1. Tell us a little about yourself as an artist. How did your creative interests develop to be what they are today?
There wasn’t a pivotal moment when I registered myself as an artist. I tend to believe the 'way of the artist' has always been my reality. I’ve habitually used my hands and had a penchant for building large structures as a child to play in. It was really extreme sometimes. Because of that I always thought I’d end up working in architecture (still might), but regardless I had an enthusiasm for making very early on. I’ve spent the past 15 years drawing and taking photographs mostly but since 2015, branching out a little and expanding the range of mediums I use. As a teen I would sometimes be invited to gatherings but chose to remain in my room drawing and listening to music. I think each time that choice was made it meant growth. It spoke a lot of how important creativity was to me, and still is. I’m not afraid of offending people when I don’t speak with them or hang out and choose to work/create over seeing them. There is so much ownership we place on other people (I should know, I used to do it). While there is importance in maintaining friendships, I prefer the terrain of my own mind over anything else. I love the space I make for myself to create.
2. Share with us a bit about your collection Medicina, where the name came from, and what lead you to start it.
I found myself echoing the work of others in my collection titled ‘pilgrim’ which really jolted me into moving toward what I wanted ‘medicina’ to look like. As I’m working on the new collection, I'm incorporating elements of texture in my weaving practice. Lapping beads over each other, trying to mimic sheepskin or animal fur. Testing different shapes. I’m excited to share how that has been unfolding this winter. The title for the collection first arrived to me as ‘medicine', but it sounded far too clinical and closed-ended. I wanted to translate the ideology that there are medicinal properties at work in giving the mind permission to relax around dead animals, because that is a portion of what the collection is based upon. The other portion is the sensitivity I have with the tones of dead animal skin and fur. To me, death is medicine. There is a grounding that occurs when you are in the face of it. Small issues become even smaller, and there is a silence that lays gently across mind and posture. ‘Medicina’ is Spanish, and feels a little more loose in meaning purely by the fact that one letter has changed. It’s more of a visual thing. I tend to play around with words/lettering after spending so much time reading most of my life. I like to substitute meanings for them quite often for fun. If I use a word that may seem slightly out of context, it’s because I’m stretching it’s abilities and playing around with it in conversation.
3. Tell us a bit of your process in regards to what motivates and inspires your ideas and creations.
I love to research, and collect information and imagery. It has always been a strength and betters the development of my process. I can lean up against my process for months without worrying about placing any emphasis on the outcome. When inspiration finds me in the form of another’s work, I am more interested in their process than their finished art. I like to watch how people move, what space they surround themselves in, what objects they accumulate to infect their process. Georgia O’Keeffe is a point of infatuation for me, I could stare at the photographs of her gathering animal bones and remains for hours. I’m motivated by my own determination and desire to make, as it’s the first feeling I’m confronted with in the morning, especially on a day off. Studying techniques is also really enjoyable. I’ve only been bead-weaving for a year and feel like I’m just starting to grasp what techniques I’m drawn to, also exploring what I can do to shift the landscape of what weaving is for me. In my research, I also fell in love with the tradition of bead-weaving and weaving across different mediums as well as the history of beads.
4. So, you live in Melbourne, Australia - what is it like being an artist there?
Melbourne is a colourful hub of creative communities and culture. I’ve exhibited in a couple of group shows with drawing and photography pieces before in the city and there’s a great deal of support for emerging artists, with really savvy, sleek spaces on offer to exhibit. Some are tucked away and others are quite grand. I don’t subscribe regularly to any particular collective or portion of the art community, as I’m a rather quiet person and enjoy being left to my own devices. That said, it’s a genuine pleasure getting out, seeing shows and spectating. If I were to exhibit in future, I would like to solidify and refine the projection of my vision before taking steps toward sharing or becoming more involved. I’d like for my audience to ask questions about what I do, but not be so keen to find answers. I think people search for answers in art often and when stood in front of work I never find myself asking ‘why’. That’s something I’d like to explore. From my experiences on the rim of it all though - the art world in Melbourne has a lot to offer, and some exceptionally talented people wandering around. There are just so many facets one can be exposed to, it’s almost overwhelming!
5. You used to work in taxidermy. Can you share with us how you got into that, and how that work influences or speaks to your current work ?
I kept a lot of this work to myself, since I was always cautious as to how I’d be received. At the time it felt like a tangent of personal exploration or, an opportunity to document something quite unlike anything I’d ever investigated before. It almost felt anatomical, scientific, laboratory. I accumulated bones and skulls, and a wonderful taxidermy piece from the 1940’s of a hawk. It sits on my studio desk. I worked on small birds, roadkill rabbits/hares and foxes.
