Corrie Williamson is one of the five New Makers that TOAST will be supporting and nurturing throughout the year. Her contemporary, sculptural mobiles are created from found materials, making each entirely unique.
Tucked away in a garden in Hackney, east London is Corrie Williamson’s characterful studio, filled to the brim with found materials and tools. It’s here she creates serene hanging mobiles using traditional metal and woodworking techniques. “It’s semi-industrial on one side,” she says. “It’s tiny, that’s why I’ve grouped the big tools.” The other half she keeps tidy, to make it easier to sit down and work on more delicate elements. The studio is also home to her extensive library of salvaged materials. “I just store them wherever I can! I had a big clear out recently, so it’s kind of under control!”
Also a jeweller, Corrie used to share a workshop with applied artists, upholsterers and carpenters. “Often people would move on and leave pieces of machinery behind, or I would buy tools from them. I was accumulating tools, but they were getting much larger, and then my jewellery started to get bigger and bigger and less wearable in a way.” These larger pieces led naturally to her first mobile, created when her baby daughter was born. It was modestly created with what she could find around the house: “bits of kitchen equipment, bamboo skewers and things like that, as well as wooden beads and pieces of jewellery.”
Working with what’s nearby is integral to Corrie’s work. “I like that part of the process of making things is being constrained by what you have around you, rather than being able to always get exactly what you want. It's quite nice just working with what you have; I think that's how the best ideas come.” She repurposes offcuts from other makers that would otherwise go to waste, accumulating unusual materials and using them to introduce variation and an unexpected element to her work. “I have a few furniture makers who are just saving stuff for me and because of the size of the pieces that I need, I know that their offcuts are going to work. I have one maker in Bedfordshire who makes really large pieces, and he saves me all the bits for me to rummage through.” Alongside wood, a key material Corrie uses is metal; particularly brass, as it can be melted down and reused infinitely. “Over time I've built up quite a stash. I shared a studio for a while with an instrument maker and they had some really good materials they had no use for. Even things like cymbals. When a drummer's cymbals break, which can happen often, there's lots of metal there to work with.” This eagerness to work with unconventional materials brings both a lyrical and organic quality to her work.
Corrie trained in textiles, and credits this for her love of pattern. Her mobiles create ever-changing, dynamic patterns, tracing silhouettes and shadows across walls. She’s particularly inspired by the work of Sonia Delaunay and Alexander Calder. “I also love JB Blunk; he worked in ceramics and wood and metal, making jewellery and furniture. I’m really drawn to multidisciplinary artists.” This interest is articulated by her confident material combinations and artful arrangements, which create unexpected harmonies. Calder’s influence can be seen in Corrie’s expressions of balance, which are crucial to her work. To ensure the elements of her pieces work in perfect equilibrium, an idea is first created as a 3D drawing, from very flexible wire. “I don’t do much sketching on paper, but I make a lot of small versions, maquettes and little material studies along the way.” Avoiding waste is integral to her design process, she explains. “Normally I start making everything much smaller so I'm not using too many materials. Often I'll use bits that have been discarded from making something else, they'll just lead on to the next piece.”
There’s a simple beauty in the way Corrie’s mobiles express a sense of perpetual transformation. The materials she uses have previous lives and are now suspended in new contexts, responding to movements around them. They’re in a constant state of flux. Always new; endlessly fascinating.
Interview by Alice Simkins.
Studio photography by Suzie Howell.