Changing Relations

Changing Relations C.I.C. delivers education to schools, businesses and communities, using the arts to transform the way people think about gender stereotypes and relationship behaviours. Their innovative work breaks down gender barriers, fosters healthy relationships and transforms lives.

I was honoured to be selected for a commission for their ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ campaign and created some images after collecting thoughts from students with Durham University. These images will be distributed as a zine in the coming summer.

To find out more about Changing Relations go to https://changingrelations.co.uk/

Metro Fleet Art

Alongside three other amazing artists I have won a unique commission to create major works for the interior of the Tyne and Wear Metro’s £362m new train fleet.

Metro will be the first urban transit system in the world to feature permanent art inside trains when the new fleet enters service next year, thanks to a project led by operator Nexus and funded by Arts Council England through its National Lottery Project Grants programme.

Four artists have been chosen following an open call for submissions, and each one will go on to create a major new work to cover the full height and width of carriage end walls, right through the fleet of 46 trains being built for Metro by global train manufacturer Stadler.

Nexus is sharing a video introducing the artists and exploring more about the project which you can view here:

Nexus received more than 120 submissions from around the world, in response to an open call for artists to respond to the theme of ‘place’ in North East England. The final four artists were chosen by a panel bringing Nexus employees from train operations and the fleet project with community arts professionals from the region. 

The four works the Metro artists create will be reproduced onto the train walls by Stadler as part of the manufacturing process at its factory in St Margrethen, Switzerland.   The first new Metro train is set to arrive in North East England at the end of this year and will enter service in autumn 2023 after rigorous testing.

Nexus has ordered 46 trains from Stadler which will transform reliability and the customer experience, cut Metro’s use of high voltage power by at least 30% and allow a higher frequency service across the system.

Two works of art will appear on each train, at each end of the open-plan layout of carriages, with each work appearing 23 times across the whole fleet as a result.

I’m really looking forwards to the final design and have been researching key figures of the North East’s rich history to document on the illustration.

The commissioned artists from left to right:
Sofia Barton, Sarah Gibbeson, Hazel Oakes AKA Nocciola the Drawer, and Bryony Simcox

Darjeeling Tea Tin

Do you ever have those designs you draw then set aside, not sure what you think of it, then come back to it a little while later ? That’s pretty much what happened with the Darjeeling Tin. I’d drawn up Earl Grey and Yorkshire Tea but wanted to do an Indian blend, so I wrote the letters and eventually came back to it. I had encompassed my thoughts of golden sun and bright mornings as a main palette but used very some very contrasting colours of bright red and green in the peacock feathers for vibrancy.

Though it follows the main template of the tea tin series, I wanted it to be more representative of Darjeeling. Darjeeling is a town in India’s West Bengal state, in the Himalayan foothills.

For me the tea has a light but complex taste, and brings a little sunshine to my morning.

Prints available on Etsy: https://linktr.ee/sofiabartonillustration

Workshop Training with MIMA, Tees Valley Nature Partnership, Borderlands & Teeside University

On Friday I went to Middlesbrough for an exciting workshop based around the conservation of nature. I spent a training day at MIMA where we explored ‘The Council of Beings’, a drama and arts led workshop to make individuals think about their impact on the environment as humans.

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, part of Teesside University, is moving forward with the civic of reconnecting art with its social function and promote art as a tool for changing the world around them as a ‘useful’ museum.

It was interesting to see the workshop constructed in this manner, helping participants view perceptions from nature. An eye opening experience too with so many types of arts practitioners with different backgrounds.

Looking forward to seeing how this pilot develops and which areas/ groups would be connected.

Art Matters Now – Home Away From Home

I was commissioned by Art Matters Now to create artwork around the theme of migration. I explored the many ways of transport immigrants can take, the landmarks of Sunderland and the hopes and dreams people have. Adding the flower of the area in blooming across hands reaching out for one another.

Reflected on my own history as a child constantly translating, dealing with racism and finding my own way to communicate through art.

You can read the description of the artwork below from https://artmattersnow.org.uk/home-away-from-home/

‘The idea for the ‘Home Away from Home’ publication project emerged from my experiences navigating a new identity as an immigrant in the UK. They were formed against a backdrop of a global pandemic: worsening xenophobia, little real-life contact and the further marginalisation of minoritised people. In these testing and precarious times, I am eager to create a collaborative platform for artists and writers from a minority ethnic or diasporic background—like myself—to connect with each other and communicate through creative expression. I hope that this can be a place where we can define the terms in which we wish to be seen and heard.

I was fortunate to be awarded Sunderland Culture’s 2021 Creative Development Fellowship, which enabled me to commission work from artists and writers as part of this publication. The project has evolved over time and now manifests in two forms: a physical publication and a digital VR exhibition that both presents and extends the ideas through multimedia works.

