Frostbite by Charlotte Lily Mitchell
Wild in Art talks to artist Charlotte Lily Mitchell, the designer and maker from the University of Sunderland responsible for the Great North Snowdogs sculpture ‘Frostbite’.
Please introduce yourself, tell us where you’re based and what you do.
Hi! I’m Charlotte and I am currently a student in my final year at the University of Sunderland, working towards my degree in Glass and Ceramics at the National Glass Centre. I mainly work with glass, ranging from glass techniques including pate de verre and kiln forming, glassblowing and some architectural processes. Alongside my degree, I take silversmithing classes and am learning to work with silver to make jewellery and often can be found sewing at home in my own time.
I have always wanted to work with people and aim to work in a craft based support role when I graduate, working with therapeutic arts. Before my degree, I completed an Access Diploma in Human Biology to give myself a better understanding of a more scientific side of the human body and mind.
I have recently started working for Mencap (a supportive team who works with individuals with learning disabilities) as well as volunteering in any spare time I have in craft-based support groups. Over the summer I worked with Maggie’s Centre (a specialist cancer support service) to run a craft class with users of the facility on a weekly basis where we could come together and learn how to make a variety of items, from wind chimes, to candle holders and even dreamcatchers. My next placement will be with a Dementia Support group at the National Glass Centre working mainly with glass and ceramics.
What first got you into visual arts?
Since I can remember I have always loved to make things. My family has always said I was happy to sit and colour in for hours on end, from being a toddler. I feel that creating and making is a form of therapy even if you do not realise that’s what you are doing. Learning a creative process and developing your skills is so enriching for your mind and relaxing.
As I have gotten older I have loved discovering new materials and am passionate about developing my methods to make things to the highest standard that I can. I definitely see myself more as a maker and a craftsperson than an artist.
What is your creative process from inception to creation?
In terms of commission work or academic briefs, I tend to explore the work of other artists and makers for inspiration before combining it with my own thought processes to come up with the overall product. I am definitely a perfectionist and often can see in my mind what I want my work to look like, which means I can focus my processes and practice to achieve that idea, which is why I get so obsessed with developing specific techniques. If I am making for myself and my own relaxation, things tend to get a bit looser. I will experiment a bit more with materials and am open to errors to learn what works the best.
How would you describe your artistic style?
100% perfectionist. I get obsessed with how the piece should look and can not rest until I have found the right material and technique. If someone asks me to make them something specific I have been known to refuse because I may not feel I am skilled enough to put my name to the product yet. I have a vision of how my work will look and I intend to work hard to get it to that standard.
If I am making in a supportive environment, I want people to feel as if they have learned something new and have taken away a new skill which they can develop themselves. Making this way should be about getting in touch with materials and keeping channelling your focus.
How does the place / city you live influence your image making?
It is so important to consider your surroundings when working on a piece. I like to consider my brief and then think about who will see the work, what they will take away from it and how they will remember it. A lot of my work considers the nostalgia of the viewer and if they can feel connected to the piece on some level, I feel I have achieved what I set out to do.
How did you get involved with Wild in Art?
Being based at the National Glass Centre through the week means I am often exposed to things going on in the NGC as well as the rest of the City of Sunderland. As the NGC is so heavily involved in the Great North Snowdogs project I was encouraged to apply to work on my own Snowdog, which appealed to me when I found out it was for such a fantastic cause.
Which Snowdog did you design and what’s the concept?
I designed Frostbite! After considering where he would be decorated and the materials I love working with, I decided it was only right that he would be adorned with glass. His overall look was inspired by the works of Marta Klonowska, who carefully uses broken shards of glass to create a glass coat on a range of animal models.
When thinking about the story of The Snowman and The Snowdog and how the Snowdog is transformed into a real dog in the end,
I wanted to create a Snowdog that still looked like original icy dog. Using a lasting material meant he could remain a frozen dog forever.
I hope that when people come to visit him they will be reminded of snow and ice and the original story as well as being exposed to the endless possibilities of glass.
What other Wild in Art events have you seen or been involved with?
This is the first Wild in Art event I have been involved with and am so proud to be part of such a fantastic cause alongside so many talented artists.
What do you like about working with Wild in Art?
I love how so many artists and makers are all brought together and are encouraged to take their work out into the region. It is so important to expose people to creative projects and how they can make a difference in their towns and cities.
What’s your earliest memory of The Snowman and The Snowdog?
Obviously, The Snowman is a Christmas classic. It’s not really Christmas until you have sat in front of the telly with a hot chocolate and watched The Snowman. The Snowman and The Snowdog are much newer to me and thanks to this project I have become very fond of the Snowdog and will always be reminded of this work when I see it.
Do you have a favourite Snowdog and why?
I haven’t seen all of them yet, but I think my favourite so far has to be Hound Dog! Who doesn’t love a bit of Elvis?!
Do you have a favourite Snowdog figurine and why?
I love all of the figurines but The Classic Snowdog has to be my favourite because it looks the most like Frostbite.
What project are you working on now?
I am just starting my final year at university so my main focus at the minute is getting through to Christmas in one piece and working towards my degree show next summer. As well as that I will be getting involved with the Dementia Support Class with the NGC and I am still taking my silversmithing classes in my own time to improve on those skills.
What is the number one piece of advice you would like to tell new artists?
As someone who is still studying and just finding my feet, I think I can speak honestly about this…. Network! No one is going to knock on your front door and give you opportunities.
You absolutely have to find what you love and make it happen for yourself.
Talking to people and professionals opens so many doors and being persistent in what you want to achieve definitely pays off. Work hard and don’t settle for less!