Interview by Filep Motwary
FILEP MOTWARY: I’m very interested in any way of expressing beauty, whatever beauty is according to the person suggesting it. I feel that your work is also very “fashion” although I think you don’t believe so yourself. But that’s why we’re here today so you can clarify it for us. Where does your interest in the human body come from?
DAISY COLLINGRIDGE: I would say the first part is my upbringing: you can’t help but be interested in it since we all have one. But I think my specific interest came from my family—they’re all quite scientific and they’re all interested in biology and the components that make a body. My mum’s a nurse and my sister’s a doctor and my brother-in-law’s a doctor, while my angle’s always been more anatomical. But then also I remember going to see– did you ever go and see Body Worlds? I must have been 12 and I went to see it with my mum!
It was kind of mad. I think because they were actual dead people that had been plasticized, there was something sort of disturbing about that but also amazing. [A] strange combination of feelings. Being that young, I wasn’t thinking about death or anything but rather, “Woah, dead bodies”. I guess it sits in you, doesn’t it, and these things come out much later in life and thinking of it I’m like, “Oh okay, I’ve made that connection”. You know, I kind of got obsessed by bodybuilders for a while…
FM: I love them too! What is it that you find so fascinating about the human form? Your perspective somehow has an ecological kind of quality to it.
DC: I’m going back to what you said before we started the interview, about affecting on a surface level, and I really appreciate that kind of viewpoint because sometimes I think, in the art world, isn’t it okay to make something that’s beautiful? But my aim is to make beautiful images and sculpture that I find beautiful. So, I guess it is a way to just re-frame the human body in another way and a beautiful way. Why not? And that’s okay to be allowed to read it as that. You’ve got to be humble because ultimately, I’m never going to be able to make anything that is as mad and clever and amazing as an actual human body. So, there’s always this element of like, “Okay, I’m never going to be as good as that creation there”. So, it’s kind of a way of seeing it and bringing in fantasy and bringing in other things to elevate it.
FM: So do you use the bodies that you create to reflect or to communicate with the current social and political tendencies in any way?
DC: I don’t do it overtly. I don’t go out to kind of address these things. But I like to normalize them, so that’s why I like a setting or putting them in a familiar house in that kind of familiarity. I tend to normalize everything but obviously, people read them because they’re not only larger figures and so there is that complex element to them. Yet, for me, they’re just bodies. I haven’t gone out to address more like the norms of what images we see. It just happens that they do.
FM: But although it’s not your purpose to link them, they sort of link with things going on currently in the world.
DC: Yes definitely. And it is good and nice to feel a part of kind of a shift in the images that we do see of the human body, I think. I like being a part of that.
FM: Your creations could be considered as garments. On a personal level, I see them as flesh on flesh when worn. How do you see your own work? How would you describe it?
DC: It’s a really tricky one for me. Because my background is fashion there’s always going to be that link, and because they’re wearable.
FM: Because the base of everything that is here at the end is the body. And the body is like a platform for communication, expression, transformation and experimentation while it physically remains as it’s always been. And the body still needs to be dressed as it always needed to be dressed. But your way of dressing it, there’s something about it that goes beyond fashion.
DC: Yes! I wanted to make a firm step away from fashion, so perhaps that’s why I’m reluctant to be like, “Yeah, it’s fashion,” even though when you break it down it’s a wearable textile piece, which is what clothes are about. My pieces do work without the body and that’s quite interesting too. Although there’s many garments that also do that. I quite like the fact that when someone steps inside them, they come to life. And yet they still hold their shape, they still look like bodies even when someone isn’t inside them. And there’s that kind of dynamic that I quite like to play with. I really like that transition between sort of living and un-lived in. When I graduated, I didn’t see where I could fit really. And that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t go into fashion at the end. Hopefully I’ve not shut doors on it now and if I can go back in, but on my terms, then that’s grand. But when you’re fresh out of uni and you don’t get a job immediately you suddenly realize the reality of what it means to work in fashion and I just didn’t have what it took for it, nor did I care enough really. There were so many other things that I wanted to do and I just felt that, like with any job, you have to start at the bottom and there’s no guarantee that you will always carry on making. The further up you go, the less likely it is you carry on making with your hands and working with my hands is essentially important for me. That’s where I get my kicks, is the actual making, and I just felt you didn’t get that in fashion. I mean I’m quite possibly wrong but that’s how I felt when I left uni.
FM: What kind of reaction are you getting from your audience?
