I first saw Jules’s work at the Mall Galleries in London at the beginning of the year. I liked her work immediately, I really enjoyed the humour but also the ethos behind it. The obsession todays society has with physical perfection is a very interesting topic and Jules work highlights the absurdity of it in a gentle and affectionate way that is well said and charming! Her work is fresh, quirky and can’t help but raise a smile.
Here she talks about her work and gives a fascinating in depth look at how she came to be where she is today.
At the heart of my current work are ‘Hengrels’, an artificially enhanced hybrid species of chicken in search of true beauty. To satisfy their compulsion for perfection they resort to cosmetic surgery. Their appearance and behaviour is often odd. I deliberately recycle cloth from clothes and used linen because of its association with our bodies, culture and passage through time. The property of humans, it has not belonged to the Hengrel and is thereby symbolic of a false identity. Their story is only at its beginning.
In response to today’s throwaway society I take devalued textiles, from car-boot sales, and give them new life. Often traditional techniques such as layering and patching juxtapose digitally printed hand drawn images. My work takes its initial inspiration from Boro, a Japanese form of patchwork in which cloth has been patched and repaired with scraps to extend its life beyond normal expectations. By doing so, these cloths embody the passage of time and identity of its owner. Wear and tear enriches and in such ruination we find beauty. The psychology of the Hengrel however turns this on its head.
My creativity is continuously fed by what surrounds me or rather what I choose to immerse myself in. I am extremely self indulgent and can easily ignore domesticity and the demands of, in my defence a grown up family. Dinner is often ate on laps as sketch books, pencils, fabrics and threads cover every surface, often floor included. I work best when everything is to hand and visible. I thought I’d be tidier when I graduated but I’m not. Out of sight is definitely out of mind for me. Unless I’m immersed in my media I find it difficult to sustain my creativity as other distractions of normal hum drum family life take over.
When I develop new ideas I constantly have random thoughts which I scribble down on anything to hand. Bits of torn paper eventually collate in old envelopes or on the sideboard and I methodically go through each one and try to explore the possibilities it may have. My creative journey is often very slow and laborious with many detours and dead ends. I wish I could be more decisive in my creativity but I’ve learnt I need to physically work through all my ideas in order to be able to move on and evolve my work.
Being inspired is crucial to my creativity. I don’t keep a work schedule or any routine as such. My days are currently interspersed with voluntary sessions at a charity shop, family life and catching up with friends or meetings at textile groups. In between I immerse myself in drawing, stitch, reading books, and going to antique markets, jumble and car boot sales. I can just as easily be found stitching at 9 a.m. in the morning as I can be at 9 p.m. at night. I create whenever the mood takes me. I never see my creations as work!
When I hit a brick wall or feel I have ‘creation overload’, I tend to tidy everything away to one corner of the room and reconnect with the outside world. I constantly visit galleries and craft fairs irrespective of their focus as I find inspiration everywhere. I also reach for my camera and walk for hours taking photographs of anything that interests me. You can tell when I’m re evaluating my work or taking a step back because the house is tidier, meals are on the table on time and we entertain guests.
When asked what led me to become an artist I shrug my shoulders and answer ‘I’m not sure how I got here but the pieces all fit!’
As a child my favourite shop was the ‘Treasure Trove’ filled with memorabilia, the macabre and a giant stuffed bear. Most weekends I rummaged through my grandparents bureau and drawers looking for something forgotten. At university I studied Archaeology and developed a particular curiosity for Ethnoarchaeology. Today all of these strands have unconsciously come together.
Equipped with a camera on a summer’s day, I am the person taking photographs of rust and peeling paint. At weekends I’m happiest rummaging through battered cardboard boxes at car boot sales. Having moved several times as a child growing up, I have few markers of my own past. Instead our house is filled with the paraphernalia of strangers. Often I am drawn to the domestic: old brushes still caked in paint, rusty tools, old maps, scuffed picture frames, postcards and photographs. Nothing is pristine. Every surface narrates its own passage through time. In recent years I have started to collect used linen, in particular old embroidered tablecloths, napkins and bed linen. Today these form the fabric of my stitched textile practice.
Being artistic dictates my life and enables me to be, as I said before, rather self indulgent. Our house is full of random bits and pieces that have caught my eye. Shelves overflow with books, remnants of cloth, thread and drawing materials. Much of my time socially is spent with like minded people. I have a legitimate excuse to keep going to galleries and car boot sales. Luckily for me, my family support me though still shake their head and ask why when I show them my latest acquisition. I promise them one day I will be famous and I might even earn some money!
At the moment my work takes its starting point from my graduation show in 2011. Later this year however I intend to introduce new ‘Hengrels’ into my work. I had hoped to expand my work sooner but I have been completely overwhelmed by the response my work has had since its first showing. Consequently, I am repeating work to demand but I always ensure each piece is individual and unique in its own right which is achievable since all pieces are handmade.
I currently sell my work at exhibitions and through galleries. I have set up a website but it is still very much in its infancy. As a child my dream was to own an art studio, gallery and gift shop . I still have this dream but the closest I’ve come is to be able to enter ‘hengrels’ into google and have it come up with links to my website!
Currently I am working on different ways to expand my range in order to make it more affordable for a wider market. Originally my work consisted of framed pieces, now I have introduced greetings cards, fridge magnets, mugs and even t-shirts, Also, I am working on a range of original digital prints which focus on the drawn image and are simply embellished with cloth in order to appeal to a different market. In order to succeed as an artist today I do think you need to continually evolve your work and take note of what’s current. In the future I would love to see stitched textiles gain recognition as a fine art. At the moment it is still seen by many as a hobby or craft as opposed to art.