bess martin

(b. Jessica Martin. 1986 UK)

From professional training in drawing and painting, to darkroom processes, woodworking, sculptural techniques and even a career as a life-model my creative practice has developed around a passion for experimentation. 

Working initially in fine arts and crafts I progressed to installation art through photographic sculptures, paper and textile works and have more recently gained experience with contemporary technological processes, digital media and interactive art.


I enjoy watching people respond to, interact with and question artworks and since 2013 - my final year at university - my practise became very much shaped around this; developing curious interactive works that sit playfully or enticingly within the public space.

Initial projects of this sort included; a month long residency at Manchester Science Festival with my interactive sculpture 'Webcamhead'; A series of 23 anonymous pop-up installations under a popular staircase and a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure Gallery Tour’ book created for the Vantage Art Prize where I won 2nd place for the piece.


I continued to develop my practice and expanded into research, looking at the importance of (and fault lines in) the arts and culture sector in the UK. In 2014 I was invited to Barcelona with East Street Arts on a research trip focusing on working artist spaces, collaboration and community. This trip sparked a longer-term research project with artist and collaborator Lydia Catterall. Entitled 'Art/Work' our project featured at Overtime exhibition in Leeds in 2014 and in the Art & Work Symposium at the University of Creative Arts, Canterbury in March 2015.


​Continuing my interactive work throughout and taking a turn towards stronger community and family engagement, the ‘Alternative Owl Trail’ took flight in Barcelona and later ‘The Golden Bear Hunt’ saw over 500 people take part in a county-wide treasure hunt in Kirklees. A year later I was given the opportunity to take part in a small, rural Cumbrian residency to make a body of work inspired by Florence Mine. My resulting collection -'Is Everything Just Red?' - combined traditional crafting techniques with my sculptural and explorative approach to art-making.


​In 2016 I started working full time at Thought Bubble Sequential Art Festival playing a pivotal role in moving the large comic convention from Leeds Docks to Leeds City Centre. Through artist and exhibitor communications, fundraising, brand planning and marketing I rediscovered the amazing passion, dedication and support that exists in the world of independent artists and makers. 


I have now started to move again towards the traditional techniques and processes that first inspired my creativity. In late 2019 I opened my online shop with a focus on handmade, made-to-order and small batch crafts and will run this alongside developing contemporary works for public display and exhibition.

Current Whereabouts 

Freelance creative supporting cultural organisations and artists with funding, administration processes, technical design, making and installation.

Technician, workshop leader, facilitator and creative all-rounder working predominantly in West Yorkshire. 

Recent Whereabouts 

Thought Bubble Comic Art Festival: Convention Manager 2016-2018.

Responsible for logistical planning, artist and exhibitor comms, fundraising, brand planning and marketing. 


Contemporary Art Practices. First class honours. Leeds Beckett University, 2013.

Selected Exhibitions, Commissions, Performances
  • Is Everything Just Red? Installation: Florence Art Centre. Cumbria (2016) 

  • 29 Homes. Sculptural Performance for Domicile. Leeds (2015)

  • Red Brick. Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival. Warrington (2015)

  • Take It All Apart & Put It Back Together. HOARD: Leeds Corn Exchange (2015)

  • The Golden Bear Hunt. Bear Hunting and Other Ways to Walk Festival. Kirklees (2015) 

  • The AltOwlTrail: Kirkstall Art Trail. Kirkstall (2015) & Barcelona (2014)

  • Art/Work. The Work & Art Symposium: UCA Canterbury. Canterbury (2015) & for SEIZE at Wellington House. Leeds (2014)

  • Roving Ragdoll Performance. Leeds Festival Sideshows. Leeds (2013) 

  • Choose Your Own Adventure Gallery Tour. The Vantage Art Prize - placed 2nd. Leeds (2013) 

  • Under The Stairs. Leeds Beckett University. Leeds (2013) 

  • WebCamHead. (in)Xclusion 24 Hours at East Street Arts. Leeds (2013) & Nexus Arts Cafe. Manchester (2012).

  • Role Models. Role Models. Leeds (2012) 

  • Tiny/Insignificant. Leeds (2012) 

  • The Box. Finders Seekers. Project Space Leeds. Leeds (2012)

  • The Litter Project. Leeds University Union. Leeds (2012) 

  • Chalkboard Mask. Woolgather Art Prize. Leeds (2011) 


Curatorial Projects
  • Comics Central: Thought Bubble Sequential Arts Festival. Leeds (2016/17)

  • Tiny/Insignificant: Space 2. Leeds (2012) 

  • Finders Seekers: Project Space Leeds (2012)


Awards and Grants
  • Comics Central. Arts Council Main Grant Funded. Leeds (2017)

  • Vantage Art Prize. 2nd place. Leeds (2013)

  • Woolgather Art Prize. Selected to Show. Leeds (2011)


  • Doremifasolatido. Florence Art Centre, Cumbria (2016)

  • North. Pyramid, Warrington Arts Festival (2015)

  • HOARD. Leeds Corn Exchange, Leeds (2015)

  • HOARD. Leeds Valley Park, Leeds (2014)

  • Art/Work. Wellington House, Leeds (2014)

  • Impossible Lecture retreat : Indivisible. Skipton (2013. 2014)

  • Juliana's Bike Residency : East Street Arts. Temple Newsam (2013)

  • Golden Ratio. Nexus Arts Cafe. Manchester (2012)


Specialist Training

Film photography and darkroom processes. Digital photography and studio. Screen printing. Woodwork, wood turning and carpentry. Pottery and ceramics. Painting; watercolour, gouache, acrylic, oils. Drawing; pencil, charcoal, inks. Textiles; pattern cutting, dressmaking, embroidery. Recycling and upcycling. Sculptural techniques. 

All images and site content (c) bess martin 2020   
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