Angela Malone: Like Getting Dressed In The Morning

Angela Malone: Like Getting Dressed In The Morning

Kyle: Please, introduce yourself!

Angela: Well, I'm Angela Malone. I’m a more mature artist. I've been doing this quite long time, but I can only tell you that it has always been what I was going to do, ever since I was a small child. I won Cadbury's Art Prizes when I was at Junior School, and one of the prizes I chose was a book about being an artist, written by an artist. When I got the book I thought "oh my God, I could actually do that for my life". I was a single mom for a number of years and I bought my children up and dragged them around everywhere that I went; museums and even life drawing classes rather than leaving them with childminders. My daughter has now grown up to be an artist.

 

Kyle: How would you describe your work?

Angela: I do cover lots of different disciplines. I draw, drawing is the basis of everything that I do. If I hit a problem I want to sort it out, I draw. If I'm out usually I'll have a sketchbook with me, I draw all the time. So, drawing is the basis of everything.

Apart from that, I paint a lot. My speciality is watercolor, and then I also have a kiln, I make hand built ceramics and sculptures. I also stone carve, which I would love to have more time for, but I've got chunks of stone all over the garden waiting for the day i've got the time to carve!

Painting of tulips angela Malone 

Watercolour Tulips

 

How do those things sort of come together, what is that point of inspiration for you?

And how do you decide what to create and which medium?

I always liken it to getting dressed in the morning, which sounds probably a bit mad. But there we go! I think some days when you get up and it's cold you're a bit tired, you wear something really slouchy, comfortable and familiar, and then another day you might get up and it's bright sunshine, and you want to run down the beach in your budgie-smugglers! You make that choice according to what you're exposed to at that time. If it's a brilliant day, and it's bright and sunny, and I go around the corner shop and I see a flower growing, I might rush back to paint it. Or I could walk along and see a lump of stone and think “Oh, God, I've got to do stone carving again”. Nothing I do is a foregone conclusion, or predestined, usually it's what I feel like, which sounds like I'm really really spoiled, but I just have to choose them as they strike me. Sometimes It's a colour a word, or a part of a conversation that sparks my imagination.

 A friend of mine was suffering with Alzheimer's, and I watched a television program about antiques and they spoke of a thing called and a memory jug which I had never heard of. But I thought “Oh, a memory jug, she's suffering with Alzheimer's…”, and I put those things together, and I made a memory jug for her as part of my MA work.

 

Ceramic Jug with a human form 

Ann's Memory Jug

 

When stone carving does it tell you what it wants to be? Or do you see the stone and think of something you want to make?

Somebody gave me a piece of stone with little red streaks in it, and when I looked at it, I saw a shoal of fish… It’s still in my bathroom I haven't got round to doing it yet, but every time I see it, I see a shoal of fish. So when I do carve it, I will make that.

But I've also been working traditionally with ancient stone out of old buildings, for example, Canterbury Cathedral, the stone from there sometimes comes out of things like window frames and it's already a shape so that's what you have to work with. Another thing Is that when you carve them, if they're very old stones, they just crumble and you can't do anything about it. So you have to sort of bash the stone around a bit to be sure that what's left is sound and then you can see what it will allow you to carve.

 

A piece of soapstone with red lines and flecks 

Uncarved: Shoal of fish on a riverbed. 

 

Please can you describe the time earlier on in your artistic career?

Yes, before I was a Mum, I was always entering art competitions and different things.

But then I became a single parent for around 12 years. I found that I could only make my work when I was sure the children weren't going to disturb me, which was late at night or early hours of the morning. I actually remember one of my next door neighbours come out to me, one day and said “I'm a milkman, and when I go out in the morning at 4 o'clock, your light is always on. Are you actually up at that time of the night?” And I said, “It’s the only time I can paint. Yes, I am.”

The “art pull” is so strong you have to do it, and that's why I dragged my poor daughter and son to my events, with me, because I just needed to keep doing it. And they came along as part of my journey.

 

How do you think that time shaped you as an artist?

Well, I think it occurred to me that I just had to do it, You know. It was always a kind of an ambition or a dream, to be an artist. I never stopped trying to get there, no matter what. I entered some things, and won some prizes. But then I was so wiped out as a single parent, It was very tiring.
My daughter had a lot of medical issues in the beginning, it was very complicated. I couldn't find out what was wrong with her, and I couldn't find any other safe place for me, only art. I knew then, that the only thing that kept me sane and got me through life, was art. I think is a lot of people respond to art in the same way. Creativity is so good for your soul, I knew I couldn't live without it and so I had to do whatever had to be done to maintain it.

Somebody said to me recently. “Oh, I bet you can't wait to retire... because you're always so busy!” … and I said, “What do you mean retire? Don't be ridiculous. It'd be like giving up breathing!”

 

Now your daughter Steffany is older, I've seen that you work with her on projects while still working as artists in your own right.  Could you talk a little bit to that process, and what that means to you personally as well?