I was really inspired in that period by the photography of Emma Kisiel. She completed (and still continues with I believe), a series of photographs titled ‘At Rest’ in 2011, consisting of roadkill animals she placed flowers around, like a commemorative wreath. It sparked my interest because she was addressing the confrontation of death and the relationship humans have with it. She runs and authors a fantastic blog called Muybridge’s Horse that I highly recommend looking at. The work of Katie Innamorato also fuelled my interest. I recall watching a music video sent to me of her picking up a roadkill fox and preparing it for the taxidermy process. I just fell in love with her movements. The solitary nature of her work. It was almost blunt, but measured and full to the brim with sentiment. I wanted to get behind the process and find out for myself what it was like. From then, it was watching documentaries and reading, reading, reading.
I think there is a rather common assumption made about you if you show interest in this particular area. As if, you are on a pathway toward something more sinister. People get this look in their eye as if to suggest they are worried about your wellbeing and state of mind. Taxidermy is often perceived as peculiar and grotesque, which it is. The process is confronting to begin with, but the mind’s desire to explore overrides emotion. You could say perhaps, the desire to explore combined with emotion was the driving force behind my own curiosity. That’s all it is, to me. Curiosity being cut open and bled out. Allowing yourself to look at something that is not choreographed and just ‘being’ with it. Relaxing what you think you should feel about it and really letting your mind wander. There is beauty to be found in everything, and I mean everything. It’s a monument of what was, what no longer is, and death is something we are confronted with daily. Why it is considered grotesque next to life really baffles me. Life, in many ways, can be ‘grotesque’ as well.
In terms of my current work ‘Medicina’, I’m translating the tones lying in the pastures and prairies of the animal plane/under-skin once it has passed on, into hand-woven jewelry for the modern woman. I enjoy studying the collapsing process and I’m forming the jewelry based on the wide variety of shades I find. After a lot of prior exposure to these colors, I have been forming a palette for the earrings which I’m excited to share.
6. Do you have any other passion projects you are pursuing outside of Medicina that you can tell us about?
I'm loosely interested in sheepskin, leather and hand-woven materials at the moment. Which is derived from working with familiar terrain in taxidermy. I’m encouraging a growing sensitivity in myself to textured surfaces and fabrics, like carpet up against wood. I’m reading up and documenting as much as I can about the process of tanning leather, what’s biodegradable, what isn’t, it’s history etc. Also where I can source Australian leather and sheepskin. I’d like to look at forming jewellery with the two, as I’ve recently been researching the leather/brass jewellery work of Andria Crescioni of ‘Crescioni.' She uses gorgeous traditional techniques that to me, are timeless and reminiscent of the silhouettes of Western America. I’m also interested in sewing together garments one day, made of natural fibres to wear. India Flint is a grand source of inspiration for this. I’ve started slowly collecting a bank of materials I can invest in when the time suits. I am rather conservative in the way I dress and at times find it difficult to source garments that match my perception of beauty. I’m also interested in creating a small bag or something one day from either leather or suede, because I find when I am out exploring in nature and want to collect small items to bring home, I run out of places to put them! My pockets get too full or, my backpack is already carrying my camera and other delicate things. It’s getting to be a real problem for me. I’d love to design a bag that is specifically tailored for that problem. An adventurer’s trinket bag or something for both men and women. I’ve been really intrigued by the shapes and tones 'Are Studio’ in Los Angeles use for their bags. So. We’ll see! I could end up going in a completely different direction.
7. Have you taken on any jobs outside of Medicina - aka, how do you “pay the bills”?
I work as a bookseller which grants me the opportunity to keep informed. It was my first and only job and it’s been following me around for 7 years. I wouldn’t say I chase bookselling, it corners me. There’s a bit of an expectation that I know all there is to know about literature but I think people rush a little when it comes to reading. I will purchase something and read it over and over six times before moving onto something else. Such is the nature of how I listen to music. I will wrap myself around the same record for 6 months and study it closely before jumping onto another. I’m about 5 years behind everyone when it comes to music and reading. I’m very difficult to recommend things to. I make my way there in my own time. I generally keep my opinions to myself when it comes to literature and rarely talk about it at all actually. When people get to talking about books I’m more inclined to take a step back. I do enjoy taking care of kids that come into the bookshop though. I tell them all my favourite books and secrets about them. They are so eager and that’s something I love to encourage. I especially love the kids that come in on their own while their parents shop elsewhere or wait outside for them. That their natural instinct is to walk into a bookstore is beautiful. It reminds me of what I was like when I was younger.
8. What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
My hopes for the future come to me quiet and slow. I would love to relocate somewhere small, perhaps purchase what used to be an old storefront in a country town and turn into my own den. Whatever the future looks like I am not afraid of going it alone, no matter what. And I mean that in many different senses of the word. I love my own company and know that my relationship with myself is going to bloom even more with time. I hope to have the space to continue investing in my creativity and letting it breathe. I’d love to visit corners of the world that are perhaps not commonly sought out. Small, off the grid townships in Russia or Germany. Fish markets in Sweden or Iceland. Worn down buildings in Southwest America. That said, I constantly contradict myself and will likely complete flip these sentences upside down in two years. I just hope, ‘to thine own self’ I’ll be true.
*Hamlet reference inserted there.
Thoughts and Images by: Emily Wilde
Curated by: Katie Simkins