Re:Surface : Interview with the artist

ARTIST: PETE ABRAHART

 

What inspires you to create and does your work reflect this?

My paintings come from my love of music and the heroes and icons I hold dear to my heart.

 

How do you work/create?

I have two areas of work - acrylic and collage icon paintings and biro/correction fluid scribbles

 

Explain what you do in 100 words.

I paint my portraits on A3 card, mostly in black and white and then collage them against a 16x20" art board with brown paper frame. After this I give the artboard a distressed effect with acrylic paint. I also distress the brown paper frame either with water and paint and then tear in to the frame or simply distress it with black acrylic paint depending on the musical artist and their life. I like to give each one a separate colour background that I feel represents them in some way also. I guess this is just a form of double framing and image.

 

What do you like about your work?

I like how my paintings are not just simply straight portraits - each one has it's own personality and double framing to bring it to life. This is something I don't plan for and although the black and white portrait itself is highly planned and measured the background and frame is very much an organic process.

 

What do you see for you in the future?

I think probably more of the same to be honest. I'm only really a hobby painter but love the work I produce. I always paint with the thought in mind that if I don't sell the pieces I produce I'm more than happy to hang them in my own home! My work also gets me some commission work too which is really a boost for my enthusiasm in creating work.

 

A few words about your piece at Re:Surface.

 

My seven pieces at Re:Surface represent the past six months of my life and work but my favourite being "Silent Sense of Content" the Amy Winehouse portrait - this piece was to commemorate five years since her death on the 23rd July. I wrote lyrics from my favourite song of hers around the outside and slightly changed some of the words to make it more personal to me. Amy Winehouse is someone I had the pleasure to meet many years back and I feel it is the most important piece in my collection as my own personal tribute.

 

 

photo: Sam Lindley

photo: Sam Lindley

EM:16 Pulse 3

It’s hard to believe we’re already three weeks in! It doesn’t seem like long ago we were taking down the last exhibition and prepping the project space for our EM16 residents to arrive. Already the depth of work is fantastic and there’s still two weeks to go until opening night on November 4th. As Connie said in our interview, the project space is an inspiring one. Every time I pop into the project space, I see the work grow, new additions being added and refined and I’m more excited for it to be shared with everyone on opening night.

This week finishes up our series of critiques sessions, the group crit being led by Diana Ali and individual sessions led by Sumiko Eadon, Shelley MacDonald, Christine Stevens and Bruce Asbestos. All the artists seem to have really responded to the chance to get feedback from established artists who have experience in a gallery setting. Everyone seems to have used it to develop their work, as can be seen in my interview with Connie (here) and as I discussed a bit in my interview with Dave Dent (which you’ll have to wait until next week to read). My main worry about opening night is how we’re actually going to carry everything down, specifically a certain metres high monster.


Our workshops so far have been a great success, the volunteers have even been fully taking advantage to grab a space on one whenever they can. It might even be leading the way for something special from Surface in the future… It’s given our artists a chance to try something new in the creative field; that’s the beauty of the residency, and Surface in general for our volunteers, it’s about trying something new and finding what works for the individual.

While I mainly poke around everyone’s work, and I’m only a bit ashamed to admit, ask if I can touch it, our artists have been doing the real heavy work: designing posters, writing press releases and deciding what to do with that lovely big window of ours. Miriam has put countless hours into the poster design and Dave Dent worked on our press release; it’s nice to be able to get involved in every aspect of their graduate show to really have the control over how they present themselves. When they discussed design ideas, the concept that was constantly returned to was shedding the student skin and becoming artists in their own rights. The designs definitely do this - they’re bloody lovely, you can even read the press release and get a sample of the flyer here.

One of the things I’ve especially loved during my interviews is finding out why the name Pulse resonates with each artist and why they came to Surface because despite their work being so diverse, there is a theme that pulls them together. Life, movement, transition, change, and whether it’s come at from a confrontational or reflective place, it has all been about growth. That and me following them around with coffee asking for quotes.

Written by Lucinda Martin for Surface Gallery

Images 1 and 3 by Gavin 'Urban Shutterbug' Conwill

Image 2 by Surface Gallery

EM:16 Connie Liebschner

Reams of Connie's black fabric hang down from our skylight, it takes the middle of the room and the rest of the work exists around it but also as part of it. Where the fabric falls here, you notice how it frames itself around a desk and draws you to the notepad left on it, where it climbs up to the ceiling you notice how lovely the light falls through the arch. We sat down to discuss drawing attention to what's actually around you and enjoying the smaller moments.

Have you felt much of a difference creating for a ‘graduate show’ as opposed to creating as a student

There’s a difference between setting your own goals comparative to the goals set on a degree course; it’s nice to have that freedom to be able to do something without necessarily having to tick boxes or jump through hoops so you can justify what you’re doing. It’s nice not having to stop the flow of continuous creativity to stop and document those moments. You can be really in the flow of doing something and it’s really working and you’re inputting something you’ve read but you don’t have to stop and go ‘right i’m going to evaluate why this happened’; even though you do that naturally in your own head. Liberating is the way I’m looking at it but it’s also slightly daunting because you don’t have that cushion of being an undergraduate. You’re establishing yourself as an artist and thinking well this is one of the first pieces to come out after [graduation] so there is some pressure but more from a personal point of view.

What does Pulse mean to you, how do you connect with it?

I think Pulse symbolises something alive and there was also a jokey irony like we’re all still alive, we’ve survived and we’re still wanting to do this. Because financially it’s difficult and there’s a lot of things that say why on earth would you do that kind of thing, despite doing a degree in it, so i think it’s nice to… There’s sort of that thing that we’re still desperately trying to pursue that avenue. We’re still alive, we still love it and there’s that kind of side of it.

But also, in my own practice, I like to do stuff that’s with the here and now and where I am at that moment; it’s about the light-space interaction but it’s temporary and it’s a personal moment and that only happens when you’re alive in that moment. I think Pulse is relevant to everyone’s practice in some way, but that’s my personal take on it.

That personal moment you mentioned - is that something you want your audience to feel, some personal moment with your work?

I think it’s a reflective moment, there’s a personal association for me; a lot of my work is based on observing the everyday and taking a moment to think, yeah actually, that’s really beautiful, that’s really aesthetically pleasing. You look at something in a slightly different way and I think that’s really nice to stop and be reflective on this process. Sitting in this space, it’s been an inspiring space for me because it is interesting architecturally but also being amongst new, creative people. I’m trying to use the space as part of the work and it’s specific, what I’m feeling at that moment. I’m thinking, right i’m going to observe this, I've not really done stuff like this before. It’s really interesting because I'm personally interacting with the space - drawing people’s attention to different parts of the space, maybe slightly differently than how they’ve seen it before. In answer to your question, I guess that’s what I’m trying to get across.

How did you get into using light and space as a medium?

Throughout my degree, I really spent my time documenting the everyday and so, I use a lot of stuff within my own house and this idea of moving and every time you’re remaking a space and after a few months it becomes like home.. Exploring that, I used several different mediums, I was painting, I was photographing, I was printing and all the time the house became like this installation piece. It was quite funny because we’d have group crits and people wouldn’t necessarily know about my work beforehand and they’d say ‘oh is this a set design, have you set this up?’ None of it was ever set up it was all just things I was observing as time went on but because people don’t stop and look at the everyday you assume it’s some beautiful show home type thing where the light’s coming across and everything’s really perfect and it’s not. It’s just you’re in that moment and you go ‘I want to photograph that’ or ‘I want to paint that really quickly’. I think a lot of the time artists are searching to find out what they’re interested in but actually it’s all around them all the time.

