The reputation of the ‘flower’ precedes the thing itself, yet it has few synonyms in the English language. Perhaps the flower’s popularity doesn’t necessarily denote a multifaceted understanding of it. Flowers are ubiquitous, mythologised on the one end as symbols of misbehaving women during the witchcraft trials and imagery for love and hate in fairy tales, and on the other end classified by the Victorian practice of Floriography and through the science of botany.
Yet, from the flower children of 1960’s America to women holding peonies as feminist protest in present-day Mexico, flowers have shown their potential as more than apolitical figurines. Beyond the pen, the courtroom or the computer, the flower retains a ‘usefulness’ as a social symbol, as a form of non-verbal communication, or as a way of questioning what being ‘useful’ is through its connection to rest, thoughtfulness, and playful environments. By launching a ‘flower festival’ through Assemblage, we can think playfully about the flower as a visual medium for reimagining social change.
To think of a flower manifesto might be to explore aims and objectives in a different way, to approach a manifesto as a constellation of poetry, collage, creative writing, and as a digital space assembled from a central floral focal point.
To prepare for the Flower Festival launch, Assemblage headed down to member Elena’s Whitechapel art studio to discuss flower manifestos as a way of collecting ideas about what we might want the festival to look and feel like.
We first went around the group and collected a floral stream of consciousness, asking ‘what comes to mind when you think of a flower?’. The theme precipitated answers of such a range that it felt like we were developing a collective flora. Members had strong personal associations to plant life, discussing buttercups and childhood, the gentle disappointment of receiving flowers, and decorating their kitchens with blooming vases. Ideas dropped petal-like onto the page, with conversations about preserving flowers, resin, and plastics departments, to debates about the temporariness of flowers, flowers in protest, and flowers as resource or medicine.
We collected these flower themes and came up with our own flower manifestos, thinking about what we might want represented through the festival. Our manifestos materialised into a collaborative zine, each page filled with collage, ink, and mark-making, creating a mood-board garden. Contained within the pages were libraries in bloom, evergreen vines growing out of technicolour dots, DIY lyrics overlapping hydrangea.
We hope to reimagine the flower as it stands today, helping us to consider the multiple branches of what a floral future might mean. Our flower manifesto is moving and growing and will be shaped by the events and artworks that develop in the next two months.
Keep up to date through Assemblage’s Instagram for info on upcoming activities, including a ‘flowers and feminism’ poetry workshop, a ‘this will get you lost’ flower tour, creative writing and design, and lots more. And of course, daisy stickers!
A superhero- singular, ‘a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers’. We tend to imagine superheroes as typically lonesome, cape billowing in the wind, eyebrows arched in a pensive state. We don’t see the power of invisibility that is held by the endless groups of people caring for the ‘hero’, such as the foster family, the friends that embrace their ‘outsider’ position, the community making it possible for them to act ‘heroically’.
A similar notion characterises the ever-elusive ‘artist’, either completely out of view or totally centre stage, the concept of the extraordinary artist and their muse denies the existence of a creative community making ‘art’ possible. It denies the caring, learning, and teaching that happens collectively, giving way to a cycle of ideas.
Through an Easter Sunday spent at the Foundling Museum’s ‘Superheroes, Orphans & Origins: 125 years in comics’ exhibition, followed by a themed workshop, Assemblage Youth Collective spent the day distilling the assumptions around what the term ‘superhero’ means. The Foundling Museum’s history as a hospital for the care of abandoned children, founded by Thomas Coram in 1739, set the perfect stage for an exhibition around care identity and comic book hero histories, the exhibition focusing on how orphans, adoptees and foster children are depicted within comics and graphic art.
The exhibition room itself felt like stepping into the pages of a comic book: plush with baby pink polka dots, strawberry red and electric blue walls. The display held vintage comics, contemporary pieces specifically commissioned, and graphic art from all over the world. Personally, I was struck by the originality of contemporary artist Bex Glendining’s piece, Begin Again, a digital illustration designed specifically for the exhibition, exploring themes of growth and emotion in new environments. The mesmerizingly vivid blocks within the piece could be read in any order, playing with the idea of sequential art and questioning how we order time and space. This mirrored the Foundling Museum’s approach to the conversation around care, where they replace the term ‘care-leaver’ in the descriptions with ‘care-experienced’ and ‘care identity’, expanding ‘care’ out to include different spaces beyond the foster home.
