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In the Studio with Amy Worrall

British sculptor and ceramicist Amy Worrall creates decorative objects often inspired by the topless girls in Florida and sunburnt Brits abroad on the Costa del Sol. We met with Amy to talk a little bit about her practice, inspirations, and how she began her journey.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist? 

I think I’ve always had delusions of grandeur and have always thought of myself as an artist. It’s been the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, as a kid my big dream was to be an animator so visual arts has always been my driving force. Because of that I’ve never had an ‘a-ha’ moment, it’s just always been there.

Where are you from/what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?

I’m from Norwich in the east of England, which as a place has had no specific impact on me creatively. Since she was a child my Mum’s biggest dream was to go to Disneyland so I’ve been to various Disney theme parks more times than I can remember, this did and continues to have a big impact on my work. I have a skewed view of the world, referring to things as ‘being like Disneyland’ rather than the other, correct way around! It’s shaped my way of thinking, I tend to see even inanimate objects as characters and I quickly develop personalities for them, something that directly translates to my work, all of my sculptures have little backstories that guide me when I’m making. There’s a ‘off’ glossiness in my work that I’ve borrowed from Florida, a place for me a child felt like it was built based on a kids dream, everything is larger than life but somehow demented at the same time.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. Have you gone through the traditional route of art school and what was your experience?

Yes, I’ve had a pretty classic art school journey, I took my bachelor at Central Saint Martins but as an 18 year old plonked in the middle of London I was more interested in the city itself rather than school. After finishing I had a classic crisis of confidence, moved home and decided graphic design wasn’t for me. I was incredibly bored being back home so I took an evening class in ceramics and like in a rom-com everything clicked, I suddenly knew exactly what I wanted to do. I moved back to London, did a years intensive course learning all the basics of clay and started figuring out who I was as a artist. This eventually lead to a masters at Konstfack in Stockholm, where I still am based. Unlike CSM I was really engaged and committed to the course, mostly because I was 10 years older but also because I was actually on the right path.

What’s the message of your work? Are there themes/narratives/purpose? Where do they come from? How would you describe your aesthetic?

There is no single message in my work; instead there are a lot of opposing ideas and messages. I want my work to reflect how I see/feel about myself and other women which of course means there are paradoxes and contractions. I address all of this with humour, the same way I would in my day-to-day life. A narrative in work is the fakeness I see expressed on social media, that someone can be ‘shouting out’ another women online but in reality the two of them hate each other. It’s this social ‘role play’ and hypocrisy that is the essence of my work. My sculptures are shiny and happy at first look, but there is something unreal and pretend about it all. I like using my childhood icons of femininity to express this emptiness, characters like Minnie mouse and Hello Kitty.

 Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? Do you have the audience consciously in mind when you are creating?

All of my works are loosely planned. I draw everything first, I never ever go 3D straight away, I’d get too distracted and end up with one big lump of clay. Because I work with sculpture I do have the audience in mind, mainly practically, how are they going to move around/ interact with it? How does the size of my work relate to the body? But then also I want the audience to feel confronted by my women or like they are intruding on them. An encounter with my work should feel like you’ve just met another person. I suppose I want my work to make people feel happy and uncomfortable at the same time, like they can’t quite tell if they are laughing with them or at them. Giving that unnerving feeling of not knowing what side of the joke they land on.

Who and what are your greatest influences?

Disneyland, Florida, Hello Kitty. Outdated gendered advertisements. Music Videos. The Kardashians. And then somehow in all of that the painter Willem De Kooning even though he had questionable views about women, there is just something about how he manages to paint women in a way that’s both tender and completely offensive.

William de Kooning, Woman and Bicycle, 1952

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? How has your art evolved? Do you stick to one medium? Do you experiment? Do you see any parameters to your work?

My work is so connected to what is happening around me, especially in the media. I’m a massive consumer of pop culture, so that plays a big force in my aesthetic. Topics and visuals I use are often dictated based on things I’ve seen/heard/read. In that way my work is always evolving, I’m constantly updating my ‘image library’ with elements I can pick and choose from. The biggest parameter I’ve set for myself is to work with the female form, not in a limiting way it just happens to be what I’m naturally drawn to in my practice. I would love to turn my gaze to the male form in the future, but it’s something I don’t want to force. I’ve actually just finished a piece made from papier-mâché, so I’m absolutely not a ceramic purist. I’m happy to experiment and switch mediums if there is something I want to try or think wont translate well in clay. It also keeps it exciting and fun for me.

What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

My ideal situation is to have had a perfect nights sleep, that’s the only thing I know I 100% need to do anything close to good, otherwise I’m just going to walk into the studio and sit around complaining. I quite like a little bit of pressure from a deadline. I’m not great at working alone; I actually think laughter is a big catalyst for me. I like working around someone, I share my studio space with one of my friends having constant stimulation works very well for me creatively, seeing someone else’s practice, having a podcast blaring out and having a entirely stupid conversation all at the same time creates the kind of chaos I love working in.

What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve been given?

If you’re going to be funny, be serious about being funny.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future? (projects, collaborations, taking a break).

I would like to work more with textile, something I’ve just started to explore. I have a few really fun projects coming up with my artist platform – dotdotdotstockholm that I’m very excited about, we have a big narrative exhibition about the future coming up, so I’ll really be in my element then!

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