There’s a little extracting formula for it as well - like what do all these images have in common because often it’s very visual. There’s often lots of similarities between the images so you’re thinking is it a tonal thing? Is it the light? Is it an angle that keeps repeating or the window? What is the formula to that moment? Because everyone relates to that same moment. I remember somebody saying to me, it’s really strange because you’re putting this out there and then everyone else is relating to it so then this solitary becomes a group thing.

I know we’ve touched on how you want to draw people to what they don’t really notice but how will you use the space - what do you want people to get from it?

We were discussing this with Diana Ali, [in the group critique] and I was saying I’m really inspired by this space up here and how’s this going to translate downstairs because it’s a very different space. I think the idea is I’m going to respond to it quite spontaneously not too far beforehand because I think then it becomes a bit forced.

The interesting thing about the space downstairs is it’s an exhibition space so there’s remnants of that everywhere - there’s hooks and hanging points you can see, the nails in the ceiling where people have hung stuff before and I think that’s kind of interesting because you can draw attention to the history of that space by attaching and reusing those kinds of fastenings or whatever and I’ll play on that. I want it to be about the space not just about what I’m putting into it so that will kind of dictate where the fabric will go - where it will be hung from. it’s kind of exciting but also a bit scary because i’m usually very much, i know exactly what i’m going to do and i’m coming out this from a very different - much more spontaneous angle.

It must be quite difficult though because you’ve got a lot of fabrics set up here - in the space - and it will need to move down to a new space.

I’m always changing it, that’s the thing about it. I’ve been using these chairs [to position it] and I like the idea people can then sit in the chairs. Originally I wanted it to be really clean and I was going to drill bits into the floor so I could do fastening very discreetly. Because I’m experimenting, I don’t want to do anything that will risk the fabric for the time being so I’ve just been attaching them to the objects that have been up here but actually the chairs work really well - if you go sit in the chairs you get a completely different angle from each one and it pulls you into certain points in the ceiling which I think is really interesting so maybe i’ll end up using chairs in the space.

Diana advised us to go with it and literally a few hours before opening just set it up and i was like oh god, i’m not sure about that but i get what she means, it’s a very spontaneous approach to something that could become very artificial. Like a bit pre-planned and rigid and what works about it right now is that it does feel fluid. I don’t mind if people move the chairs, it moves the dynamics of the space and that’s the fun - I can just take it down. Each time I take it down and put it back up it’s turned out completely differently.

Why did you apply for the residency?

I think it’s very difficult at the beginning to create by yourself with no input - it’s almost like you get so much freedom it’s overwhelming. The first few weeks after my degree I was really into the flow of it and I was really excited about what I was able to do; I started printing again and started doing things and really enjoyed the making aspect. I applied for the residency because I thought actually it gives me an opportunity to be experimental but within this sphere where you’ve still got other people's input - all these new artists, and everyone at Surface, that I’ve never met before and that’s really helpful because everybody has come from a slightly different perspective - so that’s an interesting dynamic for the group. We’re all very different in the subject matter, I was hoping that would be the case because it gives you a completely different input so i think the residency is really helpful because it’s that transition point.

So you’re enjoying sharing the space with other people?

I like the feedback because what you like doing, you can get very stuck in a certain route and you keep doing the same thing over and over again. You don’t have anyone to say oh what do you think of this - it’s really nice to have a new set of people to say should I make it interactive? Do you like these photographs ? It’s even really nice to have someone say I don’t think that’s working. People don’t often say they don’t like things - it allows you to question yourself a bit more.

Written by Lucinda Martin for Surface Gallery

Images by Gavin 'Urban Shutterbug' Conwill

www.connieliebschner.com

instagram..com/Connieliebschner_art

EM:16 Tayler Fisher

I was looking forwards to Tayler's interview because I'm fond of the morbid and grotesque and Tayler's work is very at home with both; what made it more fun was how enthusiastic he is for work, even spilling tea everywhere once or twice.

Have you felt much of a difference creating as a graduate opposed to creating as a student?

