The Team

Sara Downham-Lotto – Founder, Creative director, workshop leader and painter. Sara is an abstract painter with over 30 years’ experience working in studios and exhibiting in the UK, Poland and the United States. Trained in Fine Art and Art History in London, Manchester and Glasgow, her teaching has taken her around the UK and to far flung places from Australia to Estonia, Canada to Chile. The whole gamut of education and learning through art is her passion, crafting collaborations with schools and colleges, prison and refugee projects, mental health groups and language schools. Her approach to arts facilitation mirrors how she makes a painting – direct, accessible, honest and always energetically experimental.

 “I am as interested in bringing people together to create art and collaborative projects as I am developing my own practice. Proud single parent of three teenagers (19, 17 and 16) has taught me a lot about myself (thanks kids) and helped me to come closer to understanding how you incredible beings tick!”

Jonathan Blyth – Assistant Director and Photographic Projects.  “I have a long standing interest in creative social practice that works with photography and visual culture. Through establishing Fotonow CIC in 2009, as Creative Director I enjoyed making projects happen that brought real social impact to communities through shared learning experiences and collective energy. I’m aspiring to thread and weave my interests in camera obscuras, photographic archives, publicly engaging curatorial and social research to the work already underway at Arts Lab.

Until now, I have spent time developing St Saviours and Plymouth Social Enterprise Network as community interest companies, alongside lecturing on degree programmes at Plymouth College of Art, University of Westminster and Falmouth University. I can see a lot of symmetry between my journey and a good future in supporting Arts Lab to continuously inspire and empower. As a newly-appointed director of the project it is my intention to help to evolve and extend its programme of experimental creative practice and educational work.”

Stephen Park – workshop leader and artist. Stephen was closely involved with the Dartmoor Arts Summer School since its inception in 2006, and throughout his career taught and delivered workshops at various places including The Royal College of Art. “Artist, idler, part-time contrarian, middle-aged bloke”, says Stephen. “I have spent a lot of time around creative people. Generally the artists who truly flourish are those who have gone through a process of profound change, within which they find ways to do the most they can, with what they have, in the time available. They make artwork with clarity of purpose that is assertive in its own qualities and which no one else could have made. They ‘become themselves’ through what they ‘do’. I have witnessed this transformation a number of times and I believe I have some insights which could be useful to any creative person at any level of ambition. I also really enjoy the company of other creatives, and look forward to meeting and talking with artists at Arts Lab.”

Sophy D’Angelo – Junior Arts Lab leader I am a London born artist educator with over 20 years experience of art practice in a range of media. Graduated from UWE, University of the West of England, in BA Hons Art and Social Context, focusing on community and public arts, I fostered a love of working with groups, making art.

Recently relocated to Devon, I’m excited about the potential working with Arts Lab, in this informal environment, supporting people in their individual and collective creative process. Arts Lab reflects my values of practice, facilitating the empowerment and enrichment of visual art, accessible to as wide a group as possible.

My previous work includes, festivals, carnivals, after school programmes, summer schemes, family days, gallery education and outreach, for organisations including APPLE (Acton Play Park Leisure Events), Thames Festival, Kids Company, Tate Modern, Morley College and Dulwich Picture Gallery. Currently I also teach art and photography at the South Devon Steiner School.”

Helen Snell – workshop leader and artist. “I produce much of my work through laser cutting and water jet cutting to generate multiple forms. My work includes paper wall reliefs, metal sculpture, site specific installation, digitally printed fabrics, 3D printed costume and body sculpture. The changing relationship between craft and fine art offers myriad ways to redefine and reinvent creative practices and I hope to share my excitement in new ways of making with participants at Arts Lab.

I work primarily within the museum and education sectors and I am currently a Trustee at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen. I have just finished a three year residency at The National Museum of the Royal Navy. I am passionate about supporting young people on their creative journeys at a time when mainstream education faces greater and greater challenges. Arts Lab offers a fantastic curriculum-free environment for artists young and old to experiment, explore and to find their authentic voice.”

Jonathan McCree – workshop leader and artist. “I am a London based artist with 20 years’ experience exhibiting my work in the UK, Europe and the USA. Collaboration is a big part of my practice, and I have enjoyed working with sound artists, composers, dance performers, film makers, architects and designers. I like to think of painting as a form of behaviour, something to be lived; a way of being in and relating to the world. I see these values embodied in the programme Sara is developing at Arts Lab.

The outcome of the art making process is always joyously unpredictable. Art has the potential to generate actions and activities, which explore ideas, dynamic relationships and situations. I am very excited to share my practice and experience with Arts Lab and to become a part of the programme.”

Claudia Schmid – workshop leader and artist. “I am a Totnes based artist whose drawings and handmade strange creatures have found resonance locally and further afield. As well as exhibiting my work on a regular basis, I collaborate with writers (most recently Matt Harvey) on book projects and teach art and craft workshops alongside my exhibitions, at festivals and in primary schools. 

I often get asked: Where do your ideas come from? My reply is, that I start with doodling or free drawing, which is what I have done since primary school, filling my schoolbooks with faces and creatures. 

The workshops I will be running at Arts Lab provide a great opportunity to approach drawing in a loose and playful way. We will be looking for and developing those creatures and characters that inhabit us by bringing them to the surface. They will surprise us and we will surprise them by giving them a new life on paper, card, clay or whatever material we choose to work with.”