Reactions to the exhibition informed the creative work that followed. Assemblage founder Tasch led a workshop centred on designing and crafting our own superhero symbols, playing with the concept of superpowers. A member of the collective, Justin, considered how powers could move beyond the visual: ‘one of the things I took away from the pieces on display was that power can be much more internal and metaphorical as well – it’s resilience, it’s accepting change, it’s staying focused, and all of that. I took the basic motif of a wing/wave shape to symbolise that ability to ride out changes’.
Other members thought about how the illustrations on display distilled classic depictions of a hero, and of a foster child. Hannah took inspiration from Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom’s drawings, that ‘focused on ‘the harsh othering that can and often does occur as a result of being an adopted child’ and ‘her use of muted, selective colours, and the textural quality of her pieces that looked almost tea-stained’. Hannah’s symbol played with conventional notions of femininity, merging bright pinks with geometric shapes to capture ‘the endless realm and range of what a woman looks like and can achieve’.
Tasch drew ideas from Lars Horneman’s illustrations of warrior queen Zenobia, impressed by how the comic ‘combined traditional feminine and masculine emblems to constitute a sense of power, breaking with more classic representations of superheroes and superpowers’.
During the workshop, I led a brief talk about how poetry writing could help inform our symbol-making. Poetry is how I care for myself and expressing feelings and observations through creative writing helped us to expand out our symbols beyond the visual, thinking about how we might symbolise our identity through sound and smell, noticing how it has changed and been informed by others.
As I made my own notes for my symbol, I wrote, ‘writing is drawing’, as I felt the bends of the letters grate against cardboard, my illegible handwriting resembling squiggles more than words, prompting my own technicolour symbol to express how what may seem directionless can fulfil an emotional or creative purpose. The exhibition itself is based on an original work commissioned by the museum in 2014, where care-experienced poet Lemn Sissay made a poem that is sprawled over the museum’s walls entitled ‘Superman was a Foundling’.
The idea of being found, instead of being made or being new, sits at the heart of the Museum’s themes and Assemblage’s workshop. Member Josh captured this through his fascination with the characters in Taiyō Matsumoto’s illustrations in the Manga series Tekkonkinkreet, who wear clothes made from found materials, emphasising how we can re-use objects and surroundings to create new identities. Similarly, member Amy’s symbol played with the recycling logo, expressing how creativity and identity exist as ongoing processes.
We continued re-imagining superhero and superpower tropes in the reflection portion of the session. Usually, evaluations after workshops can feel quite clinical, but by discussing the session in real-time, the participants created a comfortable space to share thoughts and feelings. Luisa explained how her drawing of tear drops symbolised her connection to her own vulnerability and how she cares for her friends, and Tasch drew inspiration from the raindrops in her emblem to consider how judgements and moods, like the weather, can change and flow.
As the sunshine warmed our journey home, we were left thinking about the ‘everyday superpowers’ that mark our identities, and how care becomes an ongoing and collective experience.
On Sunday 27th of March, I headed down to the Foundling Museum. On this bright, crisp day I was off to do some art with the Assemblage Collective.
I was v excited, it felt like it’d been years since I did something creative – in reality only months, but to me anytime without creating something seems to be longer than its relative time span.
I hadn’t been to the Foundling Museum before. I was surprised to find it tucked to the side of a park I visited lots as a child, always one of my favorite ones – Coram’s Fields. Coram’s Fields – even hearing the name of it brings back the sensations: a rush of cold air against flushed cheeks, legs straining to run up the ramp dragging the swing in arm, and then jumped onto it so it could zip wire me across the field. The soft feel of goats, who would like and nibble my hand and I would shy away only to place my hand back in between the gates again. Splashing and getting soaked through in the fountains, while my family ate strawberries and mini sausages on the grass. How vast it had felt, but looking into it now, it was so much smaller.