I’d say no because… I got to third year, and especially mid way through third year, I already felt like I was kind of ready. I tried to stop thinking of myself as just a student because I think, you hold yourself back, don’t you? So no, in terms of that, not a lot different. Going into uni … I knew I kind of wanted to explore this area to get my work out there in this way. So yeah, it’s just carrying on. It’s just a mental thing, [if you think] I’m just a student, it doesn’t matter. You have to own it, your work is never going to be what it should be if you don’t own it.

With the group name of Pulse, how do you connect to it to your own work?

The work that I’m creating for this is a big dying creature so, straight away, pulse, heart beat life. This work came off the back of packing up my degree show. I had to pack up some work and there was this one piece I knew I had to get rid of but I didn’t want to; I was just like right, stuff this, pulled it down to the ground and it’s this huge 2 metre thing so it comes down with some force, its leg snaps and it’s kind of laying there... It was just this genius moment of ‘this actually looks better than it did stood up’ and I started thinking about it more and that mixed with the end of uni and having to get out there. You think it’s the end of something and then that becomes the challenge and the reason to carry on. I realised, through showing something as dead, it almost gave it more life than it being stood up. I realised, maybe they’re just sculptures so through killing something,  you’ve almost given it more life. So when somebody mentioned pulse i was like right yeah, that fits.

I think, I’m, in terms of pulse, I’m trying to confront people It’s kind of more exposing the mortality of life, of pulse, rather than exploring it.

When did you get into sculpting?

Not until third year, I’ve always drawn and painted since primary school, I knew I was gonna do art, it was all I ever did. But when I was at uni, all my friends were sculptors. I was constantly around sculptors and a lot of their work was getting me more excited than what I was doing at the time. Everyone was saying I should make [my work] 3D and I was a bit reluctant but I was like stuff it, I’ll try it. Literally the first thing I did I was like, I’m so happy, it’s so good and then I did a couple more and knew I had to do more. Come third year, I just started trying out more and more and before I knew it, most of the third year was devoted to owning the 3D. I always painted so I knew where I was with that; throughout uni I was always experimenting and trying to find new ways of painting and stuff like that. That’s why I ended up using spray paints, because it’s different from what I’d been doing but yeah, materials has been an important thing. And doing sculptures, you have to think about materials more and then those materials tell you what to do with the shape of the work.

We’ve touched on it a little bit, but what should people expect from you on opening night? Confrontation?

Yeah, I suppose a little bit, I always try and get that across in my work to some extent, whether it’s intimidating through the size of something or the slight grotesque nature of the materials. For example, I use a lot of sheep wool and it’s completely raw, straight off the sheep. I’ve just had this new lot in and it’s really dirty, so y’know, if you’re presented with that in a gallery space, people are gonna be kind of like put off from going into it straight away; but what i’m showing in the actual space is a really big dying creature, it should be laid down on the floor and you kind of capture it’s dying moment. It can’t gather the energy to get itself back up so it’s a similar aesthetic to previous practice, a lot more fur and wool. I mean I had sound in my degree show but that was more played into the room as a soundtrack to give a landscape to the work but this time I’m going to have to have sound coming from inside the work. A bit of howling from the head, breathing from the chest, that sort of thing. I’m hoping to use a speaker, take all the housing from the speaker and use bass frequency to make it twitch a little bit, like it’s breathing it’s the last breath.

Have you done physical movement before?

No, I thought it’s something new I’ll try out on the residency. I’m hoping to do two to three hour tracks so every time somebody walks in they’re experiencing something new. I think that was an element that worked in my degree show because I had a three hour loop so literally every time somebody walked in they were having a different kind of experience with the sculptures. Yeah, (laughs) I can’t even remember what the question was now.

It was a good answer though, it was what to expect from you on opening night

Right! Yeah! So big dying creature, bit of sound, hopefully a bit of movement and I’m doing it big in the sense I want it to be confronting the space in some way if I can so y’know, the audience has to walk around it to get though… It’s to impose the space, I want people to be confronted on that level because all of my practise is about, if you can effect the audience they’ll begin to contemplate on the work and realise it’s maybe a comment on them, a comment on us. It’s my way of effecting them.

