Meet the Makers - Brendan Fan & Ruth Williams (I Am Acrylic)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Good morning!  Today's meet the maker interview comes from Brendan & Ruth aka I Am Acrylic.  Over to you guys!

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your work? 
Hello! We are I Am Acrylic. AKA Brendan Fan & Ruth Williams. We make hand cut jewellery mostly from acrylic but also using wood, aluminium and embroidery too. We met in 1999 when we were both studying fine art at Winchester School of Art. Back then Ruth was leaving silly messages on Brendan's pager and Brendan was visiting Ruth at the deli counter of Tesco's where she worked. We had little idea then that we would be doing what we are doing today! I Am Acrylic is about 8 years old now. It started when Brendan made Ruth a keyring for her birthday from some acrylic we'd found dumped outside our flat! He used a mechanical fretsaw that Ruth's dad (a retired CDT teacher) had leant us. We still haven't given it back and have used it to this day to cut everything out! 

Apart from creating things what else do you do? 
Brendan: Boggle. 
Ruth: I run a craft group at a St Mungo's homeless hostel so I spend a lot of time on Pinterest and Youtube researching cool projects that we can make in the 2 hour sessions! 
When did you know you were an artist/maker? 
Brendan: 1994 
Ruth:  I haven't looked back since potato printing Christmas cards with my Mum aged about 5! 

What do you love most about working in your chosen discipline? 
Brendan:  I like playing with the fretsaw! It's noisy and dusty but it's great to be able to doodle a design on a bit of scrap paper, cut it out straight away and see if it works! A lot of the templates we still use are the original ones on scraps of paper and card. 
Ruth:  I like trying to work out new ways to use the materials and incorporating new processes and materials alongside the acrylic. Working out how to get some embroidery (my secret passion!) into the designs was a great challenge and one that's still ongoing! 
Where does your inspiration come from? 
Brendan: All over the place really. But my main motivation when making new designs is my ultra-competitiveness! I'll see something that Ruth's designed and think "right, got to make something better than that! 
Ruth: We like to watch Bargain Hunt during our lunch break and there's no end of inspiration here. It's like going to a great car boot sale from the comfort of your own home! Other than that a lot of designs have been inspired by the graphics on the side of lorries. Food for thought on long journeys! Also, museums and galleries are great places to go just to see lots of very varied stuff! 

Describe your studio or workspace? 
Brendan: A tip! 
Ruth: It's homely! I like being surrounded by all our trinkets, keepsakes, books, records, old art school work, my Mum's paintings and old family furniture. We've scavenged a few new desks recently too (amazing what people throw away!) so as well as a work table each, we now have a designated packing table and a permanent home for our mini photo studio too...which is great! 

If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be? Brendan: Vito Acconci. 
Ruth: I'd like to go back to the 1920's and watch Marianne Brandt make her famous teapot in the Bauhaus metal workshop! 

How would you describe your creative process? 
Brendan: I think our production methods dictate how we come up with new ideas. Using the fretsaw to cut every component out by hand (even the little bird's beaks!) does limit how complicated we can make our designs. We are constantly simplifying the shapes which often results with the finished piece having a simple hand drawn quality. 
Ruth: I usually have a completely finished picture in my head of a new design. The challenge then is to try and make it to look even half as good as I have imagined it! So lots of biro sketches, paper cut-outs (good way of making prototypes without wasting materials) proper prototypes and discussions with Brendan happen before settling on a finished design! 

What handmade possession do you most cherish? 
Brendan: Ruth once embroidered a picture of a hamster onto a pair of my pants. They're pretty special! 
Ruth: Probably my Mum's wedding ring that was made by my Dad. It has a simple cut-out daisy motif repeated all around the ring and it's really nicely worn in. 

What do you when you are stuck in a creative rut? 
Brendan: Go for a cycle. 
Ruth: I spend hours brainstorming. It's one of my favourite things to do! If you're into that kind of thing, you should read Victor Papanek's 1970's book 'Design for the Real World' page 171 onwards! best brainstorming technique: Bi-sociation (coined by Papanek) which involves picking random words from the dictionary and 'work shopping' them! hours of fun! 

Where would you like to be in ten years? 
Brendan: Cycling my hover-bike! 
Ruth: Ten years is a long who knows! When we went to Copenhagen last year we were really blown away by all the little shops there that had workshops/studios attached to maybe one day, here in London, that'll be our set up?!

Thank you for a really entertaining interview.  Brendan we'd love to see you boggle!  You can find I Am Acrylic in our Made in Britain shop here in Quakers Friars.

Made in Britain
Quakers Friars
Cabot Circus
Mon - Sat:  10am - 6pm
Sun:  11am - 5pm

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