Unknowingly, the emotional journey had only just begun.
When I arrived, Tascha (Assemblage Collective’s founder & director) and the assembled Assemblage members greeted me.
Tascha explained what we would be doing and gave us a presentation on the Foundling museums’ history.
The Museum opened in 2004. I had been playing on the fields between 1995-2002.
Before being a museum, it had been the Foundling Hospital and had taken its last child in the 50’s. The hospital had been established by Thomas Coram (1668-1751) in 1739 to care for babies at risk of abandonment. Coram, a philanthropist, campaigned for seventeen years before he received a Royal Charter from King George II to found it. A statue of him stands outside, and the fields are still named for him.
The instructions for attending had been simple – bring a piece that you have an emotional sentimental connection to.
We sat and introduced our pieces and then headed through the galleries. I kept my heart open while we walked through, I knew the emotional response I would have would be the thing to inspire the art I would produce back in the workroom.
When I found out about the tokens, I felt an obsession take hold.
In the first few decades of the hospital, the parents who left children were instructed to bring a token with them to deposit with the child, to act as an identifier. Each child was written into a register, given a number and then a new name – usually after someone famous or inspirational, think Julius Ceaser, Shakespeare, Cicero etc. The token was placed alongside the book or was written in the form. If parents wanted to claim the child back, or more likely needed to prove they hadn’t murdered the child, they could return citing the token as a steadfast identification of the child’s heritage.
The children rarely, if ever, saw these tokens. They remained sealed unless a claim was made.
Weeks later, writing this, I still get an uneasy chasm, the sense of a rupture inside. This was what I used for inspiration.
The sentimental objects I had brought with me – my first filled sketchbook from 2012, a wolf inlaid zippo lighter I had left on a rock in the middle of the sea in St. Ives (and managed to retrieve!), and a necklace inherited from my grandmother – they were all personal to me. Sentimental because of their meaning to me, and if I passed them on, it would still be the connection to me that made them so poignant.
Others had made art around the tokens too, such as David Shrigley. See below.
Back in the room, I found the things I needed to bring the visualisation of the feeling I was having to life. Some paper, glue, pens etc. which had been provided for us.
We scanned our objects – I used the gold teddy necklace from my nan – and printed them out. I worked onto the paper creating this:
A freeform automatic writing on the front, and a flowing design on the back with added phrases and words. I then created an overlay, so the sentimental reminiscent memories and exploration in the automatic writing were only caught in glimpses. I wasn’t sure if I was the object talking, or the memories. I quiet like the ambiguity of it. The line between objects we bring life to with our memories, and our memories giving us life.
The layer on top hides some of the words, so only some phrases can be seen.
To me, that represented the chasm between the parent and the child, between the reality of each of their lives. How the child must have wondered about the life they would have had if they were in the flow of time still, not ruptured, renamed and rehomed. How the tokens would have meant a different sentimentality. About how the object and the child must have felt out of time and place. There was a lot of complexity in my feeling, and I hope I expressed some of it, but it was/is difficult to get into words.
The piece reads
‘A chasm. Washed gold. Dark, deepness, subdued, abated. Memory, history, what if it had been another life, another time? What if I’d never known it come to me? What if she had given it but it had not been received? Sentimentality in the chasm, liminal and stranded, straddled and inaccessible. What if I had not been me? A shell – captured and refilled, excavated of who I should have been. A chasm. Rippled. Ripped. Disrupted. Disrupted. A rippled timeline. Julius Ceaser in the 20th Century. Shakespeare in the 17th. Who are you? Are you – Am I – in the gold chains, those tokens of love, in the moment coveted treasures and chained to me? Are you in my objects – real and psyche? Am I disrupted? I am taking you with me. And we are going nowhere. Looking up to you. looking down at me. Golden sunbeams and an unconscious stream of warmth and love passed down through time. love through a chasm – untouched. It does not touch me I am nameless and overnamed, over imbued with promise because I am you. These are memories. I am my nan. I am my mum, my great grandmother, my friends my enemy my father other father, I’m family.’
I want to turn this into a poem and lift some of the main lines I like out. I may return to it later!
