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.

Autumn Vibes



I created a couple of different vibes for one of the most popular prints on my Etsy Shop. The very first matchbox design I did for Newcastle upon Tyne. The first special edition was the Pumpkin Spice just for October (Brought back by the power of popular demand) and the second is the Cranberry. Both are heavily influenced by the colour palettes of nature and the seasonal changes.

See more on: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SofiaBartonArt

Art in Action Trail Map for the BALTIC

It was so lovely being able to create a fun family day map for the Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art ! It took a while and a couple of walks, and lush support/check from some Baltic staff who are familiar with the walk too to get it just right 🙂 You can colour it in and add your own doodles.

Here’s some photos of the walk from BALTIC to Staithes. It’s FULL of things to see like the art sculptures and of course the bridges on the quayside.

Go here for more info: https://baltic.art/art-in-action-trail

Fuel up with free hot drinks, juice and snacks in BALTIC Front Room at the beginning or end of your adventure.

You can begin this Art in Action Trail at BALTIC Gateshead (NE8 3BA) or Dunston Staiths (NE11 9DR). You can collect a free map from both locations.

From your starting point, follow the green route marked on your map. You’ll discover creative activities that can be accessed from a digital device along the way.

You can head to BALTIC to use the free WiFi before your walk. This will mean you don’t need to use your data to stream the activities.

You may want to bring headphones to hear the video and sound works on the trail.

The trail takes approximately 40 minutes (about 2 miles) to walk, plus time to stop, play and take part in activities. Hope you have fun if you try it out !

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

BALTIC Open Submission: Exhibition Update

Many thanks the BALTIC and Emily Holmes for these images. As you can see the gallery is being set up for the re-opening of the BALTIC. This will be on 6th January 2021 in the light of ongoing regional and national restrictions. It seems a long wait until next year, but certainly gives us all something to look forward to. Tickets will be available to book online, ensuring your safe visit to the BALTIC.

My painting, amongst many other very talented creatives in the North East will be available to view up close in this extraordinary exhibition. Watch this space!

Lincoln Imp Art Trail 2021 Update

I’ve finally gotten these sculptures fully painted and varnished ready for delivery to Lincoln on Thursday. As I was shielding it made the new studio I had acquired before lockdown difficult to get to in the city centre. Luckily Lincoln Big were very understanding & the art trail was also delayed to Spring next year for safety reasons. I had A LOT of fun painting these two and hope I get to do more sculptures with Wild in Art in future.

So each Imp, the bright sunny coloured one named ‘Yellow Belly’ (Yellow gold leaf) and the deep blues of ‘Celestial’ (antique gold leaf) have a secret letter painted on them for the trail. I’ve hidden these in the Sneak Peak photo 🙂 It’s going to be fun to hunt each imp down in Lincoln when the trail begins to find all the letters.

‘Yellow Belly’ is sponsored by Lincoln Cooperative and ‘Celestial’ Is sponsored by the Lincoln Economic Group. At the end of the Art Trail both of these imps will be auctioned off in aid of St.Barnabas Hospice.


I cannot wait to go to Lincoln and see these when the trail is live !

Elmer Update: Preparation

Had a quick visit to sand down my Elmer and give it a quick wash in preparation for painting. Was really happy to meet Katie White (Insta: KatieWhiteArt) and Kathryn Rhiân (Insta:KathrynRhian) who were also busy in the studio area working on their Elmers. It’s so fascinating and more exciting seeing the variation and awesome designs from this art trail.
I was also helped out by my little toddler visiting, who decided he was going to help me out by wiping my Elmer clean after the sanding. Cannot wait to spend a little more time there and get to the painting 🙂 95306118-4648-4459-AAB8-A77FFADD5D8F