Rebecca Hoy, aka Timid Elk, is a designer and maker based in Leeds, West Yorkshire.
Like so many people, Rebecca Hoy left university not knowing what to do next. Having studied Design Crafts at De Montfort University, she had specialised in ceramics but realised that, while she loved mixing up glazes she didn't have "quite the same passion for making the form for the glaze to go on to.” So she became a 9 to 5'er, and went to an office everyday for two years before a creative itch became, well too itchy to ignore. Snapping up the first studio that became available near her home, Hoy moved in with no furniture, no materials, and no ideas. Spending days pouring over “every sketchbook I’ve ever worked on”, she eventually pinpointed two recurring themes in her work, repetition and paper; themes which still inform her craft to this day. We sat down with her to find out more.
what is your design background?
I studied Design Crafts at De Montfort University in Leicester. It was a great experience as I was inducted into every kind of craft imaginable, including things like glass blowing and etching. I specialised in ceramics because I really loved the technical side of it; mixing up glazes and watching them come to life after a firing was just incredible. However, I found I didn’t have quite the same passion for making the form for the glaze to go on to.
After university, I was unsure about what to do next. The only thing I did know was that ceramics wasn’t for me so I ended up getting a 9 - 5 job and went to an office every day for two years. I realised pretty quickly that it just wasn’t enough for me so as soon as I saw a studio available, which was pretty close to where I lived, I just snapped it up.
I had absolutely no furniture and no materials, so I bought a desk and a big, old squishy chair and took every sketchbook I’d ever worked in, into the studio. For days I poured over them, revisiting ideas that never came to fruition and in a way revising who I was. It became apparent that two recurring themes throughout my work were repetition and paper. I’d always been so fond of making paper *maquettes and found it disappointing how they were just disregarded in favour of the final piece. The repetition element had been something that interested me for a long time. I’m really drawn to the idea that one element on its own is powerless, but a mass of elements can be imposing and impressive, and you can create something grandiose.
*a maquette is a mock up of a final piece of work, usually made to test out the form before using a more expensive primary medium, such as porcelain
what do you love most about your craft?
My work is considered and meticulous but also has a spontaneity about it. I know that sounds like a contradiction but what I mean is that each individual element is planned. For example, I know I will be creating pyramids from train tickets, but the form itself is usually quite organic. I try to let the material sit in a way that is comfortable for it.
I also feel like my work runs down two different paths. I love producing large scale installation pieces but then I also really enjoy applying the techniques for these pieces into something more accessible, such as a table lamp or a vessel. I hope that these more commercial pieces act as a gateway into the larger world of art. They certainly aren’t your run of the mill homeware items!
ASIDE FROM PAPER WHAT OTHER MATERIALS do you use?
I also use latex when producing vessels which I fashion using paper moulds. I find using a material such as latex allows a greater versatility for the object. Rather than it being simply an artistic object, which can alienate some people, it can be used as a vase or a desk tidy. They’re also pet and child proof so if it gets knocked over it will just bounce. In the future, I’d like to produce some pieces with wax but I’m just getting round to working on the logistics of that.
You use materials that are discarded and obsolete. did this come about by chance or was it a conscious decision?
It was absolutely a conscious decision. I needed to produce work which meant something to me. I’m really interested in the idea of covertly connecting people. I found the best way to do this was to use discarded items as each one had previously touched somebody's life. Hundreds of people will be involved in one of my lamps, their journeys will sit next to each other, they will be connected and they will never know. I feel compelled to transform these mementos of journeys long since forgotten into something beautiful, which people will take into their homes and cherish. I get such a thrill out of thinking that people can derive pleasure from items which are such a commodity. I think my products can help people to look at things in a different way, which is never a bad thing!
What does your creative process look like?
For me, the best way to work is just to start making. I could spend hours planning a piece and then when it comes to making, the paper might not be happy with what I’m trying to do with it. I have hundreds of maquettes which inform my practice but aside from that I tend to be a ‘just go for it’ maker.
I often find I work on more than one piece at the same time. As my work often deals with repetition, it’s great to be able to break away and work on something different for a while. I document the making of each piece thoroughly. For me, that's a really important element (and something I never did at university). It allows me to revisit ideas and tweak them slightly instead of having to start a piece from scratch.
What are you currently interested in and how is it feeding into your work?
Repetition is something which has a really strong hold over my work at the minute. I’m so attracted to the idea of taking a single insignificant element and producing hundreds of them. The only way that element can gain some impact is by being accompanied by similar pieces. It’s just a really attractive concept and is something that has been with me for a long time.
how do you think your surroundings and/or local community affect your work?
I’m a very recent resident of Aire Place Studios and of Leeds, so I’m still finding my feet. I spent a few years in a studio in Wakefield, where I developed my branding and worked on a few products, but I feel Leeds will really open some doors for me. I’m looking to exhibit and I’ve got my eye on a few gallery spaces, which I think would really compliment my creative outcomes. I’m beginning to scale up my work, focusing more on installation pieces rather than products. I’d love to create a really immersive space, something which leaves the viewer with a sense of disconcertion, pushing repetition so far it becomes menacing and imposing. This is more of a long term goal as I still have a lot of experimentation to do before I’d feel comfortable embarking on such a venture.
Which paper artists do you particularly admire?
I don’t know if there are any particular paper artists I admire but I’m definitely a fan of mixed media. I will always remember seeing a Joseph Beuys felt suit in Paris one year. I was so taken by the scale of the piece; photographs just can’t convey the imposing nature these suits have. Looking back, it was probably one of the defining moments which shaped my style of work.
What does success look like to you?
I don’t have any particular milestones I feel I need to hit to consider myself successful. For me my art is how I express myself. I’m a pretty quiet person so it’s a way for me to let the world know who I am and what I’m feeling. I don’t really have business goals as I feel it would constrict my creativity. I’ve known so many people who are driven by money and they totally lose focus on who they are. I guess I always want to be true to myself and keep my integrity - for me that would be a success.
Which women do you admire and why?
This is going to sound like such a cliche but I admire my mum. She is one of the most determined people I know, which is something that was instilled into me from childhood. When I started Timid Elk, I was working 5 days a week and had a second job in a gallery, so "weekend" was not in my vocabulary. I was getting to the studio at about 6pm to be creative and produce work. It’s so difficult to get in the right frame of mind but I knew I had to or I wouldn’t progress.
I guess I just admire women who push themselves, who aren’t content to just exist. Not just in the context of being an artist or starting a business. I’m taking about all women, like those who become mothers and are so passionate and creative and give it their all each day. I truly admire people who realise their time in this world is finite but love every minute of it
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Untitled Table Lamp
Untitled Table Lamp #2
Latex Vessel Form #1