Earlier on this year we provided the prize for the Royal Exchange’s first ever Open Competition. They had a great response and the standard of work was incredibly high so it was very hard for us to pick a winner, but we were thoroughly impressed with Lucy Elisabeth’s wire work piece and unanimously named her the winner. We caught up with Lucy to find out a little bit more about her.
You were the winner of the Fred Aldous prize for the Royal Exchange Emerge Open Competition. What will you be spending your winnings on?
Certainly not wire! I have to say, I was so shocked but obviously pleased to be picked. I think I will probably spend it on things that I just wouldn’t indulge on normally, a top up in arty goods such as good quality pens, paints and brushes, that sort of thing!….. oh….. and also a lovely sketchbook! Where do I start really? I could easily spend hours and my prize on stuff I don’t need but really want, such as unnecessary amounts of baker’s twine!
Tell us a bit about your practice?
My wirework art is produced freehand, meaning I do not hold it over a template. I usually work from photos or drawings, but sometimes I will go directly to just ‘drawing’ with the wire.
I produce 2D wirework ‘illustrations’ and 3D wirework ‘sculptural wire drawings’, which are then mounted and framed. I love working with wire and although I do use a selection of pliers the best tools are my hands, especially for smoothing curves and shaping.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
I love using copper enamelled wire, as it malleable and really excellent to work with. I also like the slick finish it gives when the piece is complete, plus which, it also comes in a variety of colours. I occasionally use iron binding wire, for larger sculptural pieces, but if I use it for too long my hands become inflamed as I’m allergic to it! Also iron can rust if it is exposed to moisture, which is not ideal for giving longevity to a piece of work.
Where do you make your work?
I have a studio at Local Creation in Altrincham, which I have had since January, before that it was the dining room and the shed at the bottom of the garden! Everyone has to start somewhere!
Where does the inspiration for your work come from?
I love collecting 70s and 80s wildlife book and pictorial encyclopaedias, the illustrations in a majority of them are really beautiful! Generally I do look at current trends in fashion and home styling to ensure my there is at least one line of my work following current interior and colour trends. I would really love to indulge on working on bigger showcase pieces, that really show off my skills and what can be done with wire, however my priority at present in ensuring my stockists, galleries and customers have their orders!
Which makers do you admire?
Gosh, where do I begin? There are so many makers, working in so many different, diverse and wonderful materials.
I think the wirework sculptures of Elizabeth Berrien are just stunning, her pieces are just on a different level, there is so much movement and character to them, mind you she has been doing it for 45 years!
Mister Finch is another maker I admire greatly, there is no compromise in the textile artwork he makes, and the craftsmanship is just stunning, you would never know that it was made out of old bits of scrap fabric!
What advice do you have for makers who are just starting out?
If you want to make for a living, although it sounds delightful, you will not be able to allocate 100% of your time to just making! The reality is you have to work your ass off to get anywhere, you are in charge of everything; admin, sales, promotion and marketing, packing, sourcing, ordering, stocktaking, training, accounts, public relations and tea making!
Also questions to bear in mind should include: – What is your unique selling point? Who are your customers? Why will they buy from you? Do your research! I would say if you do not have these things in your head (or down on paper) you will be fumbling around in the dark, knowledge and being informed will really help in the early days!
Also know what your work is worth (ensure you pay yourself!) and decide pretty early on if you are going down the stockists route or selling it yourself.
What is next on the horizon for you?
I am taking part in the Sale Arts trail this year in July, and will be exhibiting next to other artists and makers whose work I have admired for a while such as Lily Greenwood (fine artist), Jo Lavelle (Jewellery) and Louise Dewsnap (paper art). After that I have the Kirstie Allsopp Handmade Fairs, the one in September is in Hampton Court Palace and the November Christmas event is at Manchester Central. It is probably also worth mentioning I am getting married in October, so I will be taking a little time off for that!
Where can people see your work?
On my website, Facebook and Twitter pages is where I post about all my newest work, where I will be next and what I am up to.
You can always find me at the Didsbury and Knutsford makers markets on a monthly basis, and any events with the Manchester Craft Mafia, as I am the events and collaborations co-ordinator. Stockists include Sevenoak Studio in the Northern Quarter, the Royal Exchange Craft shop, Franny and Filer on Beech road in Chorlton and Serendipitea in Sale. People are always welcome to contact me regarding orders or commissions, or pop and see me at my studio in Altrincham! (You will have to excuse the ‘organised mess’!)