But where can I buy all the pretty???

Visit Vagabond Romantics shop now to browse and buy altered art, wearable collage, and lovingly curated craft materials unearthed from the farthest reaches of granny's attic.

Wednesday 27 January 2016


One of the hiccups of trying to earn a living as a creative? Your work is never static. Vagabond Romantics is the second "brand" I've launched, I have three business pages on Facebook (for VR, for my studio, and for my teaching and more independent work) and at least three different business cards. It's been little over a year since I launched Vagabond Romantics, and already I'm wondering about rebranding.
"Straight Outta Downton"
Wearable textile collage art, 2014-15

Initially, my work was going to be all about dramatic accessories: statement neckpieces, cocktail hats, and lavish cuffs. I envisioned highly embellished, heirloom quality wearable textile collage art. And indeed I have made a few of these pieces (some of which have even made it to the Etsy shop). But before I even had a name for the brand, I came across a load of gorgeous silk Italian designer clothing at crazily reduced prices, and I realised their simple style could also be highly embellished for truly luxury pieces. I had the vision, I finally decided on a name, and the tagline "Dress for the Life You Dream".

Except as I developed my work, I discovered "altered art". And my fingers itched to create some work for display. And this led me on to more practical pieces too, like small storage and bottle vases. The tagline didn't fit quite as well as I'd initially envisioned, but I was still making plenty of jewellery that kept it relevant.

"An Apothecarial Guide to the Welsh Landscape"
Found object assemblage, 2015
But sometime last year, around the time summer began to turn to autumn, something shifted for me as well. I created a few pieces that seemed more sculptural, conceptual, cerebral....I found myself skipping cautiously along the blurred line that divides fine art from craft. And that which had always intimidated me suddenly seemed irresistible.

I still have plenty of wearable and craft pieces to sell, but 2016 will be devoted to creating more ambitious works. I have a vision in mind, who knows how long it will last?! I'm sure I won't be able to resist plenty of craft and experimentation too, but I think the time has come to move my work to the next level.

So I'm now thinking how to compartmentalise, market and promote my work - do I have to rebrand? I thought hard about the imagery, the name, the tagline for VR. I'd like to keep using it, and I undoubtedly will, for the smaller scale stuff. But perhaps the fine art needs my name, rather than a brand attached to it. But I will be writing about it here because at the end of the day, it's all me.
Gothic Reliquary Brooch
Found object assemblage, 2015

But if anyone can come up with a new tagline more relevant than "Dress for the Life You Dream", do send your answers on a postcard please!!

Thursday 14 January 2016

Musing on the nature of art and fostering creativity

It's often said that there are no original ideas left to discover, and it does seem there's a lot of truth in this. I think it's healthy, as an artist, to take in as much work by other creatives as one can, as this provides endless inspiration for one's own work. I often think my real creative strength is actually in modifying existing ideas to better suit my own aesthetic - hence my enthusiastic embrace of altered art! 

There are many reasons why I prefer to assemble existing objects than start from scratch, and in many ways I feel that constraints (in this case, of using the existing materials available rather than a blank canvas) seem to foster creativity and spur on the imagination. If you doubt this, imagine sitting down before a piece of blank paper and pencil and being told to "draw anything you like." For many of us, confronted with infinite possibilities, the mind responds by going as blank as the paper! Instead, what if there is a simple, irregular shape drawn on the paper and you are asked to turn it into a picture? Suddenly, the drawing becomes a game, and rather than enter into the activity with the heavy burden of "creating art", you can have a playful and relaxed experiment, a frame of mind that of course fosters the open mind which is useful for true creativity to take place. 

This last is an exercise I have regularly used when working with children, and "The Shape Game" (as it is dubbed by the excellent Anthony Browne has proven hugely popular and endlessly entertaining with every group. We also sometimes play a similar game with real objects: I fill a cloth bag with a selection of interestingly shaped items (not immediately identifiable if possible, bits of flat pack hardware or dismantled pieces from plastic items work well) and get children to choose one by feel and then imagine what it might be. Others will join in and the suggestions will become more and more outlandish. For example, a rubber wedge for a door might be a skate ramp for pixies, a spaceship landing pad, a spike on a child-safe security wall. 

When I tell people I'm an artist, I often get the response "What do you paint?" Occasionally they might mention drawing or sculpture. Assemblage arguably requires less technical skill than the more classic art forms, so one can see how it might be viewed as a "poor relation". But it could also be argued that techniques like collage and assemblage require more creativity than drawing (or painting, or sculpting) from life. Which begs the question, do we respect artists for their technical skills or their creativity? I'll let you debate that thought amongst yourselves whilst I carry on making.