Taz Gray started Tottenham Art Classes over three years ago and since then it has grown to be a staple for artists both local and from further afield. As well as regularly filling up weekly classes, TAC is about to launch their 4th annual group exhibition in May - providing a platform for over 30 artists to publicly display their work.
Rachel Ho caught up with Taz, to find out about the woman behind this creative pursuit.
Photo supplied: Taz Gray, founder of Tottenham Art Classes
Where did you grow up and what did your parents do?
I grew up in Westbourne Park, in West London before I moved to Tottenham in 2011. My dad came to the UK in the 60s and worked in Indian Restaurants around the UK before he settled to working in London. He was the Restaurant Manager of the popular 'Khans' and 'Standard' Indian Restaurants in Bayswater. He married my mum in 1971 and she was a housewife and mother bringing up three boys and a girl.
What is your relationship to Tottenham?
I'm a friendly friend of Tottenham. It'll always be the place where I found my independence after moving away from home in my late twenties.
Tottenham inspired me to be brave, to try new things and to put myself out there and talk to people through creativity. It'll definitely be a long-lasting friendship.
What are Tottenham Art Classes and why did you start them?
Tottenham Art Classes are a small art class business, run by myself and my husband. It started in 2014 as a way to get local people together and engaged in an accessible and affordable creative activity closer to home, rather than trekking into central London. Plus, it was a good way to meet people and become friends through our shared interest in art.
As an Arts Manager at the time, I needed to be challenged professionally. I decided to try and launch something myself, near where I live, with the skills I gained from my job. The opportunity allowed me to connect with people on a creative level, learn how to use social media, develop and nurture good working relationships with other local businesses and organisations in the area.
Photo supplied: A life drawing class at the Beehive Pub
The classes are open to anyone, but how have you seen them benefiting women's lives?
Female participants - those who have lived in and around Tottenham - were able to meet others and connect with them through their shared interest in art. We've seen their networks expand and a growing confidence in drawing or painting. We've seen participants taking inspiration from our classes and explore art through classes at the Royal Academy, CityLit or The Royal Drawing School.
We've seen participants sell their work through our annual exhibition, creating a sense of pride that their work will be hung in someone's home. . Tutors - Most of our Tutors have been local female artists who have wanted to use the opportunity to gain experience in tutoring art to adults, improve their English, collaborate with other artists or build their confidence in launching their own classes.
Models - We offer life modeling opportunities to local models who can earn an extra income closer to home and become part of the wider local creative community. You work with a lot of female life drawing models - how does someone get into this type of work?
A lot of the models we work with do life modeling as one of many jobs. There are only a handful (we know) who manage to make a full time career out of it. If you're thinking of getting into life modeling, you have to first and foremost be comfortable with nudity and of course your own body - people looking at it and at times commenting on it. I would advise attending a few classes to get a feel of how organisers run classes, developing an understanding of how to hold poses and talking to models about their experiences. Organise a private session where you model for close friends to find out how you feel about it and then take it from there.
Email organisers directly with contact details, a few photos (fully clothed) and your availability for their classes.
Make it easy for them to book you.
Lateness is frowned upon and may prevent you from getting further bookings so plan your route and arrive on time!
Photo supplied: "Climbing Cottage" Monoprint by Read But Not Head (Taz's pseudonym)
Printed on vintage Parisian paper / 23 x 31.5cm As a woman, how do you think Tottenham has changed? What would you like to see change?
Since moving into the area and with a growing and supportive community in Tottenham, I feel better connected and informed about what's going on in the borough, as well having a nice feeling that there'll be people who'll offer to help and support if I ever needed it.
Social media has played a huge role in creating an online and offline community who care about Tottenham. It's given people various platforms to express their thoughts and opinions and has helped develop Tottenham's identity.
Hopefully it'll continue to grow and be inclusive.
What I would like to see? I would like to see more places where women and families can hang out on the High Road during the day and evening. I would like to see a good Indian restaurant move into the area with a delivery option. I'll definitely support them on a regular basis.
Favourite thing to do in Tottenham?
I have a few favourite things....
Meeting the regular life drawers on Thursday evenings and catching up with them over a few drinks at the Beehive Pub of course.
Meeting local friends and trying out new places together - the pasta dishes at the new Loven Bakery in Tottenham Hale are absolute delish!
Gossiping and having a laugh with the gang at Lordship Hub at least once a week.
Gassing with the cheese boys from Wildes Cheese if we bump into them on the street or at a market. Anything you would like to add?
I would like to see all local businesses advertise their vacancies on the front of their shop or office window, to reach the wider local audience.
I would like to see new businesses who move into Tottenham recruit from the labour available from the local area, to help reduce unemployment and offer fair opportunities to the disadvantaged.
I would like to see more provisions for young people or a borough-wide mentoring scheme.
I would like to see Bruce Castle Museum receive more funding, to be able to reach its potential.
I would like to see better shop fronts so people can become proud of their high street.
I would like to see betting shops close and be replaced by places to help people with how to manage their money or which offer counselling services.
Find out more about Tottenham Social Art classes: