Remarkable Women: Amy Isles Freeman X Birdsong
We’ve long been fans of artist and bowl maker Amy Isles Freeman. Her love of feminine figures, and the intentional, slow process of her beautifully crafted creations fit in perfectly with the Birdsong ethos. Longing to own some of her fine pieces for our own, we commissioned her to work on a collaborative line.
The three garment collection is in super limited editions, and embroidered onto the softest, finest quality garments we could source. We caught up with Amy to chat inspiration behind her work, which is stocked in Selfridges and in our own pop up store for the festive period.
Photography by Anya Rice.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Amy Isles Freeman, I am 26 years old, I grew up in Oxford, studied in Cornwall, and now live in Brighton. I am bisexual, polyamorous, use she/her pronouns and I thank my lucky stars that I am able to be an artist for a living.
My work explores female sexuality, joy and freedom, and this theme began in art school, when I dove into the world of feminist art. I loved the communicative emotion, but whilst the anger in the work resonated with me, it didn’t come naturally in my own expressions.
Then, in 2013, I visited an exhibition of Dorothy Iannone’s work, and that changed everything for me. Colourful, cheeky and hilarious, I walked around the empty show with my laughter bouncing off the walls. She used the best communication tool to carry her message – humour.
From then on, I felt the freedom to make work that would illicit at least a smile, if not a chuckle. Making work that celebrates women, that does not alienate or engender guilt, I found that I was opening up conversations. I do not, for one minute, think that anger has no place in feminist art, it really does, but this is the road that is paved with the most sincerity for me.
My work now encompasses my hand turned, hand painted bowls, as well as my hand painted clothing and works on paper. I love the progression of the theme, and the fluidity of being in charge of my own practise.
How and why did you get into your craft?
When I finished my degree in drawing at Falmouth Art School in 2014, I felt fed up with flat work. Entangled in a group of young makers, jealousy burnt my fingers as I watched them make objects, things that existed. I itched for a practical skill, so my then-boyfriend handed me a chisel and a piece of wood, and showed me how to use his lathe.
I knew that in order to make a mark in the craft world, I had to bring my colourful and fine art ideas in with me, so I painted my wooden creations, very simply at first. This developed into intricate designs, and that’s when the pieces became really interesting for me to make, and when other people really began to take notice of what I was making.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
The way the business started was exciting. I had been making very simple wooden pieces, and a family friend commissioned me to make a larger bowl for her daughter’s birthday. I posted a work in progress shot on Instagram, and Katie Tregidden reposted it to her blog Confessions of a Design Geek. I saw this in the morning, just as I went to my cleaning job. As I left work I got a call from London Design Fair, telling me that they had seen Katie’s post and asking if I would like a stand.
I remember them asking me ‘So, what have you been up to?’ and the response ‘Cleaning a miniature poodle’s period stains from a hardwood floor’ nearly fell out of my mouth. Imposter syndrome doesn’t cover how I felt as I embellished my ideas and plans over the phone, palms sweaty with nerves and Mr Sheen.
This was in February 2016, and I showed my work at LDF in September of that year. Thanks to that repost, my business was born.
What drew you to work with Birdsong?
I met some of the wonderful women of Birdsong last year on a panel discussion, and learning about their business was inspiring. The ethos and ingenuity, balancing the social responsibility with commercial viability – what they are doing should be setting the precedent for all businesses to follow. It is shaking up a system, through the prism of feminist ideals, and producing a sustainable future. What is there not to love?
What’s your favourite piece from the collection?
My favourite piece of our collection are the knickers. I have always wanted my images of lady love to be on people’s bodies, to be worn with pride and what better place for these images to be!
What would your ideal world/future look like?
I have had to teach myself to live in the present. I hope that people can prioritise kindness, as that will change the future.
Favourite thing about your studio?
My favourite thing about my studio is my studio mate, Marcelina Amelia. She is one of the kindest and most supportive women, and she makes me laugh. I am lucky to have some of the best creative women around me, and they make me see that things are possible.