FRANCESCA J is a UK based Writer, Designer and Art Director.Intentional with an imperfect minimalist aesthetic, Francesca strives for a poetic balance of stillness and fluidity, form and space in her life and work.With a strong interest in the processual and social aspects of creative practices, she has curated exhibitions with The Serpentine Gallery, Rivington Place Gallery and The Other Art Fair amongst others. She is the founder and curator of Fabelist, an online exhibition space for emerging and established artists and writers. Francesca’s critical writing and poetry has been featured in publications in the UK and abroad. Her handmade jewellery is available to commission or by appointment at her Warwickshire studio/workshop.
Could you tell us a bit about your new jewellery line?
Since I was a child I always liked to make things. I was very shy when I was younger with an avid imagination. Along with reading I think that making was a way of constructing a safe little world around me that I could disappear into and express myself. My hands and mind have always been happy when they’ve been crafting. I don’t really make concrete statements about my work, but I guess my jewellery is really about recapturing that private quiet space. The things that come out of that space are very simple but with a little twist– a little gesture that makes them unique. I think by making wearable objects I want to share that space with others– it’s a gift, a way of making a connection. I like the idea of someone giving them a new life.
Your work is quite varied, I understand you write, curate, design and art direct! How do you manage all of these different aspects, what is the creative process like for you?
For a long time I was set on a very academic road. I had a plan and that was to leave Oxford with a first and probably become a lawyer .The thing is that people can be talented at something and get no joy from doing it. I wasn’t happy following a linear path– a bit like the way I talk, my mind is always captivated by tangents and operates in a more fluid, creative fashion– and, I felt very dull and lost. So, I took a gamble and started making my own way in the art world. I realised that what had made me so unhappy was that I wasn’t just one thing– I was many things and I was happiest when I could express myself in different ways. I hadn’t ever ticked one particular box, fitted in with one group of people and as I started to accept that, it was like I discovered a whole new person who had a voice all of her own.
My process is therefore not so much about choices– it’s about interest. I focus on projects that catch my interest and see what parts of myself I can bring to them.
I think I manage because I love working and I always sort of am. I don’t really have hobbies outside of my work apart from yoga and walking. I like visiting new places and meeting new people and, I find that both relaxing and inspiring. I am slowing down a lot though and taking more time for myself.
Is the Fabelist project still going and could you tell us about that?
In 2011 I founded an interdisciplinary arts platform called Fabelist. Through an online blog, monthly meetings and group exhibitions, writers and artists of all disciplines and experience levels, were encouraged to exhibit new work in a nurturing environment that allowed for the discussion of their processes and practice, both between themselves and with the viewer. In the beginning it felt very much like speed dating as I gradually built a network of talented artists and writers around me! From this came lots of exciting projects, which ranged from children’s after school art classes to a festival of stories to commercial art fairs. More than anything there was an incredible sense of community and support. I’ve always loved connecting and mentoring creative people and it gave me so much joy to see artists develop and grow throughout the project.
I won’t say too much but Fabelist is in the process of a makeover. It’s grown up a lot and has a tighter focus…you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled in the next few months though because that’s all I’m saying for now!
You’ve worked on some incredible projects in the past, what has been your favourite?
Each project has been rewarding in a different way but it’s the small moments that I cherish the most: At an exhibition I curated as part of an exchange project with a collective in New York, a young musician had composed a twelve voice choral piece in response to the artwork. When it was performed live on the opening night the whole room just stood in silence with tears in their eyes for minutes after the last note sounded…At a writing workshop, which we ran at a care home in the Edgware Road for The Serpentine Gallery project and realised that most of the participants weren’t really cognitively able to take part in a workshop but just wanted company. Instead of calling it quits all the writers sat round and had tea, squash and biscuits with the service users before linking arms and taking them for a stroll around the home’s little courtyard garden, laughing and telling stories. It was an exceptionally heart warming morning… Later in the week at the exhibition opening, an old friend of mine who had come to see the show approached me and said ‘You know I don’t always understand what you do or why you do it but… it’s magic’. It was then that I realised that this was what I’d been looking for- that thing that you can’t put your finger on…the magic.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I don’t really tend to think in terms of inspiration. I favour simplicity and then inspiration is pretty off the cuff. I’m inspired by little everyday moments of beauty…kneading a cake, the curve of a pot plant, indents in the carpet. No particular thing but, also lots of things…artists too–Hockney’s swimming pools, Louise Bourgeois’ fabric collages, Eva Hesse’s sculptures…I’m an Agnes Martin devotee, oh and Morandi of course… Edmund de Waal figures in there somewhere too– another writer and artist– his work is achingly fragile and poetic. I often feel like when I’m making I’m looking into a pool, which, distils all the buzz of impressions around me.
Whose style/aesthetic or design work do you admire and follow?
I wouldn’t say that I have or follow a particular style. My wardrobe is full of my mother’s old clothes and bits and pieces that I adopt from people, which (eventually) wend their way back to their original owner! I love the feel of things that have a history and a story; especially if they’ve been in contact with someone I care about. I think it’s because my parents were antiques dealers, I have a very tactile nature and appreciation for things that are well made. Likewise, I admire designers and individuals with a laid back aesthetic– people who are happy in their own skins and therefore wear clothes beautifully. I love Jemima Kirke for this reason and Joan Didion–for her unfussy simplicity and sharp mind.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m taking a lot of time to focus on my own design work at the moment and developing the brand for my jewellery line. I’m always writing and am currently really enjoying doing a lot more interview work– I love talking to people! Aside from Fabelist, I also started doing some work with Tandem Festival this year– a really fantastic international arts and sustainability initiative based in Oxford, there’s some really exciting and, more importantly, very necessary things happening there and, I’m looking forward to furthering my interest in the social aspect of the arts.
Francesca’s jewellery will be available from our Pop Up Shop on Sunday 16th August.