Five Go Mad

Monday 12 July 2010

Q and A with The Stealthy Rabbit's Emily Warren

Emily Warren is a Brighton based illustrator and maker who graduated four years ago from St Martins, London, with an MA in Illustration. Emily had a love of drawing and making from an early age, and as The Stealthy Rabbit her paper mache animal heads are in great demand. Emily talks to FiveGoMad about how she started out and why she decided to link up with FiveGoMad. 

What is your earliest memory of being creative?
I remember i had a bit of a thing for drawing on walls. I also like to think that i was exploring my artistic nature when i discovered a  fascination for peeling off wallpaper and the thrill snipping with scissors (fringe, curtains, cat whiskers) I'm pretty sure my Mum didn't see it that way though!

Who was the first illustrator/artist you discovered that inspired you?
When i was little, Quentin Blake. The enormous crocodile pretending to be a see saw still makes me laugh. At college i discovered Joseph Cornell, his use of just found objects was a revelation to me. Later i fell in love with the playfulness of Alexander Calder's Circus. 

I became interested in Outsider Art and discovered African Artist Sibusiso Mbhele, particularly important during my MA. He made planes from scrap metal and had never flown or seen one up close. It's the love and passion that drives people to create with whatever materials available, and often against great odds which became my inspiration.

How did you start out?
I studied Illustration at the University of Plymouth, I had an amazing tutor who seriously encouraged my passion for making silly things. I then struggled through an Illustration MA at Central St Martins.  

I started making Paper Mache animal heads properly almost by accident. The first one was a rather chunky looking deer I made during the time of my MA, I never showed it to my tutors and kept it myself. My boss was looking for a present for her husband for their paper wedding anniversary and thought the deer would be perfect. I was reluctant to let it go but agreed to sell it, I needed the money. It hung in the shop behind the counter while they decided where to put it at home. It was nearly Christmas and i started getting orders. I haven't stopped since then.

How would you describe your work to those unfamiliar with it?
Humorous and bizarre, sweet and strange. Hand painted Paper Mache heads and drawings. 

What is your favourite medium to work with?
Cardboard and a glue gun. I also like working with a whole mixture of mediums all at once. My desk is usually a mess of ink, watercolour, gouache, pencils, pens, collage. Everything really! 
Are you a big animal lover?
I suppose i am. I've always drawn animals doing funny things, they seem to have an easy comic potential. They are also endlessly fascinating and beautiful. I have a cat called Pepe, he is a giant of the cat world and i love him.

What are you currently working on?
A few commissions, a giant hand and a Gnu.

Who is your favourite illustrator/artist now? 
That's a hard question. Probably Hockney, or Grayson Perry or Picasso. The usual suspects I know, I really love that they all use drawing as a foundation for their work, they joyfully experiment with so many different mediums and crafts. I recently saw some of Hockney's photoshop portraits and they were just amazing. He is always curious and still experimenting and that's what keeps work fresh. 

What would be your dream commission?
I would love to go to Japan. An exhibition in Japan....or New York.
Why did you decide to link up with Five Go Mad?
Well they approached me and i instantly liked the design of the website. It's such a good idea to have a one stop shop for new and different British design. 

"Quintessentially British" what does that mean to you?
Ice cream in the rain and a cream tea on the hottest day of the year. Net curtains, green hills, charity shops, The Pub, The Queen, Queen, Little chef, Fawlty Towers and saying sorry all the time. I could go on!

What does the future hold for Stealthy Rabbit?
A proper website, more work and hopefully, one day, a holiday! 

Liz Appleby 


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