It’s a shame she's not here, really, because she has different memories of her childhood than what I do. We recently did an interview where we spoke about our own practices, and she said she can remember lying on the floor underneath a pane of glass as I painted autumn leaves across it.

I lived in a little Council house, and I couldn't stand the white plastic windows they put in so I bought sheet of glass and painted stuff over the top, and she was underneath it, watching me paint and looking at all the colours. I can't remember her lying underneath it. But she did. (You had to crawl underneath it to get to the kitchen!).

So we have always been together while I've been making art. We realized that we work together really easily and really well, it's very productive. We've got kind of complementary skills and complementary thought processes.

Any projects we take on together, we discuss and break it down to make sure it’s workable. We spend a long time getting applications correct. I’ll write a version, she’ll correct me, then I correct hers and so it goes on till we’re both happy with it.

We work brilliantly together, but we still both want our own practices. I paint and teach watercolours, because that's my speciality, and she paints portraits in oil onto metal, because that's her speciality. But, we do meet in the middle. We exhibit together as well. Because she's less physically able than I am, she has mobility issues, I'm more able to set up the exhibition physically while she does a lot of the computer things like creating the posters and things like that. So between us, we've got a full skill set pretty much.

Angela at her MA Graduation 

Angela during her MA Graduation ceremony.
 

When it was clear that Steffany was going to become an artist as well, did you want to encourage that for her too?

She won't mind me saying that Steffany suffers with mild cerebral palsy, even the doctors couldn't tell me how this would develop as she got older, and as far as I knew, she might even be wheelchair bound. Her mobility was poor when she was younger, but I noticed that she saw the world in colours (She was very clearly colour based! she would remember things by colour and refer to things as colours), and I thought that this could be a possible career choice for her, so that she could work from home, as I had done when I was bringing her up.  I wasn't sure whether she would be to go out to work for somebody else. With that in mind, I even always encouraged her to take up a career as an artist, because she's naturally creative.

She's just she's under confident, if anything. And I'm constantly saying to her "You should do that... You must do that... Let's do this..." So we're always looking ahead and planning things together. But half of the reason is because I want to promote her career, so that when I go, (This sounds morbid, But it's true…) I know that she's set up, and she'll always be able to earn a living because she's talented.

 

 I'm sure you've taught Steffany many lessons over the years, whether it's through painting autumn leaves on glass for the Council House window or otherwise. Let's flip that around, what have you learned from working with her?

 

  Well, I've learned a lot from working with her to be honest. Steff has worked in galleries, whereas I have worked in art supply shops. So, she has had more exposure to art fairs and trade fairs. Because of that she has a different customer care approach to me. I've never thought about it too much, I'll just make the work, but she's very concerned with things like presenting the work more professionally and keeping the customer in mind. She's also got a different breadth of knowledge, more modern, more up-to-date sensibilities than me because of her age. She's more in-tune with the market now, and she's aware of market trends. So she'll want to, say, paint reflections, because at the Trade fair everybody was painting reflections, which I’ve never thought of doing before.

 I've learnt to look twice at everything rather than just think “I know how that works”. I question things and consider them more carefully and just try to be more professional. I also try to be as considerate and patient as possible, especially with customers. They appreciate the extra care.

 

 Having Steffany there, particularly when you're working together, you're not just in your own bubble. You've constantly got a reflection to show you the reality of what's happening, and give you that extra voice rather than creating something in isolation for hours and hours and then it’s done.

It's just lovely we’re best friends.

 Angela and Steffany together while holding flowers
Angela and Steffany at Queens of Art joint exhibition.

 

 

I would love to talk to you about your solo practice. You've recently completed your MA, and you did your final piece, Coat of Tiers. Could you please share the story of that?

  Well, I grew up in Margate and it felt like nobody in Margate was artistic! My mum used to say to people “She's Arty, ignore her and her weird trousers”. I always thought i'll have to travel up to London for the rest of my life just to get my creative fix; but luckily for me, the art world has come to Margate! Tracey Emin has been marvelous for this area. She's such a great ambassador, whether you like her work or not. Everything's happening in Margate now!

  One of the things that happened was the opening a new Art School, you already had the Glasgow school but now we have the Margate school! The Margate school, though, is a European school, and they run a European MA course. The very first year they ran it they advertised to say that they were offering some free places and I thought “well, I'll try for that”. So I did, and luckily they offered me a place!

  I started in the October and we went out for our first trip together as students in February. But, by the beginning of March the whole place was locked down with Covid, so we couldn't do anything or go anywhere! I had been so delighted to be offered a proper studio space. I hadn’t had a proper studio space outside of the spare bedroom.  So I couldn't believe it when it all crashed and burned! Now I was stuck at home, and I had to learn how to ‘Zoom’! But the worst thing was, I spent my whole time worrying about how on Earth I was going to make a final piece. Because you have to start making after your first year at least, if not before…

  During lockdown, I became really enthralled with all the language around Covid. I couldn't believe words that people were saying, words that I'd never heard before, almost as if we were in War of the Worlds or something. I found myself filling loads of little notebooks with things that were being said, also sketching the people on the television, their worried expressions on their faces, and things like that. Then I began writing those words around the drawings of faces, connecting the spoken word with the emotional responses and all the while I was thinking, how can I make anything out of that?

