For my first experiences in Interdisciplinary Practice, we covered basics such as introductions to our peers and learning about what they do. During my first session, I got to establish my very early project ideation, and discuss what inspires my work.
For me personally, a large part of my inspiration has come from games design, shows, and literature. I got to talk about my interests in character design and doll craft, two elements that I want to inevitably implement into my work in one way or another. I also really take inspiration from feminist literature – and I have covered several bases of feminism and female presentation in literature AND games – showing examples of women done well or strong women (the Duchess of Malfi) and other such strong female figures in literature such as Christina Rossetti, who despite her faith and own beliefs, shown incredible strength against a patriarchal society with poems such as “No Thank You, John” – which, self-explanatory, depicts her rejecting a man’s request to courtship. Alongside this, I also love to follow strong female leads in shows and games – such as Ahsoka, from Star Wars – who in her initial introduction was cocky, reckless and honestly annoying – only to be shaped into a truly unique, autonomous, strong leader and a female figure that lots of people in the franchise looked up to. These strong female depictions have shaped my own character design, and I hope to be able to introduce them into my own project for Interdisciplinary Practice.
Starting off with a writing form called automatic writing, where we just write down what comes to mind – we warmed up by practicing. At the time, I was thinking of home, so that is what I wrote about. This was a really fun way for me to explore my thoughts, and is something that I wanted to carry through to my usual writing – so it is what I wanted to do here, for my Online Notebook. I like the idea of expressing my unfiltered, raw thoughts so hopefully my thought process is a little more evident, and it gives you an idea of my own creative process, written in word form. But at the time, we took this automatic writing and translated it into forging concepts for our project.
When brainstorming ideas for my project, I decided to explore Caitlin’s proposition of spellcasting – and started there with my exploration. From “spellcasting”, I got images of witchcraft, lunar cycles, and encantations – and from “lunar cycles”, I explored this more deeply in connotation to femininity, exploring ideas of fertility and the menstrual cycle, but I ultimately decided that this wasn’t something I wanted to depict in my work and not a subject area I’d specifically like to focus on. So, from that, I decided to think more literally about the moon – and thought of something else that I enjoy.
Over my lifetime, I have taken a huge liking to moths and honestly sympathized with them quite a bit, alongside finding something about them quite relatable to my own struggles. Not only are they beautiful – but they’re frankly misunderstood and feared by a lot of people, including myself, especially if they catch me off guard in my own home. Sometimes, they can also be destructive – like the common house moths that actually eat through fabrics.
But, sometimes they look just like butterflies, and are beautiful. A few references for this would be the Cecropia Moth, which has a beautiful patterned design that reminds me of autumn. Another example is the Cinnabar Moth, common in the UK, which certainly looks more like a butterfly than a moth.
When I thought of witchcraft, I also thought of one of the largest moth species in the world – the White Witch moth, and the Luna Moth – both incredibly beautiful in their own ways, and another example of moths that look like butterflies. A lot of people also don’t understand the importance of moths to us. The White Witch is part of the silk moth family, important to us thanks to their silk production. As humans, we’ve even went as far as domesticating an entire species of silk moth, to the point they are no longer able to fly – with one job of producing silk, which if you think about it is kind of sad. They have no freedom, and can no longer fly – which is sometimes how you can feel when struggling with mental health, trapped.
The real reason that moths are so important to me however is because I find comfort knowing that this creature also suffers like I do. There have been times in my own life where I have felt disadvantaged, where things have been out of my own control – and moths are equally disadvantaged, just in their case by nature.