I loved making it. I took it with me to the pub after, and when Chelsea scored someone knocked a pint over it (luckily I wrote in archival ink!), and it makes me like the piece more. Its imbued with its own life and memories now, a living thing out in the world. I hope to go and make more pieces like it. Assemblage Collective is making more around identity and sentimentality, and I’m eager to see what they do and how I can take part.
Ioana Simion is the creative brains behind Artizine UK, a not for profit initiative which aims to connect communities together through zine-making workshops, kits, and creative activities.
She kindly agreed to join us at our latest meeting to share her insights into collaboration and the vision behind her zine-making initiative. Below we’ve shared some of her insights:
“First, just think around you. Who can you immediately contact, and then their friends, and then the friends of their friends. And that’s kind of how I sparked my collaborations. And then Instagram is great. But with Instagram you do have to build a relationship with people. So the workshops I do now were just based around following each other, being active in each others feeds and stuff like that. I really love seeing stuff, so I pretty much follow everyone back who is a creative. And I really I’m just generally interested. So like, I comment I, I share on my stories… And I would like to think that Instagram is about building genuine connections and communities. People would be surprised that you don’t really have to come from the same industry to actually make something together.“
On her live Artizine workshops:
Reusing and recycling:
“In our real life workshops, everything is sourced from donations. We will usually have like a pile of scraps. So we will never really use magazines and stuff like that. It will just be scraps, really, packaging, anything that we can reinvent and reinterpret. It’s all about hacktivism and craftivism.“
Creating a safe space/environment:
“It’ll be quite a safe group. I like more intimate sessions. So we’ll be maybe 5, 6, 7 people. Because then, you know, the storytelling is a very important part of the workshop. I want people to feel like they belong and just be together, because I think just the act of getting together is quite political, in a way. Sometimes people really don’t want to talk and it’s okay because when you’re zine-making you’re quite into your own creative process, and a lot of people are very just immersed in that. So I just like letting them be like and saying “yeah, you can chill, it’s fine.” Some of the workshops will be quite long, actually. If there was someone that really enjoyed being in the space, I would just sit there for like three hours, you know, if I had the time.”
The Artizine ethos:
“I would say at the beginning of the session, “everything is free, you don’t have to give any money. But if you want, you can leave your zine at the end”. As in, “this is my creation. It’s part of Artizine now”. And You can come and create, you can bring back donations, or you can leave your zine. So we have this little archive of scenes. And it’s kind of like every workshop is a time capsule. When I look back at them, I know the person. You know, I remember Chloe – she did that beautiful zine. And it kind of just sits in my memory. And it’s very beautiful. It’s very close.”
On what’s next for Artizine:
“I’ve just started on these artist collaboration kits, which I’m super excited about. So I invite an illustrator to create a piece of art and then we sort of create a story around the artwork. So then you get an original art work and zine kit together, which I thought was quite cool. The first one that I’ve created with my good friend and illustrator Karolina Trhonova of 3 Angles Art is based around folklore and myth. I don’t want Artizine to just be about zine-making. I want it to be about music, anything that my friends are doing and people are interested in, but related back to zines of course.”
On the value of zine-making:
“What I love about zine-making is the accessibility. Everybody can make a zine and feel empowered. I love it because it’s based around unheard voices and unheard narratives, and I think this is what we need nowadays.”
Luthiem Escalona is a freelance graphic designer who currently works mainly for the online knitting and crochet store Wool and the Gang. In this meeting, she introduced the collective to what graphic design is, as well as her career path, projects, and creative process. Below we have summarised some key points from her presentation:
What is Graphic Design?
Creating visual content to communicate a message
By using hierarchy, typography, colours, photography and illustration you can communicate a feeling or message
You see it all day every day, even if you might not realise it in:
Luthiem graduated with a BA in Graphic Design from the University of Herfordshire in 2017.
She subsequently ended up getting an internship and later a full time job at Liberty London’s graphic studio as a junior graphic designer. Here she worked on mainly campaign identities, posters, signage, and window graphics. Above is an example of one of these designs.
