Insectum. Avialae. Fungi. Mammalia. Mister Finch moves across the animal kingdom with the precision of a surgeon, creating creatures of the land and the air out of recycled textiles that are nothing short of delicious with their intricate and intimate details that make them a pleasure to both have and to hold. They recall nothing so much as the dreams of fairytales from a time and a place long ago.
Mister Finch has been crafting a world of pleasure that is to be found in the art of the hand, of the ability for one man to transform reality into fantasy and back again. His creations are devilish delights, works that at once be still our eye while tempt our fingertips. Endlessly delectable, Mister Finch’s menagerie of woodland beasts, birds, insects, and mushrooms returns us to a time when the world was innocent, and anything was possible.
Mister Finch: Living in a Fairy Tale World (Glitterati Incorporated) debuts this Fall, with back-to-back New York events. On Wednesday, October 8, from 6-8pm, Lord & Taylor will host a book signing and reception. On Thursday, October 9, from 6-8pm, Mister Finch heads to Chelsea for a book signing and reception at Kasher | Potamkin Gallery, where original works will be on display. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Mister Finch” in the subject line.
On the cusp of his New York debut, Mister Finch has arranged to speak with The Chic, offering us a rare glimpse into his world where hares find themselves mounted proudly on the wall, while toadstools float like helium balloons and butterflies flutter from day to night, each creature more alluringly inviting us into a magical world where creatures come alive the moment the eyes are put into place.
The artist introduces himself: “My name is Finch—it’s actually my surname…everyone call me it and I like it. I’ve called my business Mister Finch so it’s clear from the start that I’m a man and one that sews. I live in Leeds in Yorkshire, not too far from the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.
“It’s been my home now for almost 18 years and it’s been very good to me. It’s a vibrant place to live and being so close to the city is great...but also not too far from the country. You really have the best of both worlds. I live in a corner house at the end of a quiet street next to a graveyard. From the top window, you can see the city lights glittering and its brilliant. As much as I love the countryside, I also need a bit of lights and action and love the contrast. I need the busy markets and bookshops.
“My workroom is at home. I always call it a workroom; studio sounds a bit too much as its only a small room and not what I would call a studio. For me a studio has light and space and I'm definitely getting short on space. In my room I try to house all the things I need for work, my tools sewing machine and fabrics, et cetera, but also all of the things from my travels. I have tons of books and knick-knacks and I love having them around me.
“As I spend nearly all my time in here I really try to keep it tidy and decorative. Over the years I’ve had different themes for it. It’s been a decorated like a dusty junk shop and a rundown florist. This past year, I have changed everything. It’s now a cross between a Victorian parlour and a midnight button shop. I’ve painted all the walls dark, changed all my furniture to dark wood, and everything else has been dusted with black spray paint...so it kind of looks like it’s been smoke damaged from a fire. I know that sounds crazy but it works with my fabrics and flashes of velvet. Working in here at night is wonderful. It really looks the part. I wish I had painted everything dark years ago! All the things I had collected especially the books look right at home now.
“I have no formal training in anything I make and apart from a short art course I did many years ago I’ve learned all I know myself. I’ve tried many areas creatively over the years and now I find myself sewing. Which I adore. When I’m not making things I love to read and watch old movies.
“My main inspirations come from nature and often I return to certain ideas again and again. Flowers, insects, and birds really fascinate me with their amazing life cycles and extraordinary nests and behaviors. British folklore is also so beautifully rich in fabulous stories and warnings and never ceases to be at the heart of what I make: shape-shifting witches, moon-gazing hares, and a smartly dressed devil ready to invite you to stray from the path. Humanizing animals with shoes and clothes is something I’ve always done and I imagine them to come alive at night, getting dressed, and helping an elderly shoemaker and a tired housewife.
“One of the things I get asked most about is the spiders...and mostly its 'why'. I have this strange thing with spiders and have a sort of totem thing with them. When something good is going to happen I see a spider usually a small one hang from its silken thread. I seem to see it often and I find a kind of comfort in it. For me they are magical things and I find it a shame that they get such a bad reputation. I see them as busy, fragile and exquisite things and to portray them in my work is something I have always done regardless of the chosen medium I was working with. Some of my first things I made as a young boy were the creatures from James and the giant peach and I delighted in making 'Mrs. Spider' from wire, so I guess its always been there.
“Some of the first things I made when moving towards textiles were spiders and now I have the hang of them I adore to make them large its hugely satisfying and I just love it. It’s quite the odd job I have now sewing huge spiders in the night but I couldn't be happier. Which brings me to another point ...working at night: again, I love it. There is a calmness and a beautiful stillness to working after dark and it really is my favorite time to work. There is some famous quote about ideas arriving at night and I quite agree with it. I had some wonder full ideas when the world is sleeping. I guess in some ways it harks back to stories from being a child; the elves and the shoemaker mostly. Whilst the tired cobbler slept, elves would be up sewing and creating shoes.
“Making things has always been incredibly important to me and is often an amazing release to get it out of my system. It’s a joy to hunt for things for my work…the lost, found, and forgotten all have places in what I make. Most of my pieces used recycled materials, not only as an ethical statement, but I believe they add more authenticity and charm. A story sewn in, woven together.
“Velvet curtains from an old hotel, a threadbare wedding dress, and vintage apron become birds and beasts, looking for new owners and adventures to have. Storytelling creatures for people who are also a little lost, found, and forgotten…
“Having a book out is truly a wonderful thing and I wasn’t sure how I would react when I first saw piles of it together. It is really quite surreal as I feel I’ve lived so much of my life reading and living in books; to now have my own is quite amazing. I feel so lucky to have had it happen to me and it’s still sinