Conversations with an Artist: Nan Collymore

Nan Collymore_Jewelry_Fragile_Poet and the Bench

We love meeting new designers and artists and especially the exposure to their inner, and often, most vulnerable selves. Nan Collymore is a deep, expressive artist and a beautiful human. She has a stunning body of work. We love how differently she expresses herself in her delicate wall hangings vs her statement jewelry. 

8 Questions

Describe the moment you realized art fed your soul.
I see myself primarily as a writer, so the way I work is very much immersed in thinking, language and the text.

I think visual culture was always something that I was interested in. As a child I would day dream for hours on end getting lost in the clouds or being absorbed by the floral designs on the wallpaper in my bedroom. The love of art and artistic endeavor surrounded me; my dad was a carpenter and always tinkering in the shed. My mum was a fantastic knitter and I would spend hours watching her click her needles while she created some magic from wool. 

There was a lot of music in my house as well growing up and that was, and still is, a source of immense power for me. Music deeply feeds me and when I feel in doubt or unsure which route to take next, I’ll pick a song that will give me direction and support. 

What themes do you pursue in your art?
I’m not consciously pursuing a theme, but the theoretical underpinning to a lot of my work is around women’s embodiment. I love women’s form in all of its guises and I bring those shapes into the work. The curvature of a ring or the rough edge of a stone are all things that I think lend themselves to considering how women are. 

I am also hugely inspired by visual artists and writers. One of my latest pieces is a bangle that is shaped in the style of one of Louise Bourgeois’ spiders...I think it speaks to myself as a mother and my position as a daughter. There is so much about femininity, womanhood, being femme, butch, etc, that is opaque or hidden and I hope that my work uncovers conversation about how we can be all of those things and not have to live in boxes created for us by other outside forces.

Nan Collymore_Jewelry_Brass Rings_Bangles_Poet and the Bench

Tell us about what influences the direction for your jewelry and Fragments and Fragile wall pieces collections.
These bodies of work 'fragile' and ‘fragments’ are truly an expression of the fragility of my interior, of the death of my mother and the mother, the yearning for stillness and the search for what my role is as an artist...I can say that this show and the one currently up in LA are built on a narrative that has long been written, sewn and etched into my skin, my cells, the springy curls of my is a voice with which I long felt I could not sing, and now I have found the language to truly express what was always inside.

Nan Collymore_Jewelry_Fragile Wall Hanging_Poet and the Bench

Nan Collymore_Jewelry_Brass Rings_Poet and the Bench

How has your work developed over time?
I’m definitely broadening my horizons and expanding my visual language. In my upcoming show at Seven Sisters in Portland this fall, I’m working with garment deconstruction and much larger scale work. 

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
My notepad.

Do you collect anything?
Oh my goodness! I collect everything. It goes in stages–sometimes it’s books–art books, novels, fashion books; other times it’s yarn and thread… especially vintage. And more recently it’s been art that moves me. I write for a couple of magazines as an art writer, so I’m often collecting artists’ work to engage with.

What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen, read, watched or listened to recently?
That’s a great question. I went to an event organized by Wolfman publishers in Oakland. The talk was by the Black Aesthetic and they used YouTube videos to create an archive around the idea of black liberation. It was so inspired and gave me a whole new way of thinking about how we archive and how we can rethink what is a liberatory act. 

What advice would you give to your younger self about your artistic journey
Mmmm… start earlier and immerse yourself sooner with your tribe.

 Nan Collymore_Jewelry_Fragile Wall Hanging_Poet and the Bench

Together her works explore textural dichotomies and the role of touch and affect. Excited for you to come try on Nan's bold jewelry pieces and see the various "Fragile" wall hangings we have for sale at Poet and/the Bench.

~ Bonnie & Jeffrey

Photography credits include Nan Collymore and May Daniels.

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