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Net-Zero Visions: Interview with artist Sophie Mullins

Net-Zero Visions brings together communities across Devon with the creative industries and transition experts to produce positive ‘Visions’ of six locations as carbon net-zero in 2050. These locations will have their Vision realised by acclaimed professionals in different media, including animation, illustration, interactive games, and public murals.

During this exciting time as the Visions approach completion, the commissioned artists and other contributing creatives will be interviewed for a behind-the-scenes look at their artistic process, collaboration with communities and next steps for their work.

Sophie Mullins with the Tiverton mural.
Sophie Mullins with the Tiverton mural.

Tell me a bit about yourself!

I’m Sophie, I’m 16 and am a student studying A levels including fine art and graphic communication in college. I have been immersed in painting, drawing and more from a very early age. I developed a keen eye for detail and quickly opted for my pencils and paints more often than my phone or social life! I am constantly doodling or painting or thinking about it.

My inspirations are my immediate surroundings including people, objects, colours and the effect they can produce in different mediums and contexts. I am developing my own brand and style but as I am maturing and learning more every day I don’t feel confined to one path.

My current art pieces are focussed on portraiture using oil and acrylic paints and still life through ink and water colours.

How did you get involved with Net-Zero Visions, and what communities are you working with on this project? 

When Kate Crawfurd and crew were setting up and working on the mural in Tiverton market area, I was hard at work with my family’s community group setting up this years’ ‘The Unnamed Alternative Arts Festival’.

The Unnamed* is a free arts festival we, as a family, created in 2019 after I was told I was too young to exhibit professionally at that time due to my age. We created the festival to encourage all ages to make, paint, draw, sing and write and share our creations with each other in a safe community space. No judgements or rules. “Run for the community, by the community. An amazing festival for all which will include the following: Art exhibition by local artists and members of our community. Arts & crafts market. DJ & decks Bands. Creative writing exhibition. We also ran workshops alongside local makers; art for all ages, glassworks, Victorian photo booth, Anime and more.”

Since the positive response from the public and some local council members in regard to the NZV mural we are now (in the Unnamed) beginning to gather local artists (including my self and family members) to begin planning more murals around Tiverton. These murals will be independent from NZV.

Since supporting Kate with the mural, we were then able to support Tiverton Tree Team by painting smaller murals over a large planter – an old rowing boat – in the local community orchard. We also made a large bee and insect hotel for them using some of our resources from the festival that were originally headed for the tip.

Part of the Unnamed ethos is to source and intervene items headed for land fill but instead repurpose them for our festivals or other local groups around us.

How have you responded to the communities’ ideas to develop the Visions? 

Most of the visions Kate incorporated into the design of the mural as a whole were either ideas the Tiverton community have been suggesting for a long time – for example, cycling as a more sustainable mode of transport and the market selling locally sourced produce – or the visions were given approval and positivity – like the vision of an electric bus. There was a lot of discussion with the public when we were painting, around the water turbine initiative! A very 50/50 split as to whether they were in support of it or not. But it got people talking and learning for sure. One thing that rang true for a lot of people was the notion of us using the rivers that flow all around us.

Please describe how you are creating the Visions.

The mural was created using masonry paint and completed once a thick layer of anti-vandalism coating was applied. I was not part of the subject discussion or any decision-making processes, but rather, came in at the end to help support the main professional artists carry out the piece. It is now complete and easy to view in the market walkway between Tiverton Pannier Market and the main high street in Tiverton.

What are the next steps for the Visions?

I am now a full-time art student so have recently been unable to join in any next steps with NZV but hope to work alongside Sustainable Tiverton with other future projects. One of my immediate goals however, is to continue to work alongside my family with The Unnamed Arts Festival. The next big task is to collate local artists together to paint more murals around town. Myself and my mother are currently designing a commissioned piece for a large mural on a wall within the main market building. This is one of 4 pieces local artists have been asked to design and create.

Is there anything that you’ve learned from this process or will take forward with you? 

I’ve learnt about the processes of mural work, and how it can be used to portray powerful messages. I have also learnt how my local community can live and thrive more sustainably. This has all come about at a very apt time as we find ourselves needing to learn how to bring our own costs of living down.

When the Visions are showcased, what would you like people to take away from them? 

I’d like them to realise how achievable NZ can actually be, that it’s not just some dream or ideal that they may not have any power in influencing.

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