James Rowden – film tutor and facilitator. “I am a Video Content Producer, Cameraman and Editor, with over ten years’ experience creating online and broadcast film and video. I am fascinated by combining the technical and the creative to tell engaging stories through film making. I love to share my knowledge and resource, and through Arts Lab hope to empower and enable others to experiment with filmmaking, and to encourage and facilitate other artists to use film as part of their work. I’ve been part of the Lab since it started in March 2016.”


Anna Donaldson – workshop assistant intern. “I have been working with Sara at Arts Lab since it started in February 2016 and am now, in part thanks to the Lab, studying illustration at Plymouth College of Art. I really enjoyed building up work for my portfolio exploring different techniques and sketching in the beautiful grounds of the Dartington estate. Arts Lab helped me build my confidence and identity as an artist.”

Klara Ferm – photography intern. “I am a student at Plymouth College of Art. I study BA (hons) Photography which gives me the opportunity to explore everything in and beyond photography. I was born and raised in the north of Sweden, so it is interesting to see all the differences between England and Sweden and how I can incorporate this in my work. I am interested in exploring combinations of the photographic with other art forms as a way to expand my oeuvre. Excited to join the Arts Lab team, it will give me the opportunity to explore even more where I want to go as an artist and how I can collaborate, help and support others.”

Tansy West – film intern. “My love of film started several years ago when I began exploring cameras and editing. I started by filming and editing short sequences but this soon progressed into choosing film as one of my GCSEs. This was very insightful as I began to learn more about the film industry while gaining lots of practical knowledge. I have just begun my journey at Kennicott Sixth Form in Totnes where I am studying film as an A-level, whilst also filming and editing my own projects at home. I saw the Arts Lab internship advertised and I thought that it would be an enjoyable experience, as well as helpful in building up a portfolio to aid my dream of directing films in the future. I’ve been with the Lab since late September 2017.”


Ness Turnersteering group member and regular workshop participant. “Pre-children, I had a career in Production and Event Management. My husband and I then owned and ran the Tangerine Tree café in Totnes for 10 years which we recently closed in order to focus more on creative projects. As a regular maker in Arts Lab’s workshops, I am a convert and want to help the project on its journey making a real difference to people’s lives.”

Michael Cadysteering group member. “I went to art school in the late 1960s, and that experience influenced everything I’ve done since. Arts Lab is a reconfirmation of my belief that being creative alongside other creative people can change your life. My career was mostly as an editor, largely managerial, in publishers including Dorling Kindersley and David & Charles. I also taught on a ground-breaking multimedia course at Plymouth University, and was a consultant to the publishing industry, among other things.”

Ali Roscoesteering group member and regular workshop participant. “As someone whose work is continually, creatively feeding others, thank goodness my week now includes Making Mondays at Arts Lab. It is pure indulgence for the soul in an inspiring and safe environment where your creativity can take wings and soar. Sara’s guidance and encouragement is incredible, allowing you to be who you want to be and giving you permission to express, disrupt, challenge, envision, construct and discover what it means to be alive. Thank you Sara for facilitating these inspiring sessions.  I always come away buzzing with new ideas and with my creativity topped up for another week.

I am a doer who likes to be

A curious onlooker

Deep listener who gathers stories

I lead a hand made life as

A recyclomaniac  and skip hunter

Thread puller

Cloth shaper

An Allotmenteer who sifts soil

Saves seeds

Sprouts veg and forages far

A sky gazer, star spotter and wild wanderer

A word guzzler

Page turner

Monday mark maker

And Arts Lab appreciator”

Zanna Lotto – film and photography mentor. “I graduated from Kennicott sixth form in Totnes in 2016 with A Levels in Film, Media & Photography. Unsure about what I want to do in the future, at the moment I’m leaving my options open while taking on paid work opportunities that come my way. Since July I have done a couple of internships with local film companies and photographers. I have also created four films for Arts Lab and more recently worked with James Rowden to produce the Lab’s first ‘Enrichment Day’ film created in Arts Lab’s new home at Studio 20.”

Kirsty Allnut – (earlier team as dance, theatre and storytelling mentor) “I am a movement, dance and imaginative storytelling facilitator. I studied Theatre with Choreographic Practises at Dartington College of Arts in 2009 and since then have been developing workshops for children and young people in schools, with theatre groups and with children with autism and other special needs. Inclusivity and accessibility are at the centre of my work, ensuring that all contributions and ideas are encouraged.”

Jake Moran – (earlier team as film-making assistant) “I am primarily interested in film, experimenting with filmic language and the nature of storytelling. I feel I can help others visualise their own ideas, make their own films and create an output for their narrative.”

Charlotte Wells – (earlier team as drawing and painting mentor) “I am a fine art graduate finding my way as an emerging artist. My medium is painting in oils and mixed media making abstract contemporary landscapes on canvas. I like to create a sense of atmosphere within my paintings through colour and texture. Working mostly solitary, I have long wished to find a space to inhabit where I can meet like minded creative people, collaborate in projects, partake in workshops, and make art. Discovering Arts Lab has allowed me to find these things and more. I now visit the Lab at Studio 20 every Monday to be my creative self. So far I have participated in group workshops at making Mondays and assisted with a recent exhibition. I have learnt skills from others and shared my own approaches to making art. I am excited for what this new year will bring; I hope that being a part of Arts Lab will not only allow my painting practice, but also myself, to flourish. I also hope that I can help others in the way they are inspiring me.”