After a year at Liberty Luthiem decided to go freelance and now works predominantly for a company called Wool and the Gang, who focus on sustainability and slow fashion.
What does a graphic designer do all day?
“I currently work 4 days a week at Wool and the Gang from Monday to Friday. While I’m there my day starts at 9am. We have a daily catch up at 10am, where we talk about what we’re working on the day, now that we’re all working from home. Then I’ll work on what I’ve been briefed in, paid ads, a newsletter, etc. Depending on the day I might have a meeting where we will talk about upcoming campaigns, how we think it should look, etc. I finish at 5:30pm!”
“It depends on the brief. Some clients are really set on what they would like, some others are a bit more open. But it’s always very important to know what needs to be communicated. Based on that it always helps me to write down a few key words that summarise the message.”
Step by step:
Write down some key words. What is the message and who is it coming from?
Create a moodboard of your references and inspirations
Make sketches, testing our your initial ideas
Present to the client and get feedback
Amend and create the final artwork
And finally…some lovely creative advice!
“Don’t be scared to ask for help or try things. Find people who inspire you and encourage you and keep them close. Give yourself space to do whatever you want. Draw, paint, sculpt, read, take photos. Go there, do that thing you’ve been wanting to do for ages, don’t be scared to go all the way there cause it’s easier to edit back than to add more.”
Want to discover more of Luthiem’s gorgeous work? Why not give her a follow on Instagram or check out her website?
Kat Chojnacka is the creative director, editor, and founder of Bulb magazine. Founded in February 2020, the main goals of the magazine are to gather various artworks made by young creatives, to build a community where aspiring artists can showcase their work, and to create magazines full of art that feels fresh and relevant.
In this meeting, we were lucky enough to hear from Kat about the concept behind Bulb, how the name came about, and the failures and successes she’s experienced along the way.
On why she decided to start Bulb Mag:
“In January we had like a series of networking events organised by our university. And what amazed me is that I actually got to professionally meet people from other courses at my university. And it was kind of like, the first chance to do so in university with our tutors included. I just felt like I was missing out before on the full university experience, because I feel like, as an Art University, we should collaborate a lot and have some sort of platforms to share our work and motivate one another. So I wanted to help build that community. And I was just thinking about what I could do to, you know, help that. And because of my latest interest in InDesign, I thought maybe a magazine is the way to do it.”
On the name ‘Bulb’:
“The initial idea was to name it in a way that it would evoke feelings of freshness. So, at first, I wanted to name it ‘fresh’ or ‘raw.’ But those names were already taken by popular magazines. So I couldn’t settle on that. So I was literally using like a random word generator and just refreshing it all the time to see what names popped up. And there were a lot of that I kind of liked, for example ‘kettle’ ‘milk’, or ‘flesh.’ But they were all taken. I was just checking everything and everything was taken. So the actual name, the name ‘Bulb,’ is not my original idea. Basically I was telling my friend, my flatmate Veronica, how I was struggling with the name and she was like, ‘let’s look around the room, maybe we’ll find something interesting.’ And then she was like, ‘why not Bulb?’ And I was like, I kind of like it. So I settled on ‘Bulb.’ So basically, if you know, the symbolism of bulb, it’s supposed to be intention, or ideas. So I feel like it really gives away that fresh, creative mindset, in a way. And it’s short and catchy, which I also wanted it to be. So yeah, for me, it’s perfect.”
On the main goals of Bulb Magazine:
“The main goals of Bulb are to build a community of young artists, just young creatives wanting to share their work, and to promote them in a way, but also to motivate them. So initially, it was supposed to be for students of the Leeds Arts University, but now it’s more about just young creators in general. I didn’t feel like I should limit anyone and also I actually didn’t know at first that it might get popular some time. And so actually now my friends from Poland are submitting as well. But yeah, to be honest, one of the goals was also to motivate myself as well because I was struggling with motivation to produce more work. And I know that a lot of people from my course, and not only my course, had a difficult time as well, especially in quarantine. So it was, you know, it was just supposed to get us going and keep us on track.”
