Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Brook Valentine.

We were joined last month by the amazing singing intern Brook Valentine - real name - who has arrived to get stuck in with the bewildering array of tasks at Inkymole and the Factoryroad Gallery. From the supremely mundane to the horribly pressured, she's doing it all, with panache and a seemingly unending supply of energy. If you ring or email anytime over the next few months, you may well find yourself being efficiently dealt with by her soothing Irish tones - if you haven't already.

She actually does sing too...really rather well.

Here Brook introduces herself. Take it away Brook!

Well hello people! I’m from all the way across the pond…well…45 minutes on a cheap flight from East Midlands to Belfast, it’s faster getting from here to home in Newtownards than it is getting from my house in Fenny Drayton to Leicester on a weekday morning!

I went to Methodist College Belfast where I have to be honest I wasn’t inspired to be creative, I was constantly told to choose a ‘normal job’. It was a Grammar School with an aim to churn out middle class professionals and they did their job very well, most of my friends have gone on to be very successful in their professions but I never wanted to do that.
Everyone around me knew what they wanted to become and most of my friends now have a label, they are either doctors, lawyers, accountants…something very grown up! They can all be placed in neat and tidy boxes, but me, I’m confused, because I have found it nearly impossible to focus myself on one specific goal. I want to design, but I don’t know what? I don’t want to have to design just one specific thing? I love garment design, architectural design, accessory design and product design anything that I can get sketching away at. I also love making music so I spread myself across as many creative areas as possible.

After school I enrolled on a Foundation Art course and then decided to go to DeMontfort Uni in Leicester to study a joint honours degree in Contour and Fashion Design. I was a bit deflated when I got there though to find all the students where very average in their dress and personal style not at all how I pictured an art campus. Where were the brightly coloured hairstyles? The self made outfits?….surely if you want to be a fashion designer you have made some clothes for yourself?

At 19 I loved all things 40s and 50s (I still do). I wanted to study lingerie design so I could make girdles, waspies and all vintage garmets but was soon told that bullet bras would not be on the menu as they were not used in industry…ha…I think you will find they are very much in fashion now!
Anyway uni didn’t work out for me I’m afraid; homesickness, working pretty much a full time job to afford being there and I can’t lie possibly a bit too much partying went on. Though all that socialising did bring me some of my best friends and contacts who I would be lost without.

It was a huge decision to leave uni that wasn’t taken lightly and I have always regretted it, I would love to have a degree under my belt, but I’m a believer that it’s not always for everyone and that there are better routes to take.

After uni I stayed in Leicester with all my friends working as a manager in a shoe shop and then a homeware store. I enjoyed buying at trade shows and the visual merchandising especially but I felt so left behind as all my friends moved on to bigger and better things. Finally about a year and a half ago, like so many people I was made redundant. The business had to call it a day and I was left with no degree to get into the creatives role that I wanted. I thought a strong portfolio would do the job but I couldn’t even get to the stage of showing it without that degree box being ticked, so I nearly admitted defeat and was about to take another 9 to 5 job when a new art college campus popped up in Hinckley. My intention was only to feed my appetite with a part time or evening course but I ended up signing for a full year to study a level 4 Art & Design course and boy am I glad.

This last year has taught me so much about myself, I acknowledged strengths that I had never fully appreciated before and I found weaknesses that needed to be tackled head on. But most of all confidence was pumped into me as I was told that even though I was older than everyone there it wasn’t too late and that my skills could easily be turned into a career….wayhay! I’m a thinker, love problem solving, and really loved helping others with their projects giving them alternative angles to look at. The past year was all about moving out of my comfort zone of illustration, trying a few new things like creating stop motion animation, making an ident, and FINALLY understanding concept art. I have even been trying to move my illustration work from pen and paper to computers, which has not been easy, but I am getting there!

Just as I was in the final throes of my final major project a surprise text from Sarah and Leigh popped up asking if I would be interested in some work experience. Well I jumped at the chance and I must have done something right as they haven’t chucked me out yet...

This summer has been full of great news, I got a Distinction in my course, a Job with Inkymole, and I have just been made the first ever artist in residence at North Warwickshire and Hinckley College…not bad eh?

OK you now know a very brief history of me so lets bring it up to date and explain what I have just had on show at the Factory Road Gallery!
My latest project was to create a piece of art that could be used in visual merchandising in a concept store next year. My research told me that a massive trend for 2013 was going to be ‘Ladylike Kitsch’. I took this subject and deconstructed it right back to its basics, exploring it’s 50’s roots, looking at Britains’ industrial struggle, French fashion designer’s having to sell there toils to mass production companies in America and the fact that mass production meant a decline in quality.

I didn’t want to have to spend a lot of pennies on this work, being in a recession and all that so I tried to find as many freebies as possible (I am a Freecycle and Gumtree sifter daily!) Old reclaimed wood rescued from a bonfire pile made the main body…I made sure it was creepy crawly free before it was brought into the gallery! It’s lush! All green and embossed by woodworm. Big old rusty screws that I bought from an auction, I didn’t just buy screws by the way, they came in a job lot of old wooden wood work tools and old tape measures. My idea of proper treasure.

 You can’t see it very clearly here, but the wire mesh is actually a pattern block that I measured for the front bodice of a 1950’s dress. There is a strong bust dart and a neat waist dart to emphasise the hour glass shape that is bang on trend for ‘Ladylike Kitsch’. The bodices can actually spoon neatly into one another like a 50’s Eames stacking chair’s, and the mesh was inspired by Bertoias 50’s chicken wire chairs.
I found the yellow tape measure whilst having a wee bit of a skip rummage at my boyfriends’ work, he works as a metal sculptor so there are always goodies to be found up there! I would have liked a nice old wooden school metre ruler to represent the measuring of fabric on a dress makers table but I don’t have the pennies to be buying one of those, and there is way more satisfaction to be had creating something from free reclaimed finds.
In a clothing factory you will find walls just filled with rows of pattern blocks (swoon – swoon!) with numbers and writing all over them. This is why I have put figures with my work, 8 being my lucky number, because it makes up every number on a digital clock. 71, the Gallery number, 06/12 is the date I got my lovely Distinction and BV is MEEE! Corsage devant means Bodice front in French and 50 / 9 means 1950 – 1959. I like using wee facts or figures in my work, and especially love repetition.

Sarah has really taken me under her wing and has been challenging me to push my work from a hobby into a career. Over the next few weeks I hope to have my own Blog up and running so if you are interested in following my progress while I am here please hunt it down and send me as much feedback as you can, I will never learn if I’m not told what I’m doing wrong?

We’ll I’ve waffled on for long enough I think, hope you all are having a great summer and being super productive, Lots of love x x x


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