Angela Carter is the artist behind Mermaid’s Purse. Before completing a BFA at Whitecliffe College in 2005 and in another life Angela worked as a Mac Operator, rediscovering a tradition of making that started as a girl while completing her degree. Coming from a family of women who make things, she used to make dolls clothes and miniature soft toys and was taught to knit as a little one.
After becoming a mother in 2008 and not wanting to put baby Luna into daycare, making things and getting work out there to sell took on a bigger priority, and is slowing moving forward.
What do you make?
Anything I feel like… strange crochet creatures, felt cupcake pincushions, animals, softies, starfish, needle wallets, fake foods…
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I have this old crochet hook that was my nanna’s, it’s one of those long ones with a smooth wooden handle, I’ve had a couple of panicked moments when I’ve thought I’ve lost if forever as it’s just my favourite tool and is usually in my handbag. I also have a lovely pair of Solingen fabric scissors that were my mother’s and good stash of knitting and sewing needles and all the other things you need to craft with.
At the moment I’m loving working with felt, it’s quick and easy to use and as I have little time it’s great not having to overlock the edges! I’ve also been known to cut up a pair of my favourite boots when I can’t face the thought of throwing them out… it’s really fun to give new life to older fabrics and I really enjoy up-cycling vintage material. I have also done a lot of work with plastics from supermarket bags, I wove an entire garment from converted New World supermarket shopping bags and it was in Trash to Fashion a couple of years ago.
My process for making is very fluid, it starts with an idea and then I just make it! I usually create my own patterns, although most often my work is freestyle and so each piece is a one off. Sometimes I do get a bit obsessed, I recently calculated I have made almost 100 cupcake pincushions…
What inspires you?
I tend to draw ideas from things around me and my day to day activities… the cupcake pincushions came from my new motherhood experiences, suddenly life was VERY domestic, but fun, and I was baking loads of cupcakes to take to mummy and baby get togethers. One day I just decided to make some from felt.
Many of my other creations come from my obsession with marine animals and weird deep sea creatures. Like most kids born here I grew up at the beach and I was always fascinated with echinoderms (sea urchins, starfish etc.) they are such amazing animals! So geometric in structure and super mean killer predators!
From an entirely different perspective, I LOVE old school Science Fiction, like Star Trek TOS, and dinomation films, it’s the obviously handmade look some of the sets and creatures have as well as the raw nature of the ideas. Imaginary and other worlds are so inspiring and fun.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I like to make things that are fun and that I enjoy myself, but on a deeper level I’m really worried about how we humans are damaging our planet and I like to create things that hopefully make people think, if not about their actions and making more sustainable choices, then at least about the bizarre and beautiful creatures that we are fortunate to share our world with.
Describe your workspace:
At the moment my workspace is very mobile.. I have my sewing box that is safe in the cupboard and emerges in the evenings and when my nearly one and half year old daughter has a nap during the day. I have all my essentials in it and I mostly work at my table or on the floor on a sunny day.
Five words that describe your mind: Busy, fun, obsessive, confusing, creative…
What are you currently listening to?
Just now, the wire on 95bfm, but on the record player I have Henry Mancini Award-winning Hits Volume 2.
Recommend an album: Oxygene by Jean Michel Jarre.
Your favourite childhood book? The Lorax by Dr Seuss.
What are you reading now?
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Stitch ‘n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker and the latest edition of Organic NZ.
Your hero/heroine: Probably Mr Spock, so calm and dependable – and brainy!
A favourite quote:
“It’s better to be a first rate version of yourself than a second rate version of someone else”
Do you have any pets?
Yes! Austin the Mad Cat, he’s a lovely red point Siamese who was given to me as a wee kitten 10 years ago.
If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? Purple.
You can see Mermaid’s Purse at Kraftbomb in Grey Lynn, Auckland every last Sunday of the month and at Wellington Creatives screening of “Handmade Nation” at the Academy Cinema on August 4th. You can also visit the Mermaid’s Purse blog at http://mermaidspurse.org.nz/
NB. A mermaid’s purse is actually the egg case from a shark, skate or a ray, they sometimes wash up in the seaweed and other flotsam found at beaches.