Published on 25 July 2022
Natasha Armstrong, 35, from Ouston in Country Durham is studying for her MA in Fine Art at the University of Sunderland, and when not hitting the books or the canvas, works in her family’s scrap metal business, John Kerr Metals.
“I’ve worked at John Kerr Metals for over ten years. It’s a family run business, John Kerr is my grandad and my dad, Rodney, and uncle Jonathan are all partners. My brother, James, works there too,” says Natasha. “I’ve always been interested in art. I’ve pursued art and crafts in my spare time, attending art fairs, exhibitions, markets, and even comic conventions whilst working.”
Natasha is highly trained as a Technically Competent Manager (TCM) on site and WAMITAB (Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory Board) qualified to manage different types of waste recycling sites. Her family have always supported her artistic ambitions, and, she says, working on an industrial site has inspired and influenced her art.
In 2019 Natasha took the leap and decided to take her passion for art to the next level and study for her Masters degree after her son Matthew was born, and she was furloughed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I decided to really go for it. I wanted to be able to tell Matthew that he can follow his dreams when he is older,” says Natasha. “I think having children makes you think of legacy and your own dreams as a child.
“I contacted the art department at University of Sunderland. They were very helpful and even let me join the course late after seeing some of my work. They have been supportive ever since, and even let me study part time to fit it around my full-time job and being a mam.”
In January a scrap Volkswagen Beetle came into the scrapyard, and at the same time the Royal Academy announced their summer exhibition theme, ‘Climate, Whether as a crisis or opportunity, or simply our everyday experience' chosen by artist Alison Wilding.
The scrapped Beetle inspired Natasha to create the painting ‘Left on the Scrap Heap’ and enter it into the summer exhibition. There were approximately 15,000 entries, and Natasha’s painting was selected personally by Grayson Perry. Her painting sold before the exhibition even opened to the public.
“The painting encapsulated what I wanted to say about the climate crisis, recycling, how cars have evolved and the idea of 'end of an era',” says Natasha. “I was absolutely thrilled when it got through.”
The Royal Academy of Arts summer exhibition 2022 runs until 21 August.
As well as the Royal Academy Natasha’s art is on show at several local galleries including Pigment and Toil in Sunderland, Coquetdale Art Gallery in Rothbury, Tower House Gallery in Seaton Sluice and The Bakehouse Gallery in Alnwick. She is also preparing for her final exhibition as a student at the University of Sunderland, as she graduates in December.
“For my MA degree show I am focusing on climate change from the perspective of the recycling industry, most specifically from the metal recycling sector,” says Natasha. “My MA Degree Show opens on 23 September. It will be a must see!”