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  • Georgia Marianne

Issy Dixon: sculptor, embroiderer and hairdresser

Issy and I sat down to talk about the process of applying to Central St. Martin's and what it was like studying there,.

If you prefer to listen to this interview, press play here.

If you prefer to watch the conversation, it is available on IGTV here.



Georgia

So you went to art school? Why? Where did it start?


Issy

When I was six or seven, my grandparents took me to the Portrait Gallery. I was stood in front of this picture of a horse for like 20 minutes, just being really happy to be looking at this painting.


I've always been in a household where we've been creative, so I think it was kind of just inevitable. It was just going to happen, no matter how hard I tried to be academic. As the years went on I realised: "art my thing. I don't care what happens, I'm just gonna do art and just follow what I love”.


Georgia

How did you decide that you were going to go to art school?


Issy

I went to a very academic A-level college where I had no support in applying to the arts. I was thinking about applying to Spanish, then realised: "that's not what I want”.

I realised after talking to an art tutor, that I needed to take a foundation degree to give me an extra year to develop my practice. So I applied to colleges until I found one that was my vibe, and then had some brilliant tutors who helped me build a portfolio to present myself to a university. I went into those interviews saying: "This is what I do. This is what I enjoy. How are you going to help me and develop me?"

I had an interview at Central St. Martin's in London, and it felt like they take you because of your practice, because you already are doing something you enjoy, and that they can help you develop into a better artist.

In my Goldsmith's interview on the other hand, I felt a very different vibe. It was standoffish, they didn't ask questions. So I picked CSM, because I had an engaging conversation with the person that interviewed me about my work.

Georgia

And which courses were you applying to?

Issy

Fine art courses fitted my practice the best, because I had the options of time based media like performance, video, sculpture, things like that.

Georgia

What was it like when you got there


Issy

By the end of my foundation, I had developed a sculptural based practice, so was put in a group called 3D. The nice thing was that all of our art concerned space, and how an audience would move in space and interact with the work. But you didn't have to make sculpture, you could be making videos, you could be doing performance, you could be doing paintings.


Georgia

So you were happy with the course content?

Issy

Yes, I felt like I could just do whatever I wanted, with regular critiques, and exploratory sessions with artists and our tutors. It was very much combination of crits with your group, mixing with the other pathways as well, like 2d and 3d and 4d, having group shows together, having open studios, there was so much going on.

My work has always developed from something previous. So even my work now is still developed from the first ever performance I did in the first studio, and the critiques I got back from that. The critique allowed me to just pull on those threads. Having constant feedback was so great for my development,


Georgia

So like for anyone that hasn't seen your work, what do you mean when you say children?


Issy

They were these giant deformed masses, made out of repurposed fabric and clothes. And the funny thing is, my partner's a therapist and after talking to him over the years about my work, I realised that I made these children because I felt like there was an element of care that I didn't get in my childhood and I wanted to explore that and recreate that. I was like a parent creating them and exploring that relationship of making these inanimate objects and them having a personality. I then realised that the work was finished - and I decided to hold a funeral. This piece had been growing and changing and evolving in the studio for months, and then we held this open studio and she had a funeral and people were genuinely upset. It was the strangest experience that they'd seen me having this maternal relationship with this object, which was kind of Frankenstein-like, in a way because I was cutting her up and sewing her back up together. I probably had needed some therapy to go through some stuff, but it is amazing how the art and the years of university allowed me to kind of explore myself. I now reflect back and I think: "oh, okay, that's why I was making that"


Georgia

So that it's safe to say then that your experience kind of course, content wise, and actually making the work was exactly what you needed.

Issy

I would not change it for the world. I'm in so much debt, but worth it 100%, I would not have gone any other path.

Georgia

As far as kind of preparing you for what was next and letting you explore as a person outside of your work, how, how was that experience?


Issy

You know, when you're at University, there's a lot of drinking involved. I don't remember half of London - but I had a great time. It was a great time to be away from home, be away from people I didn't know but also have great friends like you and like, my sister, and everyone still come up and visit. I explored my fashion, my sexuality, who I am as a person, what I like doing, where I like going. You know, just random things that completely changed my life.

So it wasn't just the degree in the art, it was exploring and doing stuff.


Georgia

I've had a lot of conversations with people about whether University is worth it. So I'm interested to ask, do you think that you would have had those explorations of the self and be able to go and do all of that, if you hadn't have had that art school structure around your life at that time?

Issy

I don't think I would have been able to build my confidence up that much. You have this place to set up a hub and explore and you don't have to worry about earning money. You knew you had somewhere to live, you were in a city you could explore, and you knew you had something to keep you busy. I think if I went straight into work, I wouldn't be the creative that I am or even the person that I am. Even if you're still not friends with people from uni, they got you through those three years and you've had people to learn from and explore with.


Georgia

How do you think the experience would have been different if you'd have gone and done Spanish?


Issy

I think I would have been bloody bored. I think I would have quit. I'm not even joking. I think I I don't think I would have enjoyed it, because it's not creative.

I think our grandparents and our parents generation, there's still an element of you need to settle down, have a good job and have a good career, and do your academic subjects because they're the only way you're going to get a job. I can't fathom the thought of doing Spanish, I don't think that would have worked. I would have been so unhappy.


Georgia

And straight after graduation, what happened?

Issy

My expectation was that: "I'm going to move back to London, and I'm going to be an artist."


I didn't have a studio space anymore, I couldn't afford to live in London. So I was like, Hi, Mom. I'm moving back in. I was like, Well, how am I supposed to be an artist and earn money? So it's been a journey, I felt like I was not prepared for it at all. I was just completely left in the dark.

Georgia

Where do you think that expectation came from?


Issy

From myself - I wanted to be like a true artist, but then I was given no preparation.


I feel like we weren't prepared for how you become a professional artist. You'd have always come in and give talks, but they didn't really say like, how they left art school and what they did next. As the degree show neared, I realised, I don't think this is gonna happen for me. So instead I thought, right, I'm going to make the art I want. I am going to express who I am in my art and what I enjoy, and I'm going to get a day job to pay the bills.


Georgia

So where are you now that you said you got a day job? And you wanted to do the art on the side? So how did that develop?


Issy

Luckily I knew someone that was working in a salon in Winchester, and towards the end of the degree, I was kind of thinking, why don't I see if I can train as a hairdresser as well. So I thought, right, well, I'll move home. I'll think about it and see how I feel. So I went to a salon where my friend worked to see what they're looking for, and they said it's will be be two years if you want to do the apprenticeship. My thinking was: "Well, if you're paying for my education, I'll take the apprenticeship". I don't mind being on a rubbish wage, to learn something. And I think I'm very lucky that hairdressing is such a creative job anyway. I'm content and I'm happy, and I'm hoping later in life I will have more balance between art and hairdressing.

Georgia

And there's so much sculpture in hairdressing.


Issy

I feel like with cutting especially, my brain was just like, I get this it's great. Even in colour, I got it straight away, I just needed to learn the letters and the numbers. My art background helped me so much with this, but also my art was created through caring. So whether that was caring for the sculptures, or caring for the plants that were growing around my sculptures, it was very much like I was taking care of something. In hairdressing, I'm talking people every day, I've got to understand what they want, but also what I can do for them to make them look and feel the best they can.


The main thing I have noticed through the progression is that you're never going to stop learning.

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