What made you apply for the residency?

It’s good to have an opportunity to carry on ideas straight away because I mean the degree show, for people who’ve just graduated will be, well it should be, the biggest show they’ve done so far. It’s the biggest bit of feedback you have and as the show’s going on, you’re having more and more ideas of what you want to do so it’s good to have the opportunity to carry on those ideas. I’ve got a sketchbook I only started a few months ago and I’ve already saved up a load of ideas.

How are you finding sharing a space with 7 other people?

It’s good sharing a space in terms of having new outlooks and people to bounce off. It’s good to have Miriam because I didn’t really know anybody who was into sound, in my degree show besides accompanying video I don’t really know anybody who used sound as a work so that’s good to bounce around and she’s doing cool stuff.

Written by Lucinda Martin for Surface Gallery

Images by Gavin 'Urban Shutterbug' Conwill

Taylerfisher.com

Instagram.com/tayler__fisher

EM:16 Pulse

It’s one of the most exciting times of year at the gallery, not only is Halloween just around the corner but the East Midlands Graduate Programme is finally beginning its residency. Our eight resident artists have been chosen for offering a style and project our committee was genuinely excited to showcase; and this year our artists cover a wide variety of mediums and influences so it promises to be a varied and exciting show. There’s something incredibly special about the first project created after graduation when you are beginning to label yourself as an artist without the adage of ‘student’. We’re excited to be part of this transition and hope you are as well.

    Connie Liebschner, Uta Feinstein, Jane Smith, Dave Dent, Tracey King, Ellysia Bugler, Tayler Fisher, Miriam Bean

   Connie Liebschner, Uta Feinstein, Jane Smith, Dave Dent, Tracey King, Ellysia Bugler, Tayler Fisher, Miriam Bean

Our first planning meeting, this Monday, was the first time we’ve all met in one big group; this could be an incredibly awkward experience with lots of drawn out introductions and ‘ummm’s but everyone’s instantly bonded. We’re all there for the same reason, to create something great. and besides, we don’t have time for nerves, there’s too much to do.

                      The Group Discussing Ideas

                      The Group Discussing Ideas

Our main aim this week is to discuss flyers and names - how the group want to brand themselves and present their debut. The recurring idea is that the design, and name, needs to say ‘Artist’ not Art Student’. The name settled on is Pulse, and the flyer, well, you’ll have to keep an eye out for that.

This week, the group was happy to meet with John Mitchell, of WiT Partnerships, who is conducting an independent evaluation for Surface to follow the residency; it plans to see what the artists hope to gain from the residency, what their plans are and then will reflect back on this once the exhibition has actually begun. John describes it as “more about learning than evaluation,” and it promises to teach us at Surface as much as it does the artists.

Next week, the artists will be having their critique sessions, which was mentioned in our October newsletter. Local artists will be meeting with the graduates, based on their experiences for individual critique sessions, as well as a group critique. Look forwards to reading more about this next Wednesday, when we look back on what’s happening and how the group are feeling for their sessions.

                                                       The Artists known as Pulse            

                                                       The Artists known as Pulse            

This Saturday kicks off our first EM16 workshops, the ‘Noisemaker Workshop’ led by Miriam Bean and ‘Engaging the Senses’ with Ellysia Bugler. I’ll also be publishing some interviews with them on Sunday so make sure to check back and find out how it went!

Written by Lucinda Martin for Surface Gallery

Images by Gavin ‘Urban Shutterbug’ Conwill

Maggie Smith the Quiet Rebel

Maggie Smith is a Surface Alumni whose current work Botanical Alchemy is a development of her "fine art background, a love of home and place, and passion for the natural world". We discussed environmental art, the science of being a hippy and the impact sustainability has had on Maggie's life.

You said your current work is inspired by your Fine Arts background, can you tell me more about this?

