Tell us a wee bit about yourself (location, affiliations etc).
I live and work in London England, which is where I’m originally from, although I grew up in the lovely rolling Kent countryside. I studied illustration at what is now Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge and ended up at Central Saint Martins College with an MA. Since then I’ve done freelance illustration, some lecturing in a few different UK art colleges, now I’m more focused on exhibiting my own work.
Give us a brief overview of what you're doing with Charity Shop Orphans.
I had a growing collection of animal ornaments, which I’d bought from charity shops that were gradually filling up my flat. In 2004 I started painting, naming and giving each one a new set of characteristics, which attached them to a family such as the Parmigiani's, Horne's or Moretti's... Currently there are almost 200 individual Charity Shop Orphans belonging to over 25 different families.
It's such a great concept for a project, what led you there?
I’m sure it all stems back to childhood. I absolutely loved animal ornaments and always made big elaborate displays on a shared dressing table (my poor sister). Nowadays, even though I’m really drawn to the ornaments, my aesthetic taste is entirely different, which goes some way to explaining how they look but the family naming and grouping is perhaps to do with the fact that they are in the charity shop and no longer wanted, which appeals to my outsiderish nature..
I love that there are several families of orphans in the ongoing collection, is this tied in with themes of family and connectedness?
Yes. I’ve been in many a charity shop and caught somebody’s eye sighing and awwing at a little wide-eyed ceramic creature sat on a lonely shelf with a 50p price sticker. A lot of these ornaments are designed to be very emotive and in the charity shop situation, where they’re no longer wanted, they are certainly in need of belonging. I’m definitely having fun with the concept of family, putting together unlikely combinations such as bear, cat and seahorse! For me it creates a sense of story.
What else inspires you when you sit down with a new orphan?
I was asked this question not long ago and came to the conclusion that it’s the creative process itself that inspires me - I get a thrill out of the complexities, warts and all. More specifically with the orphans, it’s the transformation process of a nostalgic object into one that’s more contemporary. Names come from all over the place, from my favourite film directors to people I know, or just in response to a particular ornament orphan.