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Domino Panton-Oakley

First published April 14, 2022

Forget chocolate, this Easter we’ve brought you another deliciously inspiring creative career journey! Meet Domino, she’s the founder of Cotton On Creative, bringing you inclusive, engaging and exciting art events across Manchester, Leeds and then… who knows! She recently made the successful leap into full-time and “it’s been 100% worth it”. As a fellow Mama, I related hard to her reflections on ‘the juggle’. In this interview she also talks about finding the art scene again after 5 years in an office job, her next big exhibition, ‘In Manchester’, launching in May, and much more. Read on for a treat!

Domino Panton-Oakley

Domino, what’s your creative occupation?

I run Cotton On Creative, which has two branches to it, Cotton On MCR and Cotton On Leeds. I am an art event specialist who organises art fairs, exhibitions, workshops, talks and more. I promote the local art scene, local artists and create events that aim to be open to all, showing that art doesn’t need to be an elitist thing, and that there are so many ways you can be involved in art – taking part in a workshop, buying from local artists, or enjoying their work in exhibitions. I try to create events that show art can be for anyone and made by anyone.

Photo from Art All Dayer event

Where have you been?

The idea of Cotton On MCR (where it all began) actually started whilst I was on my honeymoon travelling South East Asia! I knew on my return home I wanted to get back into the art scene after being in an office job for 5 years. I studied Fine Art at University but didn’t get an art job following my studies, and I ended up in a totally different industry (the travel industry). So starting Cotton On MCR was my way of getting back into the art world. It started as a blog. I was writing about exhibitions and events in Manchester, interviewing artists and letting people know what was going on in the city. It grew from there. I wanted to, not only review events, but create events as well! We started with a small art fair, an art workshop, and now we have huge events, with hundreds of people attending.

Photo of a collection of artworks

It got to the point where I physically couldn’t juggle everything anymore (…) At some point, you have to take the leap and trust yourself – also, do a cashflow forecast… that really helps! DOMINO ON LEAVING HER OFFICE JOB

Photo from Art All Dayer event from above

Where are you now?

After 4 years of juggling two jobs (and motherhood) I finally had the guts to quit my office job and now my sole focus is Cotton On Creative. The Manchester branch has grown so much, it has a great following and regular attendees, which is brilliant! I have an amazing list of venues I work with and I’m adding new events and workshops all the time. So, when looking at the next adventure, I decided to launch into Leeds! That’s a very new addition and I am slowly building up our following and presence there. I hope to start hosting events there soon!

Here in Manchester, I have some big events coming up, from our seasonal Art All Dayer events which combine a huge art fair, exhibitions and workshops too (all from Greater Manchester artists), to our next big exhibition. ‘In Manchester’ launches in May and, following an open call to artists, we have selected a great range and variety of work to show. We have a whole floor of 100 Barbirolli Square to fill with art and I can’t wait.

It was a big move going full-time, but so far it’s been 100% worth it. I am so proud of what I have done and how I have grown the business, and I feel a real sense of achievement. I feel like I am busier now than I have ever been, and that’s amazing.

In Manchester exhibition poster

Where are you going?

Who knows?! Now that this is my full-time job I have so much more time to invest in the business and myself, to meet new people, to go to new exhibitions, to create new ideas and plan brand new art events for Cotton On MCR and Cotton On Leeds. Once Leeds is fully launched and we have successful events there, who knows what city we may branch into next? It’s all very exciting either way!

Finally, what’s occupying your thoughts today?

I quit my office job at the beginning of March, it’s all been a little daunting but so amazing at the same time. It’s super scary having your own business and that being your sole income, there’s of course bills to pay. I have a 1 year old daughter and nursery is expensive! But it got to the point where I physically couldn’t juggle everything anymore, and I was struggling to keep up with the work that was coming in. At some point, you have to take the leap and trust yourself – also, do a cashflow forecast… that really helps! I am super passionate about Cotton On Creative, and although I say I can’t believe that it’s now my full-time job, I actually can believe it, as a lot of hard work, time and effort has gone into making it happen. I just want to share my love of art with people, and host great events for people to enjoy! The fact I can now do that for a living makes me quite emotional really.

Congratulations, Domino, and thank you for sharing your journey with us. Make sure you visit Domino’s website and follow Cotton On MCR and Cotton On Leeds on Instagram.


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