Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I started studying fine art and textiles at college as I always thought I’d become a sculptor, because I love making things and exploring concepts and materials. When I began to study textiles I took my love of concepts and materials and began to explore different things, like screen-printing onto taxidermy and making headdresses from human hair and sheep horns.
While studying in final year at university my work developed and began to feature heavy embellishment combined with unconventional materials, something I hadn’t done in previous years. This unusual combination has resulted in my work being selected for Texprint and I showcased at New Designers this year.
What are the ideas behind your most recent works?
My ideas came from researching the 18th Century. I began to look at outlaws of this period and two females caught my attention. One was the female pirate Anne Bonny and the other, Princess Tarakanoff, who was forced to wear a veil. From this I decided my work should be covered to seem restricting. I also used the idea of treasures of the princess and this is where the embellishment comes from. I combined this with my interest in demonology, as I wanted my pieces to have a sense of eeriness about them. I then took inspiration from my local beach such as mussels, crabs and seagull feathers for a take on the pirate theme that isn’t too cliché. I love to get lost in a concept and retelling a story through my work.
How did your fascination with decorating heads come about?
When you look through history the idea of the head being decorated is a status of power; we see this in crowns and headdresses. I like to use that in my work and make the wearer have a powerful status and make them look striking.
Your manipulation of the face reminds me of the 16th Century Mannerist painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo that inspired many of the Surrealists. What do you think of his work?
I really like how dark his work is and there is a sort of haunted painterly feel about them. The way he creates faces from ordinary objects reminds me when it is low lighting and you begin to depict in the dark.
What is your favourite material to work with and why?
My favourite material is silk chiffon. The reason for this is that it’s easy to manipulate; so light and airy it’s like nothingness, so when embellished the details stand out so much.
Are there any films that inspire you?
I really love B movies and I took inspiration from Day of the Triffids to create a bodice where I used vintage film as fringing and combined it with embellishment to create an eye to represent the start of the movie where everyone looks up at the meteor shower.
Your avant-garde leather mask is particularly striking. How did you make this?
My leather mask takes inspiration from a crab I found on the beach. I laser cut a part of the pattern on its back. I wanted it to be like armour so I foiled the leather to make it look distressed and then filled in more of the pattern using studs and crystals.
Take a look at some of Gavin’s stunning creations below.
Words: Laura Yuen