30 Earrings project interview
Frankie Magazine issue 76, March/April 2017

Hello! Who are you?
I'm a visual artist and studio jeweller based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. I work primarily with found objects, craft and precious materials, using experimental and playful material-led processes.

Tell us about the 30 Earrings Project.
The project is a personal challenge I set after moving back to my home state from Melbourne recently. I didn't really know what to do next, but I knew I had to do something, which led me to see if I could make 30 different pairs of earings in 30 days from the collection of materials I already had, to keep up studio momentum and experiment more freely.

Why earrings, specifically?
I just love to wear and collect earrings. There are so many variations, and they're an easy, fun way to express your personality. As an artist, I also enjoyed pushing the expectations of what an earring has to be, so I made some pairs really long or slightly mismatched in terms of shape, or used materials that are non-traditional.

Talk us through some of those materials, please.

Aside from traditional jewellery supplies such as sterling silver and brass, most of the earrings where made from found objects from op shops (bangles, old earrings, broken chain necklaces) and craft stuff like enamel paint, cardboard, rubber-coated copper cable, glass beads, canvas, knitting needles and mouldable rubber.

And what types of techniques did you experiment with?
Half the techniques were made up through trial and error, but the foundations were from jewellery and ceramics courses I took at university. There was lost-wax casting, hand-cutting and finishing, stitching, painting and laser cutting.

Describe your process for each piece. Did the design come first, or did the materials tell you what needed to be done with them?
The process always started with a material. I had a lot to choose from, as I'm a bit of a collector - anything that resonates with me at the op shop or craft store, I have to take home. I rearranged the elements until I was satisfied with the colours, form and weight, then figured out how to best join them all together.

Did you manage to meet your target of making a pair every day for a month?
Not quite, unfortunately! As each pair is one-off, it often took an entire day (or three!) to get to a point where they could be deemed complete, so I'd usually have a few earrings on the go at once, and a number of others in the 'resolve that later' bin.

What other stuff do you like to make?
Besides my jewellery practice, I make collages using found paper and books (often from the 1970s and earlier), with the addition of stickers, crayons, gel pens and paint. I also enjoy making functional clay objects, just for myself.

How important is it for you to work with your hands?
I think it's necessary, otherwise I wouldn't know what to do with them! Even on holidays away from my studio, I eventually find a way to make something.

Where can we see more of your stuff?
hollyleonardson.net


Artist Interview - Rock Faces series
Yen Magazine issue 88, 2017

Where are you from? And where are you currently based?
I’m from Brisbane originally, however I moved to Launceston, Tasmania to complete a Bachelor of Contemporary Art and then spent the following year in Melbourne. Currently I am back in Queensland living on the Sunshine Coast.

What makes you homesick?
Friends, family and the smell of Eucalyptus trees.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be?
Amongst the aspirations of looking after animals, excavating archaeological sites and investigating the paranormal I wanted to be an artist. Drawing and making crafts were my favourite activities.

What inspires your work?
My work is guided by playful material-led process and experimentation and draws on my personal interest in the natural environment, the aesthetics of the 1960s / 1970s, crafts, children’s and outsider art.

What do you love about collage?
The hunt for the perfect books where I source my images from as well as the tactile nature of cutting and pasting keeps me coming back to collage.

What sparked the rock face series? Is it ongoing?
The rock face series started as a result of a short stay at my prior house in Melbourne and a trip to the local op-shop where I purchased some really huge gardening books with the intention of working on other ideas. Feeling a bit stuck I made some simple collages making up faces using what was already cut out just for fun. When I noticed my friends enjoyed the Rock Faces I made a few more as trades with my remaining supplies before I left the city.

Do you have a favourite?
That’s hard to say, all their faces have such different personalities, but the ones I enjoy the most are those that I made for friends and as trades with other artists.

What other mediums do you work in?
The other half of my art practice is dedicated to making contemporary jewellery using a mix of traditional materials and techniques like lost wax casting in sterling silver and pairing it with more experimental materials such as moldable rubber, broken costume jewellery and found objects sourced from op-shops.

Your work is really playful, what was the last silly thing or moment that you experienced?
Seeing a dog swimming at the beach and catching waves completely made my day.

Does your artwork mirror your personality?
To a degree I feel that it does. Achieving a balance between bright colours and more muted tones, or applying sparkly hologram stickers to vintage black and white photographs reflects my quiet nature and outbursts of silliness, as well as the way I dress.

What makes you lose it?
Hearing dolphins and whales underwater while swimming at the beach.

What makes you go quiet?
Really long bushwalks.

What are your tattoos of? Do they have any stories behind them?
Many are based on my friends’ drawings and include animals, plants and sentimental objects. One piece is comprised of super colourful, sparkly minerals, crystals, gems and a rock with googly eyes, all clustered together as part of a really psychedelic secret cave.

What was the last great score or discovery you had?
A recent op-shop trip yielded a pile of books almost to heavy to carry and I also discovered the joy of ginger flavoured gelato.

