My initial inspiration for this project was the large archive of photographs in the collection. them are black and white and show British plastic factories and workers of the 1960’s and 70’s which was a time when there was a massive increase in demand for plastic items. It amazed me how this microcosm of society was captured in such , and what drew my attention the most was the people that worked in these factories, their hairstyles, their choice of clothing - the people behind the plastics.
|Photograph by BXL.|
At the same time I was being inspired by the objects in the museum, and I was immediately drawn to the items that had partial transparency or translucency, an interest that I have had since childhood: a curiosity of how things worked. This began my interest in layering in my work.
|Translucent Clockwork Alarm Clock.|
I wanted to combine my two interests: the archive photographs, transparency and layering. So, I stared to cut into photograph print outs and made watercolour patterns behind them which were inspired by objects. The pattern behind the piece below was inspired by the cogs I had seen inside the transparent clock above.
|Dip-coating Polyethylene – BXL (photograph) cut out with watercolour painting behind.|
I wanted to use my watercolour paintings to draw attention to the workers, and to express the excitement about plastic that was happening in the time period. These plastic factories were churning out objects that were giving people joy.
I continued to experiment with paper cutting and watercolour, and cut out different subjects to see how that would affect the feel of the piece:
Abbey Lane: Cascelloid Leicester site – BXL (photograph) cut out with watercolour painting behind.
|Aycliffe: remote control – BXL (photograph) cut out with watercolour painting behind.|
When I made the rubber duck I realised that the use of children’s toys in my work really conveyed the feeling that I wanted. In these factories they were creating items that were exciting and fuelled the imagination for children. Most of us will have had plastic toys when we were children, so I think it’s easy for my work to relate to everyone.
I was still thinking about transparency, and so I experimented with printing the photographs on tracing paper. I also wanted to make my pieces less flat, so I began using foam pads for some of the objects in my patterns.
|factory: bulk wrapping on lorry – BXL (photograph) on tracing paper. Cut out with watercolour painting behind with foam pads.|
I still felt that it could be more 3D, so that it would make more of an impact on the viewer. I was inspired by paper theatres and paper cut greeting cards when I made my final pieces for this project:
|Piece no.1, Lego. Multiple archive photographs cut up with watercolour painted pieces on frames inside paper surrounding.|
|All three pieces together. Lego, Super Octons and alphabet building blocks.|
Each one of the three contains watercolour objects that are construction toys that are in the archive. I wanted there to be a theme such as construction between the three so that they are all linked, and I used yellow in all three for the same reason. I think that the depth of the work really brings it to life as it becomes its own world, and the viewer can look at them from different angles to access more of the images/paintings. It’s immersive and frantic looking, which is exactly what I was going for!
I am very excited to see my work on display and I am very thankful to the team who gave me this opportunity.
Ellie Jones - MA Illustration