Zoe Williams' sculptures are quite unlike anything you've ever seen. Her sculptures feature soft-looking, intricately detailed animals, both real and imaginary. Williams' work comes in shades of white and delicate pastel pinks, and seem like relics from a strange and faraway land. They look almost real, especially the ones whose disembodied heads spring from gilt frames like strangely conscious hunting trophies. The New York-based artist draws upon "dreams, mythology, and nature" to create her pieces. She was also kind enough to answer a few questions about her work.
Romulus and Remus
Williams creates her creatures using a process called needle felting, where felt fibers are tangled together into three-dimensional forms with a single needle. "I got into needle felt almost by accident," she tells us. "I've always been interested in recontextualizing 'craft' materials in my artwork, which is what I think first attracted me to felt, however I quickly discovered that it is an interesting and versatile material in its own right."
ViralNova: Can you give us a quick rundown of how these are made, what materials you use, and how long a typical project takes? Do you make the frames and other accessory pieces, or are those found objects?
Zoe Williams: My sculptures are needle-felted wool. There is no armature inside; each piece is sculpted entirely by hand with layer upon layer of fiber. If it's a wall-hanging piece, I start with the frame and build the piece from there (the frames are mainly found/vintage). I also sculpt some parts (like claws, horns, noses, etc.) with polymer and/or epoxy clays. An average-size piece typically takes about a month to make, although it could be more for something large or complex, less for something small."
One For Sorrow
VN: I notice your use of color is very minimal. Is there a reason for this beyond the aesthetic?
ZW: There is something otherworldly, sacred, and powerful about the color white. It's simultaneously the color of purity and the color of death. I can't possibly describe it better than Melville did in Moby Dick (one of my all-time favorite books), but to me it signifies the ineffable, something beyond man and nature.
Into The Abyss III
Into The Abyss III
VN: I feel like a lot of interpretations can be pulled from these pieces outside of just cute/creepy. Some look like taxidermy specimens, while others look like representations of living creatures. There seems to be a meeting of life and death and animals as companions vs. specimens or trophies. Is that accurate?
ZW: I am happy for people to draw their own conclusions, but I like to think of them as spirit guides. Cuteness is an important part of it, too. It makes my creatures approachable despite the "otherness" that makes them a little unsettling. There is so much that we don't know. It's like finding out your pet is from another planet where he is worshiped as a god.
You can find more of Williams' work on her website, where you can also keep up with her latest projects via her blog. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and check out her photos on Flickr. If you're in the San Francisco area, you can see Hydra live at the Modern Eden Gallery's Platinum Blend show.