The success of Landbaby’s first in-shop exhibition The Soldier’s Rest at The Bluecoat, part of last year’s Independents Biennial, has inspired owner Claire Bates to showcase the work of designer-maker and illustrator Victoria Foster.

Already attracting national media attention, Foster’s work is intricate and haunting, celebrating the often-overlooked beauty in the everyday.

We chatted to Clare and Victoria to find out more about the show, and how it fits alongside (or inside) the creative consumer space of Landbaby.

This is Landbaby’s second ‘in-shop’ exhibition, what prompted you to start exhibiting work in the shop?

It’s always been part of my plans for the shop to use part of the space for exhibitions. It’s only over time that you see what works for you in the shop and what doesn’t. As my background is in fine art it’s always been important to me to return to my roots.

Often you can feel like you have just become a retailer and although I make and create my own work here in the shop and sell it in shops and galleries all over the UK, it was getting back to exhibiting work which was really of interest to me.

When the opportunity came up for me to collaborate with local writer/poet Rebecca Joy Sharp last year The Soldier’s Rest I jumped at it with both feet.

That show really gave me the confidence in not only my own work but in using the space in the shop for exhibitions whether it be mine own, collaborations or designers whose work I sell in the shop, and although it means I lose a massive retail space in the shop I gain in other ways.

It’s brought a new wave of people to the shop that may have never been in before as well as other great opportunities for both myself and the artists involved.

How does Victoria’s work fit in with the ethos of Landbaby?

I spend a lot of time sourcing new designers and artists for the shop who share the same ethos and style as myself; often friends will point out people whose work they feel may fit in with the shop. I tend to bring in new collections of work that will fit nicely alongside each other.

It’s like Victoria has been living along side me all my life. I was first introduced to Victoria’s work by a mutual friend who thought of Landbaby and I instantly fell in love with her work. Victoria then sent me a collection of jewellery that was made from antique optical lenses that she had transferred her illustrations onto. Each pendant came boxed in another of Victoria’s designs alongside a printed illustrated hankie, they sold out within the first two weeks! It was evident that my customers loved her work and so did I.

Are you planning future ‘in shop’ exhibitions?

Yes. Next up in April is collaboration between myself and Stephanie Bradley who writes her own zine. The show will be much different to our current one and will have a few local references to it. It may also have you in fits of giggles, it’s certainly making me chuckle as I work on it.

Victoria, tell us a bit about your work and The Aviary.

I’m a designer-maker and illustrator with a background in contemporary fine art. I am fascinated by the seemingly ordinary; beauty found in the everyday and the overlooked. I see endless possibility, pattern and texture in the most mundane of objects and genuinely enjoy laborious and intricate processes that involve repetition, layering and collage, as well as playing with abstraction, scale and colour.

My work often references nature, familiar objects from domestic life, snippets of history, half-truths and folklore. I moved to a very rural part of Kent just over a year ago with very few inhabitants, and have become increasingly interested in odd village traditions, eccentric locals, and being at the mercy of the change of seasons.

I set up The Aviary alongside my existing practice because I am a self-confessed ‘bower bird’ and truly love beautiful and functional objects.

It also gives me the opportunity to translate my drawings across a range of surfaces, appealing to the ex-student in me that used to love making installations.

Your work is about ‘finding beauty in the everyday, the overlooked, the once loved, the almost lost…’ how do you think we can do this in a society bursting with so much disposable stuff?

This is such a tough question. I guess it boils down to people taking more personal responsibility for how and where they choose to spend their money, researching how their possessions are manufactured, and giving more thought to what kind of a world they want their children to grow up in. I’m also a big fan of ‘mindfulness’ – making time in the day to appreciate what you’ve got rather than what you want.

In my role as a designer of non-essential items, I do feel I have to justify what I do, which is why I spend so much time sourcing vintage and pre-loved items, working with local, independent companies and using environmentally friendly production processes wherever possible.

You’re inspired by folklore, what’s your favourite folk lore tale?

I don’t have a particular favourite folklore tale. I suppose it’s more a persistent curiosity with regional histories and the elaborate powers and rituals people once ascribed to everyday objects and events. There is a wealth of wonderful, illogical traditions and superstitions that conjure up ideas of simpler times where ordinary life was imbued with a touch of magic.

Why exhibit at Landbaby?

Claire Bates is a designer-maker who brings her fine art sensibilities into everything she creates. Seeing the way she translates her lines of inquiry across a range of materials and objects demonstrated to me that we have a very similar approach to making work, blurring the lines between art and craft traditions.

This is also apparent in the way she arranges the shop. It is full of beautifully made and sensitively chosen work from exciting and truly talented designer-makers. Most importantly of all, it’s a really friendly, welcoming space in contrast to many traditional ‘white cube’ galleries that often feel too austere for delicate work. Visitors feel able to stay and really look at what is on display.

The Aviary is on show until Saturday 2nd March, open Monday to Saturday, 10am – 6pm. In response to the show Landbaby is hosting a wire nest brooch workshop on Wednesday 27th February 6-8pm. Places are £15 including all materials, contact Landbaby to book.

The Bluecoat
School Lane

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