Black Spot

The sign of the black spot promised ill fortune in ‘Treasure Island’, but we hoped to give it a new meaning altogether.

Black Spot (part of the long-running Articulate programme) was a design-led initiative whereby two groups of people were attempting to enter the commercial market-place, through the designing and making of good quality craft products.

The Inkspot group were a collective of people with physical disabilities who would regularly meet at Scope on Teesside. They designed and printed greetings cards, leaflets and posters.

The Metalworks group were a troop of people with learning disabilities who attended Upsall Hall Rural Training Centre. They designed and made a range of hand-crafted products in a forge there.


The members of Inkspot all attended Scope on Teesside, and had various physical disabilities. They shared an interest in art and design and created their own works using various practical techniques, photography and digital manipulation.

Articulate supported various residencies with the group, with artists and crafts people, generating a body of original artwork, handmade paper, weavings, etc. One of these residencies was with cartoonist and graphic artist Suzy Varty, who worked with the group to look at the marketing of cards in general and to develop the ‘marketability’ of Inkspot products in particular.

The group investigated selling designs to agents, manufacturers and direct to shops, to see what course of action was best for them, could be all!

Inkspot also offered a print service for designing one-off cards, posters,etc.


Upsall Hall at Nunthorpe in Middlesbrough was a large training centre for adults with learning difficulties. It specialised in rural crafts, and had a farm, large gardens, glass-houses with tropical plants, and really good pigs!

The metalworking group there were given a forge which they did not know how to use, but participants there, and the group instructor, were all keen to learn. Articulate funded and supported blacksmith David Stephenson in a residency there, during which he oversaw the installation and set-up of the forge, and taught basic blacksmithing and safety techniques.

The group continued to work with David, and developed a basic range of garden and rustic hand-forged products, which they would market from the centre, but also, through garden centres and craft galleries, in the usual commercial way.

The group also contributed to the design of, and then fabricated a large sculpture to be sited in the grounds, and to be a headline design for their brochure.

Both these groups of people have gained skills and confidence from their engagement with the commercial world, outside of a day centre. The drama and power of forge-work, the pleasure of other people buying your designs, are experiences the groups would never have had without these initiatives.

Want to know more?

See the results for yourself.


David Stephenson

David Stephenson

Artist and Blacksmith.

Suzy Varty

Suzy Varty

Cartoonist and graphic artist.


Borough Council Funders