 

A ceramic tile with text "All shops selling non-essential goods are closed"

Tile 31

 

I remembered the last place that we went to as students, which was the Turner Contemporary, to an exhibition of American quilts. Some of the quilts were from the time of slavery, and they were so absolutely threadbare. They were very, very stained, falling into pieces, very touching. I was reading the stories behind them, and I was really touched by the pathos of them. So, I thought, I want to make something like a quilt. I’m a needlewoman so I should be able to make something like that, something that tells an emotive story.

I worried that a fabric quilt might be a bit predictable, so I decided to look for a different material. I’d recently bought loads of samples of clay to try out in my new kiln, so that was the solution. I thought it needed to be something big, unexpected, and challenging otherwise it wouldn’t be impressive enough to get the MA, so I made a coat!

Two ceramic tiles stitched together with thick fabric

Tiles 5 and 8

I had many different types of clay, porcelain, earthenware and stoneware. All these different colours, different types. First, on one side, I pressed things that were around me like cupboard handles, and the remote control, all sorts of different things. On the other side I wrote those quotations from my notebooks, things I was hearing. It slowly became a diary of 2020. I numbered the tiles and stitched them all together with fabric from clothing that I had intended to donate to a charity shop. (During that time you weren't allowed to donate so I had a big bag of old clothes.) I tore up the old clothes, made them into raggedy strips, and knitted the tiles together, creating a ceramic coat. I called it the coat of Tiers, because we were all in lockdown tiers, but also referencing all the tears that were being shed, all the sadness.

  

Coat of Tiers - a large, patchwork, ceramic coat engraved with quotes from Covid.

Coat of Tiers

 

 It's a really beautiful story, and one that all of us went through in our own way. A really bizarre time. Things like Social distancing were new terms and everyone suddenly washing the shopping when you first came through the door, and the toilet roll was all gone!

  It was a time that will imprint on lots of people for different reasons, and actually for me that time marks a period where I was in my house and could work on fragrance where I didn't have the time before because I was out traveling all the time.

  I think particularly artists will have taken something from that time, but for you, I imagine that was disappointment that February you're out doing a trip and then almost everything stopped again!

  It's just the loss of the studio! I was so delighted to get a real studio and to be with other artists, for the first time in my whole life. Then it was gone! For the entire 2 years I didn't go back in again!

 

 But something so beautiful is come out the other side.  

 I never would have made it without that time to be honest. And if you read the writing on it, some of the things on there are astonishing, you know, like the number of body bags. Ludicrous, and tragic things, figures and numbers. I also wrote on each one where I got the information from and the date.

 

Finally, out of your full body of work, are there any pieces that stand out as an all-time favourite that you've completed, and why is that?

 Obviously the Coat of Tiers is quite monumental thing for me.

 Also, there are a couple of things that I can't part with. My partner and I do a lot of historical re-enacting. That's his business, and I support him in it. He gives talks about the Samurai and I usually take clay along with me to model some of the reenactors because they're often so interesting looking!

 One time, this little girl came over to our bonfire late at night in a really grumpy mood, with her arms folded over her dress. She was with the Cowboys and Indians re-enactors and she was wearing a dress that looked like it came from the ‘Little House on the Prairie’. She marched up next to me and started speaking in a very angry Welsh accent about how much somebody had upset her. She was a complete stranger, no idea why she came over to us, but she was so bad-tempered and she looked so cute in her dress, that when I got home I had to make a bust of her. I love it, I love the memory of that and I couldn’t part with it. I see her every day, she’s in my bedroom.

  

Small carved girl with crossed arms

Welsh Lily

 

There’s also my very first stone carving, I can't part with that. That was from a piece of Canterbury Cathedral stone and i've made it into a sculpture that looks a bit like Klimt’s Mermaids. If anybody knows that. It's funny what you keep, isn't it?

 

Carved fish and mermaid in stone 

Liquids - Carved from Canterbury Cathedral stone

 

They both clearly have a lot of connection for you.

 Yes, they do. I've got a lovely drawing of my partner, Bill too. He’s a life model, as well as a Samurai warrior. I really like that. I’m a bit reticent about parting with that but I may do, I’m not decided.  That's where I met him weirdly… I went to a life drawing class for the sake of my sanity, and he was the model, and I fell in love with him.

 

I like how he came third after the little girl and the stone carving!

 Thank you so much for sharing all about your work and the fascinating story and dynamic you have with Steffany as well. How are people best to find you, your work and to keep up to date with what you're doing?

  We actually have a joint website: ohmalones.com

But I have my own Facebook site, which is Angela Malone Artworks.

Then I've also got an instagram account, which is @Sangerland

That’s because Sanger was the man who built Dreamland, which is here on the Margate seafront so I call it Sangerland as a tribute.

 

Fantastic. Thank you very much!

 

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