Focusing on innovation and self-expression, artist Daisy Tortuga sheds light on her unique and eccentric world in her latest exhibition New Rug, New Me. With a background in traditional craft art making techniques, Daisy incorporates elements of the old with innovative modern themes and concepts. The show will feature a range of Daisy’s most recent projects and will be held at the exhibition at The Truman Brewery from the 4th - 6th June. With personal and progressive themes in her work exploring identity and nostalgia, Daisy discusses with us the importance of pursuing unconventional artistic ideas.
It’s refreshing seeing such a modern twist on a traditional craft such as tufting. How do you go about combining the two elements of tradition and modernity?
Rug making is having a resurgence and it's really exciting. Tufting guns becoming accessible has allowed artists to use rug making in a creative new way, essentially we are able to draw with wool. I have always been interested in traditional crafts, I love beading, embroidery, candle making, sewing and anything with fabric. Combining an ancient craft like rug making with a modern image, for example; of me inside a fish pie, makes a strange juxtaposition. But it expresses modernity and the current place of the world, perhaps the desire for the world to go back to a simpler time.
A lot of your work brings in a warm sense of nostalgia. Growing up, what inspired you the most when it came to art making?
Images have always appeared in my head that I have in turn, wanted to create. Growing up I didn't really understand what inspired me, for example; I remember making paper mache portraits of my cat a lot, I still have one that's a mummified version of my cat, it's bright pink. Art has just always been my way of understanding the world or processing feelings I don't know how to express any other way. I like to just do things with my hands, making something physical is much more interesting to me than drawing or any kind of 2d work, that has always been clear since childhood.
As a multi-disciplinary artist working on such varied projects, how do you usually dedicate your time to each project?
I work always quite methodically. My brain is good at organising things and I work quite quickly. I am lucky to be an artist full time and so I split my time between music projects and my rug work in my studio in Hackney Wick. I am at my studio 5 days a week and I enjoy it immensely, it's what I love to do and It is a gift that I get to do it every day, it never feels like a chore.
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Your work tends to focus around themes of personal experiences. What excites you the most about being able to display pieces that reflect you?
I have plans for a solo show this year which I'm very excited about. I have been a part of some group shows before but I have never shown work that is so personal. It's very exciting but also terrifying. I make my work because it is cathartic for me, it also gives me so much joy that others can also see themselves in it. I don't want to make the work too obvious about a certain thing, I want someone to see what they want to see in it because that's what connects people to a show and creates the experience of attending it.
Some of your tapestries explore evoking themes surrounding abortion and child-birth what inspired the production of these works?
My chromosome disorder makes it very difficult and unlikely for me to have children. This was something I found out a long time ago, however when I was at university I accidentally started making work about it. Over the last 2 years of my degree it was all I wanted to make work about. To My Unborn is about feeling you have a missing part and how the expectations of having babies for a woman are very real. I used to feel like I would never be loved because of it, I thought that it was something I needed to warn boyfriends about. Working these things through my sculptures and textile pieces helped me understand how I felt and I am in so much of a better place about it because of that project and the processing space of all my art gives me.
During your time at university, you explored various avenues with the use of mediums such as wax, creating wax baby head sculptures! How did you come up with this creative concept?
The wax baby sculptures were supposed to be a visual representation of time. They were a part of my To My Unborn series of work about pregnancy. The candles illustrate the ticking time window of fertility that women experience, it's something underlying in society that I noticed and wanted to explore. The candle as an object is sacred and poetic, it's something that is alive but ghostly and fully formed, it creates a moment and it has its own breath of life. I could talk about candles all day.
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How have the recent lockdowns affected your work and projects?
With regards to the development of my practice, lockdown was helpful. I had just left university and was living in a warehouse with a large space to make work. Living with a number of other artists also using it as a studio was strange and repetitive for a while, but looking back it was so enjoyable. It's when I really got into rug making, my sense was that due to lockdown people suddenly had more desire to buy art, this was a great kick start for me selling work. I feel a strange nostalgia to that time, there was so much anxiety but there was also a safety in the simplicity of life at the time.
Has being an artist always been your career choice?
It has always been the only thing I have felt good at. At school I was told it was a bad idea to want to be an artist and that it's very hard. I agree that it's very hard work but to advise every child to not take that path is really upsetting. I never made any big plans on what I wanted to do, I just floated along my path and trusted my instincts when making decisions.
We’ve already got lots of incredible works of yours to enjoy so what should we expect from you in the future?
Definitely a continuation of my autobiographical series of self portraits. I very much enjoy doing commissions for people of their favourite dinners, or collaborations with other artists. However the self portraits I have been making are a real progression in my practice and that's what is exciting about making work.
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