"I want my art to be accessible and inclusive, whilst aesthetically pleasing. I want it to surprise and delight!"
Words: Nelli Yli-Malmi and Lu Mason
Images: the courtesy of Lu Mason
We are thrilled to announce our blog series Creative Spotlight, in which we will be interviewing artists, creatives and their allies on their experiences in the industry as well as their advice for people looking to take the leap of faith towards the creative life. We have the pleasure to kickstart our blog series with the innovative Visual Artist Lu Mason. Lu's speciality is colourful mobiles made with both paper and perspex, but she also creates stunning brooches, Rag Rugs, t-shirts and installations.
Tell us about your journey from an Occupational Therapist to an Artist.
Occupational Therapy is all about helping people to achieve their potential, in whatever way they can. Sometimes it can be something really small that makes a difference (e.g. fitting a grab rail so they can get up their front door step). It can be about engaging in the creative process to express feelings, or to help deal with physical pain/mental health problems. worked for many years in a hospice, with people at the end of their life. It made me very aware that we all just don't have enough time in life to do all the things we want to do, and made me determined to seize opportunities when they came my way.
When I thought I could manage without my regular OT salary I decided to leap into the unknown, and really have a go at making art. I worked part time (mainly doing support work and cafe work), and joined a creative studio in York (Pica Studio). I never stop learning from my fellow artists at Pica; it is very inspiring to be around a group of people with a strong work ethic, and real vision about what they are creating.
Are you self-taught or did you study visual arts?
I applied to and was accepted for Art College twice but twice ended up turning the place down (the need to earn first time; pregnancy the second time). So I am self taught. I have always painted patterns at home - I find it a very therapeutic activity; there's no right and wrong, you can really focus on shapes and colours. I like the repetition of patterns. Many years ago I made and sold rag rugs... and in fact have just had an order for one, so am going back to it after the summer.
What is in the heart of your work?
I want it to be uplifting... whether it's a mobile, a cut paper installation, a perspex brooch, a rag rug, a printed t-shirt, a pattern painted on paper. I want it to be accessible and inclusive, whilst aesthetically pleasing. I want it to surprise and delight!
Your brooches and perspex shapes are indeed uplifting and creative and absolute fun. If you are sad you just have to look at them and you instantly feel happier! Can you account briefly to our readers your creative process of conceiving the idea of a shape to finishing one?
I'm always inspired by printed fabrics from the 1950's... e.g. the work of Lucienne Day. Thus, an idea will often come from looking at a piece of fabric, and using shapes within the pattern as a starting point. Sometimes it's just a quirky object that I think (and hope!) will make people smile. First I draw the shape until I am happy with it... but until it's actually cut out of perspex, I never really know how its going to turn out.
When you walk around the streets of York, you can sometimes see your perspex mobiles hanging in the front room windows in people's houses. What do you think is the secret to your 'success', if I may (artists tend to not like this word!)?
It is absolutely wonderful that people buy my work, and I love seeing it in peoples' houses. For me, it is really important not to simply churn work out, and if possible, not always to think of what might be a big seller. Therefore everything I make is something new to me, and I think retains a feeling of freshness. I think it's important (to me anyway) to be versatile, and look at commissions as a fresh challenge and opportunity. It's also important to me to be more than a "gallery artist". I have done several installations in the past few years out of cut paper, in empty shop windows, a church, restaurants, a library... all public places.
What advice would you give young creatives who consider taking the leap from an existing occupation to become a full-time artist?
Gosh... that's a huge leap. My advice would be this: keep some kind of part-time job going until you really know you can live off your artwork... and very few artists can. Getting involved in workshops can be one way of earning and keeping your creativity going, and can be really great fun. Find a group of fellow artists who will give each other mutual support and advice. Use Instagram.
"I applied to and was accepted for Art College twice but twice ended up turning the place down (the need to earn first time; pregnancy the second time). So I am self taught."
Do you have someone creative in mind who you would like to be interviewed in our blog? Comment below or email: firstname.lastname@example.org