Please tell us a little about yourself…
My name is Sophie Symes and I am a mixed media artist and jeweller, creating art jewellery, objects and installations from both precious and non-precious materials. Since graduating, I have been interested in creating artwork that conveys an important message and questions traditional thinking.
Initially I looked at the concept of ‘preciousness’ and what makes jewellery truly precious or valuable; studying the argument of intrinsic, sentimental value versus material value. The resulting creations are an amalgamation between found natural debris materials, such as twigs that are imbued with preciousness due to their unique and delicate nature, and readily available precious metals such as sterling silver. A later collection also sees a marrying of natural and manmade materials in an attempt to highlight the battle between the two and a hope to harmonise the relationship.
More recently I have focused on the subject of mental health and its impact on the body. Having suffered from depression and anxiety, it is a very personal and sensitive subject for me and I am only just beginning to communicate my views on it. This is one of my reasons for deciding to use it as inspiration for my art; I believe there needs to be a more open conversation about mental health in an attempt to normalise it and help sufferers feel a sense of acceptance and support.
There are so many varied emotions connected to the wide variety of mental health illnesses, but I have chosen to concentrate on the powerful, all-encompassing feeling of being overwhelmed. The feeling that life is too much to manage and you are being swallowed up by worry and stress. Represented as a physical handcrafted growth, the feeling of being overwhelmed is shown engulfing a mannequin in my installation, ‘Overwhelm’, and a found farm door, with a partial face in my latest installation, ‘Shrinking Violet’. Displaying a mental feeling as something physical helps to visualise the otherwise unseen effects of the overbearing emotion.
I hope that the subtle use of serious subject matter will help to bring important questions surrounding mental health into the public eye and highlight the everyday difficulties that face those living with a mental illness.
Where/how did you learn your craft(s)?
I learnt to create jewellery during my formal education, first at A Level, followed by a HND in Jewellery and Silversmithing at the School of Jewellery in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, and a Top-Up BA (Hons) Degree course in Jewellery Design at Hereford College of Arts. From then on I have continued to experiment with a mixture of materials, including found objects, clays and metals, as well as embroidery and crochet in my spare time.
How do you feel craft has impacted your life?
Crafting is a huge part of my life. I feel that I have an inherent need to create and find that it soothes my otherwise very busy mind.
Do you do anything to pass the crafting bug on to others?
By opening my studio to the public once a year, I hope to inspire others to try their hand at a craft and delve into their own creative world.
Is there anyone you find particularly inspirational in the crafting world?
There are so many extremely talented makers in the contemporary craft world who deserve so much more recognition than they receive. For starters, founder of Unit Twelve Gallery, Jennifer Collier is an inspiration to any crafter. She creates stunning paper sculptures using vintage papers and sewing techniques. Whilst working at Unit Twelve during a six-month residency, I met some amazing artists, including Julia Jowett, Hannah Watson and Fran Buxton. I’d definitely recommend a visit! (www.unittwelve.co.uk)
Do you do anything to share your creations? (gifting/selling?)
I do gift some of my work to family and friends and have been lucky enough to exchange art with a few of my very talented creative friends. I also sell my work through a few different outlets and share my creative progress through my Facebook page (@SophieSymesArtistJeweller), Instagram account (@sophiesymescraftartist) and website (www.sophiesymes.com).
What is next on the agenda for you?
I am currently working on my new range of silver jewellery, ‘Lichen Loops’, as well as one-off sculptural works and wall pieces. Next I hope to work on another large installation with a more interactive element to try to create a more immersive version of my surreal overgrowing creations and highlight another side to mental health and illness.