On failure and success:
“For the first official issue of Bulb I made an open call poster for submissions to the magazine, but I had to redo it, because for the first deadline, I didn’t get any submissions, like any at all. And once again, I was really heartbroken because of that. But I figured that maybe it was just it was just bad timing. So I redid the poster with different dates after university submissions. And then I got a lot of submissions. I mean, by a lot I mean, around 15. It doesn’t seem like that much. But for me, it’s quite a lot. And yeah, I went through three stages, basically. So at the beginning, because of the number of submissions, I was very motivated, and had really high hopes. And then I felt pressure, because there’s so many submissions. And I just felt the need to do it perfectly. And at the same time, it kind of motivated me as well. So at the end, I kind of felt fulfilment, because it’s so much longer than the previous ones. So I really feel like I did everything I could to make your work. And also I’ve created a website alongside, which I didn’t initially intend to do. But then I thought, why not try? Why not give it a go and just create a website?”
“Here to give emerging creatives their first paid commissions and a space to cry”
30 September 2020
In this meeting, we chatted to David Adesanya from Failsafe, a collective of eight young creatives who stumbled across one another at the beginning of their careers. Their recent Kickstarter campaign to fund their latest zine project has been extremely successful. Described as a ‘A handbook about creative failure, made for and by emerging artists looking for solidarity and their first paid commissions,’ it is to be published in early November.
I myself came across Failsafe for the first time at a networking event eponymously titled ‘Failsafe,’ which was a fantastic opportunity to meet other young creatives through interactive tasks, ‘speed dating’ with questions about aspects of your creative process as prompts, and group brainstorming sessions. It stuck in my mind as one of the only networking events I’ve ever been to where I met people who genuinely seemed interested in what I did and, more than that, I felt excited at the opportunity to collaborate with such like-minded individuals. It was certainly the only networking event where I left with everybody’s Instagram contacts as the result of a wonderful initiative from the Failsafe team, who got everyone to write their handles down to avoid that awkward moment where you meet loads of really interesting people and leave having felt too shy to ask for any of their details to follow up with.
David explained Failsafe’s origins, their networking event, and the fantastic opportunities Failsafe is creating for young creatives.
Where the collective first met:
“We initially met two years ago on a photography project called ‘What is your London’ and now all of us are creatives in our own right, working in different industries. For example, I work in architecture and advocacy, but a number of us work within film, creativity, writing, and photography etc. So we all came together on this challenge to document what our London was. And we exhibited it at a place called protein studios in Shoreditch, and it was kind of our first time kind of working together.”
How they continued collaborating:
“we began to kind of work on different projects throughout that time. We got picked up by the BBC and started collaborating with organisations like Magnum photos. Once we had our first exhibition, we were like, ‘Okay, how do we continue this steam?’ And so we went to work with Magnum photos on a brief called strangers and basically documenting what strangers meant to us. And again, using our different mediums to be able to do that.”
Failsafe’s networking event:
“we wanted to kind of create community for others to feel comfortable cloud testing and experiment and as we did, and so we ran a workshop called ‘Failsafe.’ And we initially put it out there to creative organisations to spread the word about how we were trying to make people feel more comfortable in their early entry into the creative sector. And initially, we had like, 50 spaces. And then like, in the end, it was like 200 people who were just really interested in wanting to explore this question.
At the event, we had an ‘agony aunt’ where people could write down their concerns and drop them into a box. And we were able to answer the concerns by opening them up to everyone in the session. This was that first reality of a community that we were so interested in, like the things that we were trying to build. And so we began to kind of take this further, and that’s kind of how we lead into the winter of 2020. We began to think okay, ‘how do we solidify this? How do we kind of like build this community beyond just the workshop?’
Progressing beyond the networking event:
We have support from Create Jobs and Mayor’s For London and organisations like that, so we thought ‘okay, we actually have organisations here ready to support us.’ So the team became not One Five [their original name, when the team was initially 15 people], but Failsafe, which was eight of us. Me, Timi, Dubheasa, Eric, Naila, Maria, Marcella, Rachal, and again, like all of us working from working in different creative sectors, but be able to kind of unite together to get that created.”
