Friday 15 January 2010

Introducing... April Phillips

Could you tell us a bit about yourself, where you grew up, what you studied at school?
My mother was a knitwear designer in the 1980's so I guess I was exposed to handmade craft from the beginning. I moved around a lot and was exposed to a variety of places and things constantly. At high school I would wag maths to be in the art room, so it has always been a passion to make with my hands and thing creatively.

Upon completing sculpture at RMIT, what prompted the move towards shoemaking? Was it something that you’ve always been interested in, or was it more of a spur-of-the-moment decision?
When I completed sculpture at RMIT I had no idea what was next! I began looking for an alternative practice to sculpture, but knew I wanted to continue working with my hands three-dimensions. I went to a shoe repairer one day and as he was explaining to me how he would fix the shoes in detail I became fascinated with shoes and how they were constructed. I called Simon O'Mallon in Adelaide and after our conversation I knew this was something I wanted to do.

The shoes that you make take history and the nature of the wearer into careful consideration. Could you please tell us a bit more about this process? What has been your favourite fiction that you’ve created to date?
The owner/wearer of the shoe is very important to my practice. Shoes can give all sorts of indications and clues that can create stories and a greater context when viewed. I became very interested in creating fictional characters to make shoes for. I usually go through this process by asking a number of questions: What time is the character from? What do they do from day to day? What is their favourite dessert? Is there an occasion for these shoes or are they for everyday wear?

Sometimes these characters are prompted from books, or songs, or purely exist in my imagination.

I made a pair of shoes for a secret agent from the future. She has 'youth injections' to keep her young. Although her father is very wealthy she chooses to travel across the universe on public transport, so she is very grounded, and somewhat practical. She decided to take her first holiday in over 25 years and needed me to make her some boots with roller skates that could be removed.


Since commencing your studies in shoemaking in 2005, you’ve achieved so much. What do you hope to do in the future, and how would you like to develop your career and artistic practice as a shoemaker?
I think personal and professional development is very important at this stage in my career. I look forward to future mentorships, research, and study. Shoemaking is a craft with an amazing history, I am thankful for all those who have come before me who have created the techniques which form the platform of the shoe making practice. I hope that my life’s work can contribute to this pool of knowledge!

Sharing your studio with fellow Shoe Show exhibitor Tim Tropp must create a great environment for bouncing ideas and sharing techniques. What is a typical day like in the studio for the both of you?
Tim Tropp is a very inspirational studio friend. He is technically amazing and has a very unique way of problem solving and considering things. We check in with each other often bouncing ideas and sharing techniques. There is no typical day as such, but coffee is always key.

Do you see shoes more as ‘fashion’ or ‘art’, or both?
I don't really like categories, but I think you know when a pair of shoes takes a step into the art world. Shoes that are art make you feel aware of how beautiful your feet could be, and how wonderful life is.

And finally, “If I were a shoe I’d…
…have magical powers, and never be in a box."

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