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I enjoyed the whole Smile exhibition but must admit that seeing Julie Arkell’s work in the flesh was the motivating factor for going.
Her work fits perfectly into the brief for the exhibition because it is delightful, whimsical, nostalgic and amusing. It made me smile, coo, ahh and giggle.
Julie Arkell is one of Britain’s most recognisable folk artists. She works in paper mache and mixed-media .
Her construction process is completely handmade, beginning with manipulating the paper mache into figures and then dressing them by knitting and sewing bespoke garments.
Her work is the meeting point of domestic craft traditions and sculpture.
The ‘people’ she makes have references to bunnies, people, children and dolls but are none or all of those things at once.
I think this is what gives her work a storybook quality. That and the narrative which is hinted at through the embroidery on the clothing and the title of the work itself.
The clothing is reminiscent of an earlier age where petticoats and hobnail boots were standard. Julie likes to re-use items from the past such as lace trimmings and brooches which reinforces the historical quality of the characters.
I have always loved to make things using accessible materials like paper, glue, cardboard, fabric and wool, which relate to my papier-mache pieces. I am able to make pieces that express my feelings, thoughts and ideas, bringing past and present together. Julie Arkell, Flow Gallery.
I really loved this one A LOT. I love the expressions on their faces made through very little marking but a lot of expression through shape. I can just imagine these two sisters gossiping and comparing notes on things.
I adore the way their hair has been made and piled upon their heads and pinched in with ribbon.
I’m amazed by how much character comes thorough with such a lightness of touch. Carefully poised dots and lines, rouging and a clever wittiness with the printed text all combines to create a character that you can ‘read’ almost instantly.
There is something endearing about anything that is miniature and this outfit is no exception.
Collecting things is an important part of my work. I look for postcards, plastic dolls (that I take apart and rearrange) old books, aprons, fabric, buttons, jewellery, used toys and much more that captures my attention. I’m constantly writing down words and phrases and thinking up stories for the world I make. Julie Arkell at CAA
I think her work perfectly suited this particular exhibition and I admit that I would like to don an apron and a pair of knitted ears and go and live in her fairytale world where it looks like relationships matter and its playtime all the time.