I have always been interested in the relationships between humans and animals since my first college days aged 17 when I was given free-rein to make anything I liked (BTec Nat Dip in General Art and Design, if that course exists any more?). First I made a life-size twig pony from some bush prunings my tutor brought in…they were freshly cut so I put all four legs into buckets of water and it blossomed. I also made a metal springing lamb, plaster foal scratching its head with a hind hoof, a humanised wooden curlew and lastly I cut hundreds of random shapes from sheet metal, painstakingly pop-riveted them together to make a fish man…head of a fish, legs of a man. All these sculptures were at least life size, some bigger. (photos to follow if I can find them)
My two years on that course were amazing because out of everyone in my year group, I was the only one who decided to focus on sculpture, so I didn’t have to share facilities and I only had a vague tutor for a bit of guidance, but mostly they left me to my own devices as I was very focused. When I moved on to my degree course it was a very different experience and although I had a fantastic time, I fought against having to intellectualise my work. I just wanted to make sculptures, without the need to fabricate some tosh about why I’d made it. Some people love all the theory side to art but it wasn’t, and still isn’t for me. I REALLY enjoyed listening to Grayson Perry’s Reith Lectures in 2013, as he voiced all my thoughts about art that I’d never dared mention whilst at college. In retrospect I feel a fine art course was probably not the right direction for me to go in because I started to really struggle with ideas of what to make, like my wings had been clipped. I was made to feel that my desire to ‘only’ make animals or mythical beasts wasn’t good enough and that lack of confidence in my ideas has stayed with me.
Mythology, folk tales and fairy tales have always excited me. When I was a child the shelves were full of lovely thick musty volumes of folk and fairy tales with the most exquisite illustrations by Bauer or Rackham to name a couple. One of my favourites was Swedish Folk Tales full of stories of grumpy (and some surprisingly kind) trolls living in dark forest caves or fighting over ownership of mountains, stealing children and goats. Having artist parents also meant that there were many art and reference books to delve into; to admire, inspire or dismiss. Artists and illustrators that have stayed with me since my childhood and teens are John Bauer, Franz Marc, Chagall, Giacometti, Botticceli, Maurice Sendak and Odilon Redon. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of metamorphosis, changelings and anthropomorphism, and recently I’ve been following two pages on Facebook that share weird and wonderful medieval religious drawings of the most extraordinary fantastical beasts! The transformations and connections between humans and animals are endless and have been studied by humans from all parts of the world and throughout history. The references go back to the earliest forms of art…art being the first language. It seems to be an inexhaustable theme that speaks to individuals on a personal, spiritual or religious level.
Which brings me round to my own work again, as I’ve recently begun re-exploring my early love of all these things (happily, without a tutor breathing down my neck!). I experimented with a moth woman a few months ago, and now come back to the idea of making a range of fantastical beasts…starting with spider women. I have found my figurative sock art doll characters have stopped selling….for reasons unknown to me other than perhaps they have reached a natural end. Rather than continuing to make them and feel increasingly disheartened that they are no longer selling, I’m taking it as a sign that it’s time to move on to different work. At the moment I’m still using socks as moving on needs to be done in stages for me, otherwise I’ll get overwhelmed by fear (harking back to those latter college days). I’m still enjoying using socks and feel I’ve got a lot of exciting socky things to explore. Socktacular seems to be on a very organic journey of its own with its beginnings in traditional sock toys, moving onto my own unique sock art dolls and further still into weird and fantastical beasts referencing folk tales, medieval drawings and symbolism in art.
I hope very much you’ll enjoy this new phase and continue to be a part of my Socktacular journey.
Thank you for reading.