I did two degrees, my first degree was in Social Sciences  but I always carried on doing life drawings and making things and I always wanted to do something more creative so I went back to university as a mature student after I’d worked for a while. I went to Loughborough to do Fine Art, I concentrated on printmaking, when I graduated I actually was making films because at Loughborough it was really experimental. As long as in the first year you followed the prescribed route, after that you were set free. So I did a lot of film making, a lot of photography and I still do that. I ended up teaching and I just really loved teaching textiles… I’d made my own clothes when I was younger and made stuff. My mum taught me on an old fashioned sewing machine she’d given me. There was a chance of getting a redundancy package and completely on a whim, overnight, I thought instead of daydreaming about going back to a creative life, I’d just do it.

Did you find that scary or did you not have time to find that scary?

It should have been scary but it was just really exciting. It was almost like going back 20 years when I’ve got all these opportunities. I’ve gone off down South and visited various hippy groups and people who are involved in eco printing, natural dyeing. I met a really nice woman called babs who is part of Botanical Ink, they work at festivals and where they live is this lovely old, kind of tumble down farm, outside of bath. And there I got really good grounding in foraging, how to use plants to dye silk and that was the first time I thought, actually, I’m going to take this further. I’m not just going to explore using the natural world in my prints, I’m going to seriously consider going whole hog. So, I did buy quite a lot of silk from organic silk makers down South and then I just got addicted more and more to finding ways in which to not use anything that was part of the commercial world so I use silk that’s organic. And it’s so beautiful to work with. I decided I would not go and buy anything that’s not sustainable or I use second hand or pre-used, recycled things and it’s working really well.

Have you grown up with a love of nature?

When I first came to Nottingham, my first student bedsit I had window boxes so I’ve always grown things. I’ve never ever lived anywhere where I haven’t grown things. But now I do it in a much more organic way, I suppose, I try to look at what grows naturally and I’m not bothered about forcing nature to go against itself, I go with it more. So yeah, it has completely changed the way I see the world and it’s made me realise I can live with less. The more I live with less, the further I go. It goes hand in hand really, it’s the whole practice of life.

Do you hope your work will inspire people to look into a more sustainable lifestyle?

I was more concerned with how you could remove that ‘hippy’ image of it being a bit messy, and a bit tatty and I thought, well, the fabrics are so beautiful when you’ve made them that these fabrics almost need this space to kind of, show off a little bit. So that’s why my prints are really minimal and my stitches are really minimal because I want the fabrics to be the really important part of the work. Up to now I’ve been less bothered about directly influencing people. I’ve sort of got this idea that if you very quietly do it, if people look at the work and they like it and then they discover that actually, it’s recycled, it’s dyed with stuff from the garden, or onion skins from the kitchen... That actually you can have something that is aesthetically really beautiful, and can be quite contemporary looking but behind it all, is a really hippy concept. I like the idea of surprising people. I think that’s really important is that it works visually.

What drew you to Social Sciences?

I wanted university life more than I ever thought about why I was really going quite honestly. It was not at all a mature decision, (laughs) I was 18 and wanted to leave home.

I don’t regret the way round I did it though because where I’ve studied social sciences, I’ve got a really good context for fine arts. I’m quite interested in what’s happening behind the work that you see. So for example, I’m quite interested in how younger people, people who are now going to university are much more global, I suppose, in how they see the world. That’s why it was lovely go to visit these communal places in the South and I found these people in their twenties and thirties leading really alternative lives really quietly and just getting on with it and thinking up new ways they could earn a living without damaging anything, without damaging the planet and it’s just really lovely. 

I imagine, especially with a sustainable approach, it must be quite time consuming?

