Following on from photographing her performance and design work (see more over on our Edit section) Kerry Curl meets with Amy Ollett to discuss her creative processes, journey and being a creative in the East.
Q) Hi Amy. We can't wait to hear about life after your MA at The Norwich University of the Arts, but first up can you tell us about your BA and how you ended up doing your MA in Norwich?
A) My Bachelors degree was definitely an exciting and unpredictable few years. This mostly because my degree was split, studying both in London and California. The degree was fast and intense and before I knew it, I had finished my BA (Hons) Degree in Dance and Choreography with First Class and yet I felt this wasn’t enough. Whilst training and studying in California I discovered more about my artistic voice, which kept leading me back to the body, design and movement aesthetic. However, I wasn’t able to explore this any further during my Bachelors and felt restricted, fighting against criteria rules. So, I knew doing a Masters would allow me to continue this search the way I wanted. However, doing things differently are not always accepted, but with the risk I was accepted at Norwich, the place I also called home.
Q) What made you choose to focus your MA around fashion?
A) I've always had a strong connection to fashion, surrounding myself with all types of imagery growing up which has had a significant effect on my work. It wasn’t until my last year of my Bachelor's Degree that I began to understand the relationship I was having between my own choreography and design. However, my vision for design wasn’t meeting the movement I wanted to make and I felt unsatisfied as an artist. Therefore, I knew I needed to focus on the design aspect of my practice and bring fashion to the surface once and for all.
Q) The pieces we saw at the NUA MA 2017 Show were really structured, did you have design/sewing /pattern cutting skills and experience before embarking on your MA?
A) Barely at all! I was very experimental and did what I could to make my ideas come to a physical form. All I could really do was sew in a straight-line but I knew the body in ways differently to others and this became the structure for everything. It allowed me to utilize these skills such as pattern cutting differently, and to my advantage. I devoted myself to the program and the work, and before I knew it was able to do everything I needed to. Along with the support of my tutor and the technicians I achieved skills fast and efficiently, even to their surprise.
Q) Your work involves researching shape and movement which is an integral part of our everyday lives; do you think the effects of movement and how a material reacts is often an over looked factor in the design process?
A) Absolutely, I think the way we wear, touch and choose clothes is a huge factor in the movement we make in our own lives both physically and emotionally. The relationship happening between the two is what creates a communication to our audience whoever that may be, and I fear this is often overlooked out of concern to look 'cool' and the body becomes lost and overdressed. I only have one tool and that’s the body, that’s all I need to communicate a form of extension I am looking for. This is communicated by the reaction it is having against the material itself. This is also why I developed my own methodology around the practice of movement, design and the body. Something I hope to share and inform with other fashion, design and dance students within the new year.
Q) You recently premiered part of your research at The Garage in Norwich. We were there ourselves and it was BREATHTAKINGLY beautiful. For those that missed it (unlucky!) can you take us through the concept of the performance?
A) Thank you so much! For my final project of my MA I created a small collection of pieces that all challenged and identified aspects of my research as well as introducing my own brand aesthetic and image. With one in particular identified as the 'Core' bodysuit I wanted to showcase how the design works as a tool for the body and as a choreographic tool to help me identify new movement. I worked with my dancer, Laura Thompson-Williams over several days to establish a performance that showcased a relationship between her and the garment through choreography informed by the design itself. This alongside the garments conceptual image, portrayed a story to the audience internally and externally through both garment and dancer becoming intrinsic to one another.
Q) How do you feel it went?
A) I was overwhelmed by the amount of research and movement vocabulary that came from working with the garment. It was a huge challenge to refine everything that came out during rehearsals, simply because there was so much movement material and visual imagery to work with. The garment truly became a second skin to the body as I have always envisioned. Despite this performance being small and only the beginning of a fully developed piece, it has answered many questions for myself and my audience.
Q) Clearly we are ambassadors for how much creativity there is in the East but let's be honest, being a creative and not living in London can still be a challenge sometimes. Have you got any thoughts or advice on being a creative outside of a major city?
A) I have always been concerned that being a creative within the East would obstruct my potential and ultimately affect the growth I could have within the industry. However, after several years of studying, teaching and developing in different countries, I've come understand that your audience will continue to follow and support you no matter where you are. My advice would be to not underestimate the city your already in, Norwich is becoming an exciting place for artists of all kinds but it's how you apply yourself in the city your'e living in that will help.
Q) Are there any creatives in the East you'd like to give a shout out to? Anyone we should look out for?
A) This past year I was lucky enough to meet a talented local artist, Alida Sayer. We met through unartistic circumstances but soon connected through our artistic work as artists in Norwich. She creates exceptional pieces of work and is a very intelligent artist to look out for!
Q) Finally, CONGRATULATIONS on your MA Amy. We're sure you've been asked this a lot, but enquiring minds want to know...what's next for you?
A) There is definitely an unknown expectation as to what may be around the corner but I have many boxes I want to tick during this new year. I am excited for next few months as some projects I have been involved with will be coming out to finally share with everyone. I am also planning to finally launch my pieces and new collection as ready to wear, sharing movement experience through clothes for everyone and showcasing this in upcoming festivals. In addition to this currently in preparation for funding to showcase another performance around my interdisciplinary choreography, which I am aiming to explore throughout the year into a full piece of work. Overall, this is my first full year away from studying so I am very excited to see how and where the work will go!
Discover more of Amy's work on her website - https://www.amyollett.com
Follow on Instagram: @wamyollett