Lizzie Campbell, the brilliant artist behind Clay Disarray, joins us on Close-Up Culture to discuss her work.
Your polymer clay pieces are so joyful and fun. What do you most enjoy about your work and creating with polymer clay?
I enjoy most aspects of my work, but I particularly enjoy the act of getting lost in making a sculpture. We live in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with all sorts of audio and visual media, so I enjoy the process of getting hyper-focused on an artwork when I can block out all of these distractions. It’s almost like a form of mindfulness.
Over recent years, I’ve started making process videos on my YouTube channel, along with tutorials for those new to polymer clay, and it’s been a real surprise to me as to how much I enjoy it. Like many artists, I’m a true introvert so it wasn’t an obvious step for me, but I really enjoy explaining how to use polymer clay, or just having a ramble about various things while showing how my sculptures come together.
When did you discover polymer clay and that it was the right artistic medium for you?
Well, it was a bit of a journey to be honest! I’ve drawn all of my life, but I had real issues in trying to settle into a style or aesthetic that felt uniquely my own, and I’d often oscillate between cartooning and more realistic illustration.
So, I decided to return to full-time study in my early 30’s and signed up for a HND course in Visual Communication, followed by a degree in illustration. I loved the HND course in particular, as, being a multimedia course, it allowed me to experiment with different creative disciplines and materials, many of which I would never have felt inclined to look into in any great depth. It was during a clay workshop where I found that I was immediately drawn to the material and felt really curious to see where I could take things.
So I set about creating a series of images called ‘May Contain Spoilers’ where I recreated well-known movie scenes using air-dry clay and dolls house props for a course project. The sculptures were very raw in style, as I had limited time to work on the project, but it was so helpful in visioning where I wanted to take my work next. There’s a secret link to the project at https://www.claydisarray.co.uk/May-Contain-Spoilers
Over the next few months, I moved away from air-dry clay and began working with polymer clay. As it’s a very different material to conventional clay (it actually isn’t a ‘clay’ at all, but a plastic) it took a great deal of time to get to understand how to use it, and to be honest after nearly a decade of working with polymer, I’m still learning! I feel I’m finally at a place where I’m happy with my style as I think my work is pretty unique, but I’m sure – and I indeed hope – that my work will evolve further as time goes on.
What is the hardest part of the process when making a piece with polymer clay?
The most difficult aspect is definitely trying to capture a likeness. This didn’t matter quite so much in the early days as I was more concerned about trying to keep my work clean and fingerprint-free, as polymer clay is notorious for picking up tiny airborne fibres, etc, regardless of how clean your working environment is.
However, over the last couple of years, I’ve really tried to hone-in on nailing likenesses, while keeping a distinct ‘Clay Disarray’ style. I certainly don’t always manage it, as my creative process is quite complicated due to various limitations of working with pre-coloured polymer clay, but it’s something I’m very conscious of while I’m creating a sculpture.
Most of your work is pop culture based, with lots of faces we’ll recognise from TV and film. But where is the strangest or most eclectic place you’ve drawn inspiration for a piece from?
To be honest, drawing inspiration for my work really isn’t that complicated as we’re all surrounded by pop culture, and it’s relatively easy to pick and choose projects I want to work on, as they’re generally films, shows or characters I’ve enjoyed in some way.
However, if I’m having a bit of a creative block, I find it really useful to change my environment, such as going to an art gallery, or even just out for a walk in the countryside.
You recently posted a piece paying tribute to Ana Lily Amirpour’s film, ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.’ It’s clear you enjoy the horror genre: Can you tell us about your own love of cinema and being able to incorporate that in your work?
My love of the horror genre started at a very young age – too young! My brother is eight years older than me and he’d often be watching horror movies well into the night. I remember watching a bit of Salem’s Lot when I was about 7, which I of course found scary but nonetheless completely fascinating! So, I guess a lot of my work really taps into seeing the horror genre from a child’s perspective.
You’ve worked with some big companies in the past. What has been the most rewarding project that’s come your way since starting the Clay Disarray studio?
Although it’s always a privilege to work with art directors on commercial projects, I really loved working on various Secret 7” projects. It’s an annual project where artists creative unique one-off piece of 7” sleeve art by choosing one of seven well-known tracks, which are then exhibited and sold off for a charitable cause, and it’s raised some serious money in the past. I believe the Secret 7” project has now come to an end, but I’ve been lucky enough to create official designs for John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Dave Grohl, and I was so pleased with how they all turned out.
I just love it when you have complete creative freedom when working on a project, as well as loads of time to experiment and explore ideas. It’s completely different with full-on commercial projects, as they can be quite challenging in terms of client feedback and tight deadlines, and particularly when it comes to editorial illustrations.
What are your ambitious for the future of Clay Disarray?
I think just to keep on keeping on! I’d like to build on my portfolio by starting on a few new personal projects, as well as taking on commercial projects that work well with my aesthetic. Above all I’m just interested to see how my work will evolve over the next few years, and I’m excited to see what comes next!