Back in late October I was contacted by Lucy Sparrow aka sew your soul she is a felt artist who makes beautiful felt creations replicating day to day items such as a can of beans to more controversial war grenades and weapons of mass destruction hanging from a large periodic table. You can see her current show in Camden, London, Camden High street 159 along with street artists DRB and ATM who were also in the ‘Riot here, Riot now’ group exhibition. Check out Test Space Collective to find out more about Lucy Sparrow, DRB, ATM and other current art in Camden town.
Lucy had seen my ‘This is England’ mosaic on facebook via our mutual friend and artist Carrie Reichardt. Carrie is a mosaic, ceramic, renegade potter and political activist based in a mind blowing mosaic house in Acton, London. Carrie has been an inspiration to me for some years now and offers wisdom and support to artists and the community which is appreciated by many. To follow Carrie and her artist movements catch up on her adventures on her blog . she is currently in Chile with her apprentice and artist Sian Wonnish Smith showing Chile how British anarchist mosaic artists roll!! I was asked to participate in the show ‘Riot here, Riot now’ which was set to be a political craft group show in W3 Gallery, Acton, London. I of course said yes as this is exactly where I wanted my new mosaic to be displayed along side lots of other strong minded artists who wish to speak out about political issues through their art.
I was working as a support worker for victims of human trafficking in a charity called The Medaille Trust. I had been here for nearly two years and felt quite knowledgeable and over whelmed with the stories I had listened to and comforted victims for hours with. I wanted to be able to express these emotions I had developed over this time in a piece of art that holds a strong meaning for me and that I can put out into society to feel too. I decided to make the English flag to show how trafficked illegal immigrants come to England and what can often be in store for them on the other side. We pride ourselves as a strong and rich country and this is what other countries believe to be true also however the truth of it is very different for certain individuals who are tricked into coming to the UK for a better way of life and to earn more money. They will arrive and are instantly in debt and trapped with their traffickers they are mentally and a lot of the time physical enslaved. ‘This is England’ for those people.
I started by salvaging plates from the safe house I was working in which the women would eat from as I knew I could use those in making mosaics. I wanted to get some ceramic transfers printed of some ‘tart cards’ these are sex cards found in phone boxes. Mike Emberson head of Medaille Trust and an ambassador of anti-human trafficking had given me thousands of these phone cards so I finally realised a higher use for them. I smashed up all the plates in a material bag with a hammer and began the puzzle of laying the broken pieces into a St George English flag I had drawn out onto a piece of wood. It was a lengthy process and the uneven plates made it very tricky to get an even and tidy finish but over all I was satisfied with what I had created. I had created a piece which carried depth, political value and emotion. I could even use my ceramic baby heads in there to provoke the idea of what some of these women who are forced into prostituting themselves happens to them i.e pregnancy, abortions and rape. If you look closely you will see some love hearts these were created by some of the women in the house when I would hold clay workshops with them and take them to the local pottery shop (which you can read a published article on page 7 here). I think its amazing and inspiring that these women who have been through so much have the strength to move on and appreciate and put their trust in charities like Medaille to create and push for a better life for themselves away from harm and cruelty.
I created another mosaic to accompany the flag piece, I found a coffee table in the skip and used it as a surface for a mosaic. One of the most common ways of women being trafficked into the UK is through ‘Lover boys’. A lover boy is someone who will pretend to be their boyfriend in their home country for sometime before they move to the UK. The women fall in love with this man and the man will make a point of meeting her family and any one else who is important them. The women is encouraged to move to the UK. On arrival into the UK the women are still under the illusion that the boyfriend is in love with them even when the boyfriend tells the women that she must prostitute herself to be able to pay back the money it costs to travel to the UK. Sometimes the women will put up a fight but this doesn’t last long, they are scared into thinking if they run away then the police will put them in jail for being in the country illegally and on top of that the boyfriend (trafficker) will threaten to kill their families back home. Sometimes the ‘Lover boy’ will have numerous women in love with him in as they are brainwashed to believe he loves them and is looking after them as they have nothing or know one else in the UK. I decided this coffee table piece should be titled ‘Ill give you my heart on a plate’ hence how the women give their fragile hearts away, I think this is represented in the fragility of the ceramics and the use of plates within the piece. When women come into the care of anti-trafficking charities either pregnant or with babies born through rape they are supported in their process of recovery its is a slow recovery but with the right support they can learn to be independent again and cope with becoming a parent.
A fellow artist and sculptor from The Arches studio Chris Cudlip was interested in the show I had been invited to exhibit in. He had a carved wooden badger holding a gun which happened to fit perfectly into the theme of political craft so it was good news for both us artist to make our way to London together for the show. Look into anti-culling to see what exactly is happening to badgers at the moment, its pretty horrific.
I was exhibiting along side some incredibly talented street artists, sculptors, ceramicists, felt artists, permaculture artists, mosaic artists, painters I was truly flattered and appreciative to be surrounded by such inspirational people. I am on the look out for space to be able to tour this show as I think the work in it has some incredibly important messages which all classes of society needs to see and feel. Below is some photography from the show I hope you can get an understanding of some of the messages within the art.