Portrait Two - Artist Amy Isles Freeman at Blue Shop Cottage, Denmark Hill
I discovered Amy Isles Freeman at a show in the Truman Brewery a few years ago, and after a rescue mission of getting some much needed stock from Cornwall to Wilderness festival for me last year we have become friends and I have loved getting to know more about her work.
Amy creates the most wonderful hand painted bowls, which she turns her self in wood and then hand paints.
I went to visit her at a pop up shop she was running last month. At Blue shop Cottage in Denmark hill, we shot her in some of our current summer collection and some new autumn winter pieces amongst her work.
Where are you working from at the moment
I am in my studio in Portslade, near Brighton, on a funny little industrial estate.
Describe what you do
I make hand turned, hand painted wooden bowls, with my fingers in the pies of many other projects such as painted clothing, workshops and illustration collaborations.
Tell us a bit about you – Do you remember the moment you discovered your skill? Was it a teachers appreciation for it, or did something suddenly click in your head. What age were you?
The artistic epiphanies that have lead me to this point are sprinkled in my chronology. My mother was an illustrator, and when my sister and I were little, the way we could play with our mum was through drawing. Summer holidays were started with a set of colouring pencils, and meal times were served around sketchbooks.
When I was 16 I began to take the art thing seriously through a trip to New York, and after that, I didn't want to do much else at school. I had a poet for a boyfriend when I was 18, and we spent a summer's Interrail visiting 32 art galleries, setting me up for the next four years at Falmouth Art school.
After art school, I landed in a group of people who made things with their hands - carpenters, metalworkers, jewellery makers, bronze casters, automata makers. I felt so inspired but embarrassed at my lack of skill, so my then boyfriend Felix taught me how to use his wood lathe. This was the biggest changing point, and I haven't looked back.
Can you tell us three of the most important places you’ve lived, worked or travelled that have lead to you being where you are today.
I grew up near Oxford, in a beautiful place called Shipton on Cherwell. When I was small, my mother's studio was in the heart of the house - a quiet and mostly forbidden room, covered in photos and drawings and chaos. Her work was exquisite. She would make us sit for her, and we would squirm with boredom but the magic that she could produce made it worth it. I just wanted to be able to do what she did.
Visiting New York when I was 16 turned a fancy into a life choice. My patient father followed me around all the art galleries I could fit between meal times and waited for me as I sat cross-legged in the middle of the room, circled by my pencils. I left each show with that belly fizz you feel with a new crush.
I went to visit Falmouth Art School aged 17, kicking and screaming, not understanding why anyone would want to be 6 hours away from London. When we got to the tiny town, we were greeted with beautiful tanned faces, people filled with energy and health and creativity, and I didn't leave for 8 years. The people that I found in Cornwall gave me the confidence to set up my business, to learn how to work with wood and metal and people. There are no jobs in Cornwall, so everyone has to make one for themselves, and that was exactly what I needed to see as I came into the working world.
When did your unique style develop and how?
My style came about when I was studying, but is a continuation of my style from when I was a child. I went to a Dorothy Iannone exhibition at the Camden Arts Centre in 2013 at a point where feminist art was drawing me in, but creating anything myself in a similar ilk felt insincere. Her work is powerful, her depiction of female sexuality is strong and unusual, her style is naive and colourful, but above all that, it made me laugh. I slowly snaked around the exhibition, laughing on my own, and a light bulb shone above my head. From then on, I wanted to make work that made people smile, to celebrate female sexuality, rather than create angry pieces that just didn't come naturally. I spent a large portion of my second year at art school creating vaginas out of everyday objects (who doesn't?) and just making myself laugh with the silliness of it all.
I had a dear friend who was coming out as gay during this time, and I wanted to show her that all was going to be well. I searched for representations of lady love that wasn't hyper sexualised for the male gaze, or crudely drawn with rainbows everywhere, and I couldn't find it, so I started drawing. In this, I was able to begin to process my own sexuality, using my work to connect with an unexplored part of myself - to normalise my feelings and to celebrate them.
What direction would you like your work to go in?
I want my work to just continue, I don't know which direction it will go. Up, hopefully.
Are there any artists brands that have influeneced your work, or inspire you?
Like most, I spend swathes of time on Instagram, consuming contemporaries' work. I am constantly inspired by those virtually around me.
Have you any exciting projects on the horizon?
I have a few exciting projects in the pipeline, some collaborations with wonderful women across lots of different mediums. Follow me on Instagram to stay updated!
Where did you discover us?
I discovered Humphries and Begg through a friend Tessa Pearson, who arrived home after Port Eliot Festival wearing a jumpsuit, and I have been hooked on your work since. I was lucky enough to own a blue honeycomb jumpsuit shortly after, and I have been the envy of many friends at every occasion I wear it. Women have stopped me in the street to ask me where it is from, and have slowed down their cars to tell me that they love it. I always wear it for my workshops, and just get so many compliments.
What do you like about H&B clothing?
I love the playfullness of the clothes, and how comfortable and light they feel. In the summer I need to be able to run and dance and roll on the floor, and I can do all that and more in my jumpsuit!
Can you describe your dream item of clothing?
My dream item of clothing would be cinched at the waist, loud and bold, low cut or with a high thigh slit, light in material, shoulder pads.
If people want to follow you and discover more about you where can they go
Favourite track to work to at the moment.
I have many different work moods, which are reflected in my music choices. I was completely addicted to the new Lykke Li album, which was on repeat for a month. Motion Sickness by Phoebe Bridgers is on playlist often, and if I want a little kick I turn to Diana Ross or Whitney to get me through.
Amy wears - Emerald Queen Playsuit, Orange Square Top and Navy Flax Playsuit, Unisex Smile and Tile shirt, Wild Stripe Jumpsuit,