What’s currently filling your time?
Making new collages and working on my 30 Earrings project, where I have been regularly constructing a different pair of earrings using a wide variety of materials and techniques in order to experiment more freely and make use of the huge collection of supplies I brought back from my time living in Melbourne.


In Residence ARI interview
2018

In Residence ARI is a Brisbane-based artist run initiative and online publication focusing on the city's emerging arts scene. It was created by Isabel Hood, Miranda Hine, Meg Slater and Sarah Thomson. This interview was published on their website to accompany a two week Instagram takeover, where each artist shares their work and inspiration


Interviewer: Sarah Thomson

ST: Your work spans a huge range of forms including jewellery, collage, quilts, greeting cards, zines, embroidery, and even temporary tattoos! What draws you to all these different forms?

HL: Probably just my restless need to try my hand at everything! I really enjoy craft-based methods of making, as I find the process of methodically snipping, pasting, filing and stitching somewhat meditative.

ST: You use the traditional materials of ‘craft’ in a self-referential way (eg. exploring imagery of children crafting within a crafted collage). What do you see as the relationship between art and craft?

HL: The art/craft debate is interesting and tricky to pick apart, and at this point I try not to question it too much within my own practice as I wouldn’t get much done! I enjoy incorporating images of children’s craft  because that time is the purest of creative self expression and I hope that carefree feeling can be carried across the work.

ST: There is strong sense of play and experimentation in your practice that is reminiscent of the carefree way that we play with art materials as children.The kind of imagery used in your work also seems quite nostalgic of childhood. Are you inspired by the way that children play and make?

HL: Definitely! I love how easily they can become absorbed in make-believe worlds and how they can be either completely focused or quite laidback when making something and it just turns out to be this perfect, uncontrived result. I am always wanting to achieve this outcome and consistently experimenting has kept me excited about making.

ST: Your piece Neighbourhood: A House Surrounded by Flowers (2017) uses digitally printed cotton made from computer-based collage techniques. Could you tell us a bit more about how you melded the handmade and digital for this quilt?

HL: This was the first digital collage I have ever made and I was really unsure how it would translate into a tangible object. Generally I prefer a more analogue approach to making and find it hard to work on a large scale, but making the collage on the computer meant that I could scan and scale up the found images to take up a much larger space. I had been collecting old colouring books from op-shops that kids had begun to fill in, as I love the colours they choose (whether it is what they want to use or all they have on hand) and their scribbly technique. As I was treating this quilt as one big experiment for a show focused on using discarded objects, I decided to scan these pages and manipulate them to form a larger collage on a background of a needlepoint image taken from the cover of an unwanted craft book. To soften the flat, digitally printed surface (which I found to be quite harsh), I coloured in parts of the image with found embroidery thread and sequins. Making this quilt was fun and taught me a few things, and I hope to continue using some of these approaches in the future.

ST: You are currently working on the second issue of your zine Weird Craft. Can you tell us a little more about the focus of this issue and how you find your source material?

HL: Weird Craft is a lo-fi printed collection of found images and photographs of all the odd, lumpy, wobbly, crappy, naive, tacky, bad and so-bad-it’s-good handmade crafts that I come across in books, or spot and often collect from op-shops or elsewhere. The focus of this issue is kids craft and art activities particularly found in books from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, which I source from charity shops and the local tip shop. This includes classroom scenes with art supplies and hanging paintings, a scowling puppet made from crepe streamers and paper plates, a crocodile decorated with patty cases and sculptures made of stapled cardboard.

ST: You mention sourcing the card for your zine covers from small local newsagents. It seems like your practice has a sustainability focus in terms of using recycled materials, sourcing materials locally, using up materials you have lying around your studio, and having a slowed-down, handmade approach to making. Is this a conscious philosophy of yours?

HL: While I do aim to be sustainable with a slow, handmade approach to making and prefer to support local as much as possible, many of these choices are also simply a reflection of my personal circumstances. As I live in a very small regional town, sourcing my cover paper from the newsagency within walking distance is simply easier and faster than a 40 minute drive to Officeworks. I also really enjoy small newsagencies, as their craft section generally has a slow turn over and you can find some interesting things hiding away (as was the case with the daggy-but-cool blue ‘leather-effect’ paper I found).

ST: On your own account you made an Instagram story that mentioned the that you work full time and study (and also want  to have a life). How do you balance making work with other commitments in your life?

HL: I try to balance these things but sometimes it is very hard to find motivation to concentrate on making something (or studying) after work when the afternoon sun is shining and you’d much rather be pottering around in the garden, swimming at the beach or cooking a nice meal to share with your partner. I think it is ok to put creative work on hold while recharging, but making art is a huge part of who I am so I can’t completely ignore it for too long.

ST: You mentioned that you have an upcoming exhibition. What are you making for it and how can we find out more?

HL: I have been invited to exhibit some collages in a group show that is focused on ideas behind soft toys. I’m excited because it is right up my alley and I can’t wait to see everyone elses work. I’ll definitely be talking about it more in the next month as I am not sure how much I can share just yet.