When we met Elizabeth Waggett, British Artist and Designer, at the NY Design Show last August, little did we know that we would have so much in common. After bonding over a warm croissant, talking for hours about nature and humanity, and exploring her exquisite and culturally poignant work; we knew were onto a great collaboration.
We catch up with Elizabeth as she takes the Orée Stylograph with her on an 'inspiration trip' around the American South.
Orée: What inspired you to become an artist?
Elizabeth Waggett: It was something that was just always meant for me... I didn't really consider another thing it flowed organically, especially as a child. It certainly runs in our family. my mother is insanely talented, all my skills come from her. I grew up with her making creative games, often building things from scratch that we would then later become toys or prized possessions. My Grandma and Grandad were also very skilled craftsmen and they would often make things for my sister and I. My path hasn't always been a direct one, but everything I have done unto this point has always been creative, it just couldn't have been a different way. What finally gave me the push to take it up as a full time career was a mixture of gaining confidence and taking the opportunities placed in front of me.
The Long Horn
O: What has been the biggest influence for your art? Has that changed over time?
EW: I suppose its hard to say as I don't always realise why I’m doing something or where the inspiration comes from until someone points it out. Just the other day someone said they saw Damien Hirst in my work, to which I’d never thought of but I suppose they could be right, I mean Damien has to have touched every artist in some way. I’m certainly a very observant person of my visual surroundings and how places and people make me feel and see. Im so lucky to have travelled and to be continuing to do so. I absorb everything and use it as a narrative in my work, more so than the visual representation itself. The subject matter I would say comes from my strong design background. I’m very interested and passionate about composition and layout, thats the designer in me.
Hirst with his painting "I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds" (2006) via Huffington Post
O: Do you have a guiding principle towards your work?
EW: Yes, my work is a social commentary of the everyday confusion of humanity. In the struggle to balance greed and purpose. I use nature a lot to tell this story but also possessions. Of course some pieces highlight a more specific issue than another but its all linked back to this question of humanity. I certainly don't give a opinion or bottom line in my work but try to open the viewer to questioning this in whatever way they want to. It’s always so interesting to hear feedback at shows and the way in which my artwork has opened a new question to an individual. I've even heard people debate over the message which is wonderful! Skill wise it would have to be precision.
O: Talk us through your design and making process
EW: I spend a long time visualising. I often have ideas that I think are incredible and then the next day I discard them. My process can be quite a rollercoaster, mainly because my work takes so long to create. If it were a quicker process I think I’d move on quicker from mistakes.
For me working from a group of photographs is the best way and selecting them is my starting point. If my photographs are right then the piece will be. I would probably class composition as my greatest strength so I just go straight in and don't sketch things out or fill a sketchbook first.
Once I’m happy with the initial outlines, which I often redo numerous times. the building and layering begins. My work is too precise to lose focus, so I have to stay in the zone. Its very frustrating to be distracted when I’m in the middle of working since it can be quite a momentous task getting deep into each piece. If my concentration is broken I can find it hard to return.
The Stag Beetle
O: What is your favourite part of the process? Do you have any rituals?
EW: The starting of a new idea is very rewarding, about the mid point when you can see something taking shape and then of course the end. My favourite part has to be hearing feedback from collectors and at shows. Art is meant to be seen so I always try my best to attend shows to capture the buzz that the piece has created.
Rituals would include listening to the Harry Potter audio books over and over again! I also walk two miles daily to my studio with my miniature dachshund Twinkle, this helps clear my head and prepare for the day. On the way I’ll often listen to something motivational to get me prepared. Its often a solitary day, and I’m a very social person so this is a good way for me to get focused on the task ahead.
The Golden Skull
O: Describe your art studio
EW: My art studio fully private, has two large desks is all white everything and has two large windows looking out over the hudson river. I’m very lucky to have a studio in a collective studio space on Manhattan which is very rare. The people there are all professional and supportive of each others endeavors so its a wonderful place to work.
O: Do you have any favourite tools and why?
EW: My huge Trekkle brush which helps to continually brush off my work when I'm using graphite and erasing areas. I have an array of pens and tools. I am always open to trying new tools and and skills though, its really important to do this to progress as and artist. Its so important for artists to use technology in their work. We have much more available to us that the great masters ever did and its our job to seek new ways of using none traditional media in exciting ways. That's why I’m so excited to be using the Orée Stylograph in a series of work and use it in a way that it perhaps wasn't intended to be used at first.
Sketching with the Stylograph on the road
O: Have you got any words of wisdom for aspiring creatives?
EW: Without wanting to sound cliche, I’ d have to say stay true to yourself. If you know deep down inside that something is meant for you then follow it, maybe its just a small voice, but you have to feed it. Following a career in pursuit of the wrong thing will only crush you eventually. If you have a passion and a gift then it’s there for a reason, to be explored and add value to the world.
Anything really is possible, stay away from people who tell you otherwise, and surround yourself with the inspired, the excited and the grateful. Stop comparing yourself to others, you're the only person with a unique gift. Use it.
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