DC: I think as they’ve been seen by more and more people and I’ve taken them to exhibitions, I’ve realized that it is almost unwise for me to dictate how people should feel. I’ve learned that people react in such different ways because everyone’s got their own relationship with their own body. And who am I to dictate how they should feel when they see these? Just because I see them as beautiful, it doesn’t mean someone else is going to. Some people find them hilarious, and some people find them horrendous. I noticed when people were in an exhibition and they were confronted face to face with them, not the photographs, the actual “bodies” themselves, there was often a transition. So, they’d initially be like, “Ugh!” and then the more they stood there the more they changed their minds seeing them as interesting or beautiful, and their face would change, and their body language would change. Or [they] walked away thinking, “Perhaps I shouldn’t react so quickly to something”. There was definitely a transition happening there.
FM: Is it important that your work raises questions? How do you respond to them?
DC: I think you can’t respond. I initially felt upset when people were upset by them because some people really don’t like them, but I’ve then engaged with them in conversations on social media. Some people find them offensive and they will reach out on Instagram. I’ll take the time to explain my perspective and the context of them and hopefully they kind of go away feeling less offended. So, I guess I’ve kind of learned to respond by listening to people rather than being upset at their reaction. Like, they’re entitled to their own reaction, and I should listen to that.
FM: Is there something about being an artist that makes you feel like any vulnerable feelings are worth it in the end?
DC: There is always that vulnerability, isn’t there, when you put anything out, well, whatever it is. Because you have the thrill of making it and you’ve come to the point of completion, and you’re hopefully satisfied. And, for me, that’s one of my favorite parts: when you’re just at the end of finishing and you’ve got that adrenaline. And then it sticks around when you put it out into the world. But I suppose, as I’ve got a bit older, I’ve learned how to hold onto that thrill of the making part and letting it go into the world and seeing what happens. That’s quite a hard question.
FM: Do you ever feel that you’re helping somehow to foster communication between people through your art since it is bodies that you’re talking about through your creativity?
DC: I hope so. I think subconsciously reactions generally have a habit of infiltrating your brain, don’t they, without you kind of realizing. Because it’s been quite a long project: I started something like six years ago—the whole idea or concept developed as I learned to listen to people’s reactions because I think that is important, for my own evolution.
FM: Is commercial success of any importance to you? Over the years, we have witnessed so many artists who have collaborated with fashion houses, or with scientists, or they put their work out there on so many different levels and the work has been accepted by the masses and it has become a product in the end. Are you interested in that?
DC: I think I’m quite guarded. And sometimes I say yes to things but I’m definitely not driven by any kind of commercial success because if I was, I wouldn’t carry on doing what I’m doing because I haven’t really made any money! However, obviously, we all have to live, so I was sort of taking opportunities or when I receive emails about certain things, I’ll always consider them and if there comes a time when there is a good collaboration that would kind of make sense, then I wouldn’t say no. I don’t want to shut doors but, at the same time…
FM: Once you complete an artwork, when you assemble those pieces together and you finally have this body right in front of you, how does it feel?
DC: I mean you must know if you’re a maker, a creative person. There’s such a buzz when you finish a project. It’s actually like the two hours before you’re almost finished and you get sweaty armpits and clammy hands and you get all excited. And I think also, because they are like people, they’re full of character and I’ve spent so long with them, it almost feels like a birth, doesn’t it?
FM: It is like a birth indeed. The way you work is actually like pattern cutting because everything is so precise by numbers to get those muscles and those lines. How long does it take you to finish a piece?
DC: Months. Months and months. There are definitely elements of actual pattern cutting in there. At fashion school, I was always told off because I’d make these clothes and they’d be like, “Oh do you have the patterns?” And I’d be like, “Oh no, I just drew the shape and then sewed it together!” And they were like, “That’s not great. If you want to work in fashion, you kind of have to have the patterns.” So, I didn’t listen to them and I’ve carried on just cutting out shapes and sewing them on and you get better and better at cutting the right shape. I think there’s definitely elements of pattern cutting and there’s a lot of placements and it’s because it’s mostly hand-sewn it becomes a very slow process, so you consider it. I look at the anatomy, but I don’t obviously mimic it exactly. It’s sort of in my head.
FM: Is it important that your art feels alive in some way?
DC: Yeah. It’s a weird thing I have that I seem to assume everything’s got a life. Like I was trying to experiment with using actual garments and then creating them with like a t-shirt, but I can’t cut a garment. I have to get someone else to cut it or at least to do the first cut because I seem to think everything’s alive! It’s got feelings. I’ve always been a bit strange about cuddly toys and thinking they’re alive and stuff…
The interview was originally published in Dapper Dan Magazine issue #24 – Fall/Winter 2021-2022
All sculptures by Daisy Collongridge
BW photography by Kasia Wozniak
The London-based artist Daisy Collingridge creates voluminous bodies in soft jersey that cause a variety of reactions while they compel audiences in museums and galleries to observe them as intimate reflections of the human genealogy and form. Each piece
is crafted with impeccable precision exactly like Haute Couture. Her sculptures, which she refers to as The Squishy, are about bodies worn over other bodies allowing the wearer and spectator to celebrate our nature.