Philly Hunt, a recent graduate who is a contributor to the Soapbox Press website through her written articles. We decided to turn the tables and learn a little more about Philly and where her creative spark comes from…
Sitting in Philly’s quirky studio in Peckham Rye, the interview begins. Tell us about your work and how you use your personal experiences to apply directly to other people’s ideologies. What’s your thinking behind your work?
Since university, where work was a little saturated as it depended on being marked, I’ve been really pushing my interests.
It all started from reading a book called ‘Together: The rituals, pleasure and politics of cooperation’ by Richard Sennett, which is about the science, history and sociology of cooperation. When I was reading it, an overriding thought came to me, that people simply aren’t as interested as everything in front of them as they should be. This formed the basis of my work and it grew from there. People should take more of an interest, even if it’s not in front of them: finding things to be a fan of and really delving into it and what is means to be a fan of that thing, instead of staying on the surface and aesthetic of it. I think when you have a fanatical interest in something, it’s because you see something of your own self or your own surroundings or your own desires in that thing. When you realise this, your initial vicarious adventures can turn into imaginative realities; you can be inspired and excited by your immediate reality, and that is what gets people cooperating; pure excitement and interest about being someone, somewhere.
My work itself is all eco-themed, so everything is made of reclaimed, recycled and non-toxic, naturally occurring things. My methodology is to use attributes of cooperation, like self-sustainability and adapting to resources that surround me. In practice, the point is to be curious and interested; not just settling for the easy options, which could result in your becoming uninterested in your surroundings, and complacent.
You strive to achieve the understanding of what offers a certain attraction to an individual. How is it you go about this notion? You’ve touched upon it in your last answer. So how is you go about and ensure this is kept in your work?
The paper, which I’ve been using for Christmas cards last year, is made from polluting algae, which has to be removed from the Venice Lagoon, otherwise it would poison the rest of the ecosystem. So it’s been made into paper!
The clothes and materials that I work with are dyed with natural pigments, from onion skins to black beans. Food is a great tool and completely natural. It’s surprising how resourceful living in London can be! It all came about through experimentation, one test led to another, which is really how I find out about what the resource can physically do.
I suppose it was because I hope the materials I use offer a unique selling point when it comes to the commercial aspect of my work – see I design, make and sell utility inspired clothing, well it’s actually inspired specifically by the Swagmen of Post-Depression era Australia who had huge pockets all over the inside and outside of their coats so they could essentially be hermits! And I really have a romantic vision of the Swagman freedom to roam the outback from town to town, camping out and living away from the constraints of modern social constructs. I know they themselves wouldn’t think their circumstances particularly fortunate, but it certainly offers an attraction to many of us city dwellers!
But going back to your original question – You strive to achieve the understanding of what offers a certain attraction to an individual. How is it you go about this notion?
It’s a good question! I feel a bit of a cheat, because in my actual art practice which you’ve seen on my blog, I think I get very carried away with my own Fanaticisms, when really I should be putting my projects out in the public sphere and getting community-led Fan Club going. But I do have a template in which people’s individual interests and curiosities can be fed, explored, indulged and played out – a rehearsal space for a dream community life! And that place is called ‘The Swagstation’ – it’s a 3D space designed to be made from reclaimed materials, and is basically all my cooperative ideological principles – but extended into the built form. The lines and shapes and planes and sequences that make up the 3D shape of The Swagstation have been designed to maximise socialisation and relaxation; to entice people into an interactive and free communal space. It is at The Swagstation that the Fan Clubs would happen, amongst other socio-cultural activities. So I have many plans – I just need to get them into full swing. If anyone can offer me a workshop or exhibition to get this going, please don’t hesitate! I could literally go on forever talking about The Swagstation and its meanings and opportunities and the sub-projects that have come out of it, like many zines and prints and furnishings I’ve created – but I have my blog for that!
Inspirations for your work – give me a…
Person: Bruce Springsteen
Your working space is pretty vital to your creativity and thinking. So, what is the one possession in your studio that holds the most importance?
Possible the sewing machine as it comes from my family, a treasured possession that I take care of. Second to that my notebooks are very important! Writing things down is so vital, as it’s where the idea comes from for the beginning of a project. Writing is a great tool for testing what idea works and pursuing the ones that show potential.
From the following words I want you to answer with the first that pops into your head…
Creativity: Patti Smith
Effort: Bruce Springsteen
Co-operation: Table – it’s a motif for cooperation, as I’d touched in with my project, which is hanging on the wall in my studio.
Tell us one crazy fact that our readers may not know about you.
This may be a little morbid, but I’m currently training to be a bereavement councillor to work on a helpline. A strange fact for you.
Most inspirational quote that has remained with you and for what reason?
“If you’re still free, start running away” by Bright Eyes, which funnily enough was playing at the moment as I answered this question.
What, for you, makes a great and successful piece of work?
Most importantly is if it’s made sustainably. Going back to the thoughts and ideas, it’s really about how you use your idea and using your initiative. Dependent on the project, the first idea could either be the best or worst. The more consideration and thought that goes into an idea, before moving to the physical creation, gives the project strength.
I would also say that a successful piece of artwork is one that appeals to the act of remembering. If I can look at a piece of art, mine or someone else’s, and feel a memory then I think we’re onto a winner! And when I say ‘memory’ I don’t just mean real memories; I also mean imagined and distorted memories from your vicarious histories and carefully channelled desires that although they may not have yet been realised, they are so close by you that your mind thinks they’ve actually occurred. I would say that one of my most successful pieces of artwork is actually a blog post I made in May 2014 called ‘Origins and remembering of memories’ which actually focuses on the emotional power of having memories. Another successful piece of work was a beautiful notebook entry I made last summer about driving around Adelaide (Australia) at night listening to ‘Skeletons’ by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It was a piece of writing about an unfulfilled situation which has since been deeply fulfilling to remember – because it still offers so much potential to my brain! So if an artwork can inspire the idea of potentiality to you through your own remembered experiences, that’s great. Potential means interest and effort, which means engagement, which can lead to cooperation!
To finish – if you were to bring in a law to England, what would it be and why?
No one is allowed to put their heating on until they’ve tried putting a warm jumper on first! Because it just an exercise in being resourceful and putting in some effort, and not lazily opting for the easy way out – it’s a mean to an ends! Just a little more domestic effort would result in a little less environmental doom!
So get your jumper on in these next few months to come, grab a hot drink, turn on Bruce Springsteen and sit yourself down in front of Philly’s inspiration blog and website. It communicates matters concerning cooperation in the natural and social world.