Failsafe’s brand image:
“It involved a lot of trial and error! It was very much everyone contributing different ideas. And it got to the point where we were getting somewhere with a type of colour scheme, a type of font…and we just built that design guideline. We decided it’s not going to be strict, but it’s going to be something that we lean on. And I think that’s really good for when you’re hiring out others, so for example when we are hiring designers, or editors, or writers, they kind of understand the language of our work. So yeah, that was something that we had to just implement, but it did take time.”
Want to find out more? Give @failsafe a follow on Instagram…
Assemblage member Charlotte Dobson is an undergraduate photographer at Leeds Arts University. As an emerging photographer, she has had works exhibited and featured in various magazines and exhibitions, namely in Italy and Rome. In this meeting she chatted us about her process, inspirations, and experimentations. Below are some key quotes from her talk and you can download her presentation slides at the bottom of this post:
My approach to photography: ‘Usually have something planned in mind, this usually consists of the subject matter and background, but then I experiment with things like the angles and focus. I have recently been enjoying being more spontaneous, for example, with the photograph of my sister in deep thought whilst setting up the camera (below). So I have been realising lately how capturing something in the moment can be so effective. The mediums that we use can be so powerful in capturing reality.’
What inspires me: ‘Initially I find my phone a useful device to document and record, but I then switch to another medium that I feel can better reflect everything I want to express. I have recently been using film more to push my technical skills, but discovered that I have to be completely calm and undistracted to really make effective images’
Shooting outdoors: ‘I sometimes shoot outdoors with dreamy light, usually early in the morning, just as the sun is coming down. It’s about having patience and using light almost as a director and being less in control, which kind of contradicts the idea of a photographer, but when working with nature, it is about working with it slowly.’
Experimenting with film photography: ‘I think it’s great when different art forms cross over and are able to support and heighten one another. Coming from a fine art background, I have always been pushed to experiment, and have took this further in photography with other technical processes like film. I enjoy working with film photography because it offers an element of surprise. It’s definitely easier to work in the moment more because there are limited shots for a roll, not unlimited like digital, so you have to have a stronger presence with it.’
Working with colour: ‘I like to use black and white photography to emphasise shadows, but I use colour photography when there is really interesting colour, for example bright or moody. This image of my Mum (below) with the black eye gives soft textures on the skin with the background, which contrasts the harshness of the red bruised eye.’
Booking making: Book making has been an effective way to portray my interest in creating connections, due to pairings, layout and sequencing. I created a book to do with climate change and animal welfare, to encourage the viewer to simply question their thoughts and beliefs, including poems from other people. I find poems make the work more dreamy and less harsh. I collaborated with a graphic designer to keep it playful as something too harsh might put certain audiences off.’
‘Like other art forms photography is also about imagining, not just showing what is there.’
This session we got to meet Kate Whitaker, founder and presenter of the ‘Navigating your Twenties’ podcast. Podcasting resonated with us as a collective because we are considering ways in which we can reach out to more young creatives and provide tools that will be useful to them. Assemblage was set up as a symbiotic group to share and create and a podcast would be an exciting way to extend our community. What’s more, Kate offered us some great advice and DIY optimism at a time when we all need some encouragement.
Most of the podcasts I watch are set up by already successful people with a guaranteed audience and plenty of funding so Kate’s decision and success in getting a podcast up and running by herself impressed me. I was not alone: another Assemblage member queried ‘how do you get over self doubt and believe what you have to say is interesting?’ Kate explained that most of us feel like we will be interesting at some point in the future but in reality many of us are brimming with experiences and ideas that connect with others and it’s down to us to find a way to share our voice. So she needs to look no further than her friends for interviews because they all have a story to tell that others want to hear. When she does want an unknown guest, she uses matchmaker.fm, an online platform for podcasters.
Of course, having something to say must then be backed by hard work, and Kate detailed how she solidified her ideas initially through creating a brand that would appeal to people. This involved finding her title, designing the visuals and producing a trailer that would give the flavour of the story she wanted to tell. The episodes themselves need structure and scripted questions for the interviewees before you consider what sound equipment to buy. This needn’t be extravagant (the free audio software Audacity works great and Kate got her mic for a tenner).
