International artist-silversmith Elizabeth Peers draws the inspiration for her unique, feminine pieces from the human form. She is often drawn to unusual markings and characteristics and is captured by the playfulness of the curves, crevices or creases that delineate our bodies. Elizabeth uses casting, chasing and free-form raising techniques to produce these folds, bulges and undulations that are iconic of her work.
Her most recent work has incorporate studies of scaring and disfigurement and their social ramifications. She states, “it is a powerful topic; one that provokes questions relating to human nature and social norms, and challenges ideas about morals, gender and cosmetic aesthetics.
I’m fascinated by what makes us the individuals that we are. Whether this is by looks, distinctive characteristics or our personas.
I’m also drawn to why we see or perceive things as they are and if this is on a point blank level or the intricate details. I love how if you change one single line on a piece of art it is often seen in a totally different light. The importance of each line is paramount to how the piece is perceived and how the artist controls how the view is drawn in, around and out of a the work. This has always intrigued me. It was one of the reasons I loved life drawing at school so much. Altering lines one could really play with how things were recorded and remembered.
1 – The human figure
I’ve always found a direct source to this interest in identity in our physical bodies. I’ve always been drawn to the human figure and in particular the female body. When I get the chance I love to go to life drawing. I’m interested in the challenge that perspective and proportion gives us. I often manipulate and play with these in my drawings. Even at school I was playing with the forms that I saw and altering the curves and playing with exaggeration.
There is something about life drawing that draws me in and relaxes me. It takes me to that space in my mind that allows me to be creative – the quiet room, the concentration it takes, the absorption; it’s all very calming. I’ve done classes in some strange places, including above a pub, yet, no matter where you are, after a short while you forget where you are, it takes you out of the situation and places you somewhere you can really analyse and observe and begin to visualise the initial stages of work.
2 – Character
I’ve always been excited by cartoons, I think stemming from Disney…and the world surrounding Fantasia a favourite film of mine. That and Winnie the Pooh.
3 – Classical music and dance
Although I love to work to up beat music and I can usually be found hammering away and tapping my foot to the blues, a favourite being Tommy Tucker’s High Healed Sneakers or Gene Vincent’s Suzie Q. I quite often listen to classical music, it helps to take my imagination somewhere. Some of my first love for art came from classical music. I remember in primary school one day, the teacher asked us to close our eyes and listen to the music. We had to then draw whatever images had been conjured up in our minds. I still sometimes use a similar technique in my design process. There is something about the film Fantasia that sums this imagination up for me. It takes me to my childhood and the characters I find within music. This and other Disney films have inspired some of the characters of my work.
When I was working on the piece inspired by the Gilbert Collection, it was ‘Beauty and the Beast’ that I found myself drawing parallels to. I saw these pieces of silver tableware come alive and walk at me across the table, just as Chip (the little tea cup) or Madame Armoire (the wardrobe) would do. I gave my piece Bert, this character and energy I hope.
(My Grandad – who was also always known as ‘Pooh Bear’) quirky and soft hearted. He was a joker and saw the best in everything. He used to call me fiddler. I wish I had known him better because I’m sure his imagination would have taken me to new places with my work. I’m sure he is the reason I name all my work. His family have a tradition of this and he would tell me stories of ‘Tiny Tatters’ (a rather shabby rug), ‘Rudbeccia’ (a long broom), Daisy (of course, the small broom) and Hector (a sit-up-straight bicycle).
4 – Oddities and Personality in the inanimate (Inanimate to Animate)
I love things that don’t quite fit, that are about to fall, that are chipped or damaged. They look used and loved. It’s the unusual characteristics that I am drawn to.
I’ve always loved being up high and seeing the higgledy-piggledy rooftops. What grabs me are the falling tiles, the wonky chimneys, the leaning church spires. Looking across a mysterious cityscape of unknown worlds and seeing elements of moments past. It all tells a story. It’s history in the present. All of these objects have been given life and movement.
I love things that are wonky and bent, things that don’t quite stand. Perhaps it’s that cartoon aspect. That teetering gives them a character and life of it’s own and that’s the thing that makes me tick. Objects or inanimate vessels that have a personality, essentially that’s what I want to make. Some times this has a more serious undertone to it and other times it’s just that bit more playful.
5 – James Partridge
There has been another person that has influenced me in my life. They have come and gone but I recently I haven noticed this unconscious repetition of his work come and in and out, back and forth, in my life. This is James Partridge. He is a friend of my father’s and when he was 18 he was severely burned. This changed the direction of his life. He has set up a charity called Changing Faces which has led me on to work inspired by scarring and disfigurement.
A merge of thoughts and past experiences and conversations with James have stemmed my ideas behind my work looking at scarring and disfigurement. I wanted to give my silverware more meaning. I’ve always been interested in identity and this subject provokes some very interesting questions surrounding this topic, as well as stereotyping and social norms. What could I do to help in the fight for facial equality? Why is it that James and others like him are pointed at, stared at or even shouted at. Why are children, and adults, bullied for looking noticeably different from their peers? Are these differences as ugly, scary or as nasty as we are brought up to believe? Especially in cartoons, think of who the villains/tyrants classically are and how they are depicted? (Scar in the Lion King, The Beast in Beauty and the Beast, Quasimodo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the film Scarface, Frankenstein….) Could I merge the two ideas in a juxtaposition and change peoples views to what they see? Or at least could I experiment with and expose the beauty in these so-called ‘ugly and grotesque markings’, which I find so fascinating.
You can see more of Elizabeth’s work on her website. Read more about her most recent exhibition for the Crafts Councils COLLECT 2012 here. And if you still want more you can browse our sculpture category on Folksy.