The first edition of ‘Home Away from Home’ looks into the fluid notion of ‘home’ and narratives surrounding it—from frustrations to contentment, shared vulnerabilities to collective hopes. The publication brings together artworks and texts by five contributors who have made Britain their home. These individuals are Claudia Obag, Dovile Lapinskaite, Marga RH, Sofia Barton and myself.
Readers are invited to reflect on how the ideas raised might relate to their own experiences of belonging and their sense of home. Is ‘home’ defined by a location? Or is it defined by people? Is having a home a right? Or is it a privilege?

— Christie Chan’

Unite – Sofia Barton

New Matchbook Series

I’ve always wanted to draw a matchbook in contrast to the matchboxes I do. This design was the first to pop out of my head as it were. The shy bairns get nowt print was quite popular lately so I’ve used the saying again, this time adding a LIT match and of course the Geordie icon – the magpie sitting right next to it.

To buy this print see my Etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SofiaBartonArt or to commission a design get in touch via the contact form.

Holly & Co Ad Break with Royal Mail Business

Super excited to be the winner of the independent ad break on the Holly & Co podcast sponsored by Royal Mail Business.
You can listen to this weeks Conversations of Inspiration with Holly Tucker podcast with Sir John Timpson by going to the link here with Holly & Co

Passion, pain and perseverance: the highest highs and the lowest lows. Hear the powerfully honest conversations and life lessons of those brave enough to make the break and do what they love. As well as gaining hard won wisdom from the nation’s favourite founders, creatives and entrepreneurs, you’ll also discover the most incredible stories behind the UK’s best loved brands — from Innocent and Boden, to The Body Coach and The Mobo Awards.
Since launching notonthehighstreet in 2006, and then Holly & Co in 2017, Holly Tucker MBE has dedicated her life to empowering small businesses and bringing colour to grey. So each episode is filled with a kaleidoscope of fascinating experiences, delivered with wit and warmth.


I loved sharing my story, and recommend listening to the podcast for some positivity and boosts of motivation.

Durham University Art School Prize 2020/2021 Heroism

I recently did a talk for Durham University’s Summer in the City Festival Art Prize Art School event talking about the minority suffragettes in British History who helped pave the way to women being able to vote. It was a great few weeks seeing all the different talks and discussing what heroism means to so many people. Super excited about being a judge for the Durham University’s Art School Prize for 2020/2021 too!

The talks (including the one for Minority Suffragettes), workshops & activities can be found here: https://sitcfestival.org/art-prize-art-school/



Making my first Matchbox Book

A video showing how a matchbox book was created. Artwork celebrates South Asian suffragettes and hidden figures in history ( part of the Narivad series) and a sneak peak into the makings of a matchbox book for the North East English Coast.

Materials used: Watercolour paper, ink, glue, black paint, white card, Stanley knife, ruler and scissors.

Cultural Symbology: Indian Matchboxes

An Old Matchbox from India with the original Tiger Symbol

Tigers occupy an important place in the Indian culture, and are the National animal, also called the Royal Bengal Tiger. Since ages, it has been a symbol of magnificence, power, beauty and fierceness and has been associated with bravery and valour. The tiger also has a significant place in Hindu mythology as the vehicle of Goddess Durga.

Using the old matchbox as a point of reference, and inspiration I designed a drawing based on Risograph colours. The two tigers dance opposite each other with some basic lines and lightning bolts to decorate. I have several premade shapes of matchbox templates that I use, and focus on this type primarily for animals. When the box is drawn closed, the focus then changes to the design rather than the matches.

Did you know at a cost of one rupee, these economical and disposable matchboxes are often found empty and discarded on the roadside near truck stops and littering the footpaths around chai stalls and cigarette shops? Purchased from convenience stores, these ubiquitous objects are commonly used in homes to light stoves, the pious havan or diyas for religious rituals and lighting cigarettes or their cheaper counterparts, the beedis.

I came across my first matchbox when I was a little girl with my grandfather’s collection. Many people collect these and his came with him (before he accumulated more from overseas) from India. I think he missed where he originated from, and in a way these were his memories. One of these matchbox labels featured an illustration of a killer whale with the word ‘Dolphin’ written above it. Another early find had a photograph of three ‘Famous’ kittens in a wicker basket. Looking back, I think that my first connection with Indian matchboxes was that aside from being great examples of disposable design, the choice of visuals and text seemed quite random and this often made me smile. As visual signifiers, many of these designs embody personal memories. Collectively the visible scars of the battered boxes tell a story, mapping the places and collective experiences.

The imagery on these boxes include Hindu symbolism, historical figures, Bollywood actors, foreign brands and cartoon characters, everyday objects, consumer goods, aspirational items, and a variety of popular and exotic animals. The disparate visuals, meanings and juxtapositions that are present through the collection encapsulate quite perfectly the heterogeneous and hybrid visual culture seen in many parts of India today. As cultural artefacts these matchboxes tell us about national identity, modernity and tradition, gender roles, religion and globalisation and how these themes often merge and co-exist.

Stay Fierce Tiger Matchbox by Sofia Barton 2021