about her practice and find out more about the local micro brewery from its passionate owners Gary and Sharon Morse.

Stacy Bushes Industrial estate is not the first place you’d think to find a thriving microbrewery supporting the up and coming artists of Milton Keynes. However, the warm light of the taproom and the hubbub of conversation soon draws you in to an underground world of creative incubation that will most certainly contribute to the cultural landscape of Milton Keynes.


Roisin Callaghan, part of Big Shop Friday, visited Katie in her natural habitat, her allotment, to find out more about her practice as an artist and grower! Read some extracts from her interview!


How has your practice been influenced by getting the allotment?
My work has always had a real emphasis on materials which then just naturally led to plants. I tried to grow things in my old studio, but with the cold and lack of sunlight it meant that it was never really successful- when I got the allotment it kind of just changed everything.

The studio was always a place for me to think and to write and draw, rather than actually realise any work. I spent so much time here [at the allotment] that this then became the place to think, and because I was thinking about plants all the time and dreaming about plants, naturally my work went in that direction.
My family still can’t quite believe what I’m doing now because I used to mock my mum and my grandma every time we went to flower shows and gardens and I’d think “this is the most boring thing we’ve ever done” and then there’s me deciding “I’m going to study horticulture!” It has been quite a turn around.

What attracted you to apply for the Blackened Sun WALL residency?
I’ve visited Blackened Sun Brewery a few times and I’ve been to a number of Big Shop Friday events and always have a great time. A while back I heard Gary (Blackened Sun) and Dan (Big Shop) discussing a piece of work that they’ve already got there by James Carey, and how great it was for customers, for the brewery and the artist.
In my mind I was thinking about how great it would be to grow things in there, so when I saw the residency opportunity I figured, why not?! Gary had explained to me the process of brewing and how challenging it is, and precise. It’s so similar to a creative process for an artist in that there are things you need to overcome, the experimentation that goes on. 

So what is your piece for WALL?
Hit the Wall is a botanical installation that will include edible botanicals that can be used to flavour brews. The installation will grow and change with time, and can be picked and sampled. The installation incorporates ‘obstacles’, demonstrating the tenacity of plants and making reference to the challenges of the creative process.

I thought it would be amazing if I could grow things that could be put into the beer vats. It’s not as simple as that, but if we can grow something that we can sprinkle into our drinks that will change their appearance and taste than that, I think, will be just as exciting.

The beers at Blackened Sun are incredible because you can taste different things in them, they taste very pure and quite light – so adding botanicals should be able to influence that. I have no doubt that when we do the Pick n Mix event, we’re going to create some things that taste weird… but that’s part of the fun.

What plants have you selected for the installation and why?
As it is quite early in the season, we have picked hardy plants to give them a better chance. Anything that is tender or half-hardy would struggle in there because it’s winter so it’s quite cool and there isn’t a lot of sunlight although we have supplemented that with a grow lamp.

I’ve put Hops in there because they are what’s used to flavour most beers and we’re going to encourage them to climb and grow over people’s heads as that’d be such a great visual thing.

We haven’t any fruits in there as fruits require pollinators, but we have got flowers. We have some Elder and Calendula, Cornflower and Nasturtium which have quite a savoury flavour but they’ll look incredible if you put them in a drink.

We then have foliage plants, Strawberry, and Chocolate Mint. Chamomile which although you can use the flowers, has an apple flavoured foliage which tastes pretty fresh and should taste quite nice chopped up in a brew.
There are ten plants in total but we’re tripling up on the Hops so we can hopefully have enough to make a small batch of beer at the end of the residency.


To find out more about Katie Ellen Fields visit her website: www.katieellenfields.com

Hit the Wall is now available to view now at the Blackened Sun Brewery, 3 Heathfield, Stacey Bushes, MK12 6HP.

Opening times: Fridays 5–10pm; Saturdays 12–10pm & Sundays 12–5pm


WALL is a three month residency project organised by Big Shop Friday and Blackened Sun Brewing Co. WALL is about supporting local independents, whether that’s art, beer, food or music. Working in collaboration like this will help build audiences, bridges and hopefully new opportunities to help grow your business or creative practice.

For more information about WALL visit wall.bigshopfriday.co.uk


WALL is supported with funding from MK Community Foundation.

Interview by Roisin Callaghan @callaghanroisin Photography by Jo Trotter @imagebyjt on instagram