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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

My Mum’s A Hippy: an interview with illustrator Monique Jivram

From textile art to illustration, Monique Jivram discusses her work with Amelia's Magazine

Written by Louisa Lee

British-Columbian artist and illustrator Monique Jivram sits down with Louisa Lee to discuss her work…

You have a background in textile art, illness when and how did you become more interested in illustration? I chose to study textile art as am drawn to sculpting, seek manipulating and working with soft fibres. Although I have an affinity for textiles, I think, like most artists’, sketching and drawing is the basis of what I do. I find sketching and drawing help me work through ideas and problem solving. When I recall a memory I find myself pulling images together and making a sort image collages in my head. As I think in pictures I find drawing the best way to express myself. Drawing helps me pattern make and link my ideas, I love it, when I draw I feel like my mind empties out and I’m somewhere else.

Who or what influences and inspires your work? I spend lots of time travelling through London on busses and trains and I started to note down snippets of conversation that I overheard. When two people are talking they are completely immersed in each other. Travelling on London transport you become accustomed to lack of personal space so just tend to blank out those around you, carrying on in your own world. I found conversations I was over-hearing frequently un-intentional naïve and very funny. I was hearing things that made me smile and were so quirky and honest to each person that they became the starting points of my work. I think we’re programmed to believe we must all see beauty in the same thing. Conditioning (advertising, friends, books etc) tells us that we must see beauty in traditional things like a dewy morning  or  the sun setting over  the sea that we almost forget to see the simple beauty in human diversity and differences. I value that people are quirky and odd, using these humorous snippets of conversations hopefully act as insights of how funny we can be. Since people have heard that my work comes from snippets of over heard conversation they have started to tell me about ones that they overheard and made them laugh. A few ‘overheards’ for my next project might be: ‘Lou, man, she ‘ad a tache, like she’d just finished a cappuccino’ -‘sooner or later everyone loses their balls’. -‘Mate, you really gotta learn to bottle things up’ -‘Do you always wear sunglasses? It’s always sunny when your cool’ -‘I shaved my feet and they look so pretty’ -‘My father was killed by ninjas I need money for karate lessons’

Your illustrations have a wonderful naivity about them but are clearly highly-skilled and often labour intensive. How do you normally work- are they fairly spontaneous or do you plan your drawings in advance? My work is spontaneous, I hear something that strikes me as funny and honest and I find myself mapping out images that support and develop the words. I rely heavily on the concept of schemas’, the idea that we have unconsciously developed an image of an object/stimuli through experience fascinates me. I like play on words, mnemonics, absurd definitions, innuendos and train of thoughts. “briefly thyself remember” –Lear

I really like your embroidered works, how do you go about making them? Are they all done with a sewing machine or are some of them hand-stitched? I use a mixture of hand sewing and machine stitch. The embroidery gives me time to think about the snippet of conversation that the piece is based on, giving it time evolve. I use embroidery to highlight the key points of the work. I believe that technical skill is just as important as concept/meaning in art work. I’m in awe of traditional techniques like tapestry and weaving. Skills that require deep knowledge and take require a lot of time make something.

You’ve also done some book illustration. How did this come about? Would you like to do more? The book illustrations happened by chance; I was contacted with a script outline and was asked if I would illustrate a some of the scenes, I think the writer found me through my website. I draw from images or from real life so I had to get my friend to pose for me, the first book was an adventure book so we had lots of laughs doing it. I found myself wanting to stick exactly to the script getting each character to look just as the writer had intended, I’m naturally quite meticulous so although it  was a lot of fun, it meant a lot of researching and planning . I’m defiantly glad I illustrated for both books, it was a massive learning curve for me. I’m used to giving my work space to evolve and with these projects I had to stick to every description given, which is why I think is so different from my other work. Will I do another book?……….Who knows? If the right books comes along….

I noticed that you’ve had some exhibitions as well as worked for magazines such as ‘Who’s Jack?’.  Do you prefer to exhibit or to be commissioned for work? I love both exhibiting and commissions. With commissions people approach me because they like the style of my work, its lovely to be able to merge my ideas with someone else’s  ideas’ creating a piece together. I also like being given a brief or journalistic article to illustrate for. Having a starting point and watching the work evolve is one of my favourite things. When I look back at the work I can see my train of thought like stepping stones that led me to where I finished. I feel all art should be given lots of room and time to evolve. I’m now part of a collective that means I get to exhibit with a group. As a illustrator/textile artist / artist its hard to find group exhibition my work fits in. I’m not really a crafter or not really a fine artist, most exhibitions group artists’ together by craft, fine art, painting, illustration, textiles or sculpture. I don’t really completely fit into any of theses areas so I did a lot of solo shows so it nice to be part of a collective that have a similar vein of thought running through their work. The collective area group of artist who use thread or fabric in a conceptual contemporary art way rather than fashion way. As a group we have similar interests in that we are drawn to working with fibres. I did a lot of solo shows as I didn’t really fit in anywhere but it’s now lovely to be surrounded by a group of artist who hold similar interests to me. A while ago textiles where considered only as fashion, now it seems textiles are becoming more of an accepted art form. Threads and fibres can be seen can be seen in contemporary art and advertising, its really good to see it start to be considered as art!

You also make ‘Wearables’ out of your embroideries. Do you see your work developing more in this direction? I don’t know a lot about fashion, my degree was textile art but considered in the fine art arena. Throughout my time as a practising artist I have started to become interested in wearing my work. I started to realise the most commonly seen and used blank canvas was our clothing. This led me to make a few pieces into ‘wearables’ . I love the idea of opening a locket and seeing a piece of work or popping a piece of art work into your hair. Just before I was making these pieces I visited lots of Mexican day of the dead exhibitions, I was considering how every wearable surface was covered. I liked that every time I looked back at a person who was dressed up, a shrine or decoration I noticed something new. I think these influences can be seen in my wearables.

What would be an ideal design brief for you? I like being inspired by words, so I guess that an ideal brief would be text based. I’d love a brief that would encourage me to see and highlight human quirks finding the abnormal if it was considered as normal, something that would encourage me to draw attention to the humour in every day life. My ideal brief would be something I could be colourful and free with and of course if part of the brief was a paid research trip to Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Rio, Thailand, Vietnam, Egypt, Spain you wouldn’t hear me complaining.

Where we will next see your work? I’ve got a few pieces in the Cactus Gallery in May 2010. They have invited 64 different artists to exhibit work, which they will put together in a patchwork style, it sounds really interesting. I can’t wait to see it. Noise Festival the ‘online arts portfolio’ have recently selected my work to use on their postcard, which should be available soon. And finally the collective I’m in are looking for a space to work and exhibit in. We’ve been looking at empty shops in London. We’d like to find a space we can open to the public who can visit us whilst we’re making our work and then use the same space to exhibit in. As soon as we find something it will be on my website.

You work under the name ‘my mums a hippie’, Is your mum a hippie? Yup, She’s most defiantly a hippie!

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