Once you have your brand, equipment, guests and of course, a platform to host your show, how to build up a following? Know your audience and market to them through consistent social media posts (use the hashtags) and get people to rate your show. This pushes you up the Podcast chart and gets you more visibility. Kate’s ambition is to be featured on the charts, interview some high profile guests and enter the British Podcast Awards. Fingers crossed!
While many of us tend to be quite single minded in our pursuit of success Kate’s story was a useful and prescient reminder (considering the uncertain circumstances right now) that there is not just one career route or destination and an idea that takes you off course can be more rewarding than a one-way road. Even apparent failures can be turned into successes: Kate’s Youth Music presenting gigs were cancelled due to the pandemic so she came up with new concepts that she could do from home. They liked them and this became her own series ‘Live in Lockdown’ in collaboration with Tiktok and Arts Council England.
What’s more, the failures of life at this early stage are a crucial part of the narrative of Kate’s podcast, so her final message was to ‘say yes’ to all opportunities- each one could carry the seeds of your ultimate success.
Ivanka Wu is a creative multi-specialist, including fashion stylist, art director, designer and collage artist based in Jakarta, Indonesia and has a strong background in fashion.
We were delighted to have Ivanka speak to us about her work. During the talk, she shared many of her projects with us and its importance to her career.
‘The Art of Contradiction’ was a project that refined her style and direction within the industry. I personally found her creative process really interesting; how she initially takes much of her inspiration from visual references, constantly referring back to this to avoid becoming lost. However, through trial and error, the outcome becomes strengthened, due to experimenting with materials and processes, with spontaneous things happening along the way. To add to this, an unplanned crack in fabric within this project resulted in a closer connection to her concept. So even through organising and creating mood boards to clarify ideas, the out come is always something spontaneous.
Even with a contrast of planned and spontaneous approach in the creating stages, the concepts are usually contrasting as well, so the creative process becomes consolidated. Within ‘The Art of Contradiction,’ beauty and ugliness are mixed together in a very elegant, subtle, perfectly executed way, redefining what beauty is. The idea of beauty has been studied throughout the Renaissance period and early art, and still dominates as a significant topic in contemporary society today.
I was fascinated by the techniques Ivanka adopts, with draping being of great importance to her practice. This meets her intentions of flowing beauty and elegance, but also becomes highly relevant to all art practices. For example, the running of paint and the flow in a poem.
Another series, titled ‘Little Black Dress for Cartier’ created for Icon Magazine references Ren Hang, a Chinese photographer and poet, using the concept of twinning. It is visually strong and powerful, using the harsher properties of flash photography. It is clear to see that Ivanka uses very close attention to detail, creating clean shots. Not only this, but Ivanka explained how especially in the styling, a material’s position can greatly alter the feel of the work.
Within the styling and art direction, I love the careful placement and arrangement of images and then how the viewer interprets this. To expand upon this, Ivanka compares nature to the human body, perhaps comparing the beauty of the two, exclaiming that beauty is natural and can come within different forms. In the image above, the chin was represented as the vase and the eye as the flower.
Furthermore, I found Ivanka’s styling for brands useful in understanding the role between the creative and the brand, as well as maintaining the balance between adding your personal style whilst meeting the clients needs. Within her work for ‘Sanne studio’ (above) a minimal approach was used with pastel colours. This idea of simplicity of only a few objects and a minimal colour palette is certainly seen across many of her works.
Another way that Ivanka inspired me is again in the process stage: documenting creative ideas in a journal to strengthen personal branding and development, because ideas can happen anywhere at anytime.
Additionally, Ivanka also spoke to us about her collage work. Like her other works, she uses trial and error, with knowledge of composition and balance to meet the concept and appear aesthetically strong. I love the many materials and textures she uses, that are perfectly attuned and balanced within the collage.
Having reflected upon Ivanka’s work, it is important to note that although Ivanka grew up in a small town during her childhood with limited resources, she now sees this as an opportunity to become more creative as it forces you to use what you have in more open-minded, experimental ways. I think that this is relevant to many now in the current situation, such as photographers using FaceTime shoots to connect with models due to distancing.