Moths, over the years, evolved to use the light of the moon as a natural navigational pathway, in order to keep them on a straight path – and over time, as we’ve evolved alongside these creatures, our implementation of artificial light have knocked them off path. Personally, I like to use this as a metaphor for my personal struggles, as in of itself, moths have a very small lifespan in which their driving force is pollination and reproduction for the most part, and they are doomed to continuously fly in the direction of an unobtainable light in the sky, with all of these distractions knocking them off course. This is very much similar to humans. Me and many others struggle with the idea of reaching a set goal – whether it be happiness, ambition related, or anything else – which in this example, is the “moon”. On our course, we encounter so many problems – so many bumps in the road, so many “artificial lights” – something we think will get us closer to our goal, but ultimately get us nowhere – or in the case of the moth, just like Icarus and the sun, destroyed. This is why I want to use the symbol of the moth through my project, as I like focusing on my own experience for my artwork and I draw on my hardships in order to motivate myself to keep going, and I want to potentially cover the idea of a disorder – Borderline Personality Disorder – through my project, as I believe this is a struggle I have and I know many other people do too – and even if it isn’t BPD, I know so many people struggling with mental health have similar symptoms – such as this endless state of up and down emotions, high highs but low lows – an inability to follow a straight pathway which would be to the “moon” and getting thrown off course by the “artificial light” of day to day struggles.
Artists and My Vision
The first artists that came to mind were Pantovola and Ana Salvador, two doll artists. I had the idea of creating an installation of dolls which featured moth-like qualities, because just as the moths wings can crumble with a touch – clay can too, if treated poorly.
At this point, I didn’t factor in the idea of this being a project regarding site, so they were basic ideas of mixing the wings of a moth with the body of a human – so giving them wings in essence, but rather than having them fly with those wings, picturing them on the ground, dejected almost – though still keeping this idea of sensitive femininity that I do enjoy, because femininity doesn’t equate to weakness. Moths by nature are fragile, but their determination to survive are strong, as seen by the Atlas Moth, with snake-like images on the tips of their wings as a natural deterrent to predators – and the patterned, pale colour of the White Witch that oftentimes resembles the natural textures and grains of a tree.
I want to demonstrate through my work that feminity is not weakness, nor is mental illness. I want to bring more awareness and destigmatise mental health conditions whilst displaying that despite being fragile, weak, female, ill, sick, whatever you want to call them, they are still holding on and worth just as much as anyone else, no matter what they are. I also want to use this metaphor of the moth being just like us through my work, because if you think about it – we also put on masks, different faces, just like moths mimic their predators, and they come in different shapes and sizes – just like us.
Pantovola and Ana Salvador are both artists I will look into in more depth in later weeks, because this week I dedicated mostly to forming an idea of what I want to do. They both work with a range of textiles and clay, mostly polymer clay in Salvador’s case, in order to create these beautiful, though disproportionately abstract figures, mostly females – which is what I plan on doing for my project. Ana Salvador creates ball-jointed dolls with mobility, a capability to move their limbs – whereas Pantovola creates static dolls, with a lot more abstractness. I like the idea of creating a disproportionate, uncanny figure, as I don’t want to just create “humans that look like moths” – I want to blend the two together, and as you can likely imagine, I doubt moth people would have perfect human proportions.
(Left – Ana Salvador. Right – Pantovola.)
During the second session we had, we explored our skills more – and I was glad to note that a few of my peers had interests in taxidermy, animation. and fabric manipulation – all things I would be interested in seeking out for my project. I think incorporating some form of taxidermied moth in my project somehow or creating a sequence of smaller images with real moth wings could be something I can explore – alongside taking help from my peers regarding textiles, in order to potentially recreate or create work inspired by doll crafter Pantovola, as dolls are something I’d also like to explore for my project.
I have a lot of experience with projects where the ultimatum of it all was me destroying the piece, or putting it back together. This idea of having something so damaged but strong and steady is a beautiful form of art for me, as I don’t think damage, whether it be internal, mental damage, emotional damage, or physical – should be hidden away. Knowing how to be vulnerable in a safe way is incredibly empowering, and I want to explore this idea by potentially creating dolls of clay, or potentially some other ceramic such as porcelain (though I am inexperienced in this aspect and will have to do more research) and dropping them, only to put them back together. This also gave me the idea of exploring a Japanese, aesthetical reparation technique of Kintsugi – a traditional method of gluing broken or chipped pieces of pottery, vases, bowls, vessels, and then painting the gaps left between with a gold (most common) or silver powder, highlighting the damage in a powerful way.