It really, really is. It’s not at all rushed. Something else I’m quite conscious of with these pieces, because I made these pieces for [Surface Dwellers], all those pillars I make are subtle. They don’t have any synthetic quality to them, so they all work brilliantly together, they can all be placed together but if they’re going to be in a show or a gallery where you have acrylic, harder colours or kind of street art designs, they would really look quite pale. So I chose colours I knew would be quite strong, so even though they’re quite gentle and the palate is quite gentle, I think they’re really strong colours. They’re the colours that can stand up to the sunlight. I wanted the fabrics to really shine and sing and that’s something that I did learn going up and down the country meeting people who were hand dying; how to work with fabrics where you’re not using really harsh methods so I don’t use really harsh temperatures. I watch everything with a thermometer. If you notice with the silk pieces, they have a really metallic shine to them, and that’s the original lustre of the silk, as soon as you get them too hot, you lose that so it is an incredibly slow process.  

I think that comes back to what you said, that people have this very hippy image of it but it’s also very scientific

It’s very scientific. To get that consistency of colour, you can’t get exactly the same shade each time, and that’s the exciting bit, but there’s so many bits I can control. You know, the evenness, I can dye fabric very, very evenly. I can keep the qualities of the fabric intact, even down to the screenprinting process, I use organic screen wash. As much as possible, anything used in the process is environmentally friendly. I used water based ink so when they’re flushed away, they’re not going to harm anything.

You’re still in contact with Surface since leaving, what makes you stay involved?

What I really like about Surface, is that you have all these volunteers that sort of squirrel away behind the surface that you don’t really see. You don’t realise the vastness of it until there’s a show on. It’s really lovely. It’s really nice. And also, there’s an energy from having quite a lot of young people around. People who have just graduated or who are still studying whatever they’re doing and I also like the fact it’s not just artists who get involved. It’s all sorts of people with all sorts of backgrounds that come together. 

Do you use social media much to promote?

I do! I have an instagram account and when I took [art] on full time, I got rid of all the pictures of my dog (laugh) and focused on just my artwork. I keep my website going, but I’m not really very good at self promoting and that’s something i have to push myself to do. I tend to work quietly.

           I’ve also got a blog on my website. I did a creative writing course at WEA, with Dave Woods. I’ve always loved reading and I’ve always admired people who were good with words and on that course… It made me realise that actually, I could write. He was really good at giving you self belief.  He used really simple techniques to get people writing which worked really well. It was excellent.

What interested you in creative writing?

When I was really little, I used to make these newspapers, I’d sew them together on this old sewing machine I had. I could only make one at a time. I’d sell them and then take them back and pass them on to someone else. It was all in my family. I have always loved words and language and they really do go, you know, if you think about the context of film, and anything really, language is so important. Spoken language, unspoken language, it just goes hand in hand.

I wouldn’t have even entertained doing a blog on my website if all those years ago I hadn’t taken a creative writing course. I’d got them in separate boxes, I’d probably have thought someone else would have to do the writing for me but actually, the words I use are related to the work I do. They’re not separate. They’re part of the same thing. 

Do you still do things like to make your own clothes?

I sort of adapt things. I’m not scared to get something and adapt it. Last weekend, we went to a car boot and got masses of clothes. I’ll always be scavenging. I think now, I’m less bothered about having stuff. I’m quite happy if people give me things or i find it in a car boot or a second hand shop but it doesn’t have any significance for me. I’m less bothered.

Do you think you’ve just become more practical?

Definitely. I’ve also been quite a hermit for a year so it’s quite nice when i go out now i think oh, I can get dressed up. It’s quite nice to wear something sparkly! I’ve got in the habit of being scruffy because I go to a studio, or i’m walking the dog or gardening and I’ve just had a year where i haven’t really gone out that much.

Is there a reason or just how it happened?

It’s just how it happened. It’s such a huge life change, giving up being part of the system. I felt like a really quiet rebel. I don’t earn money in the conventional way, I forage, I constantly think of how to recycle things or how to make things with very little money. I’ve just been doing my own path but now I do feel I’m ready to go to other people’s shows again and go out more and connect with people

Website

www.maggiesmith.co.uk

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Written by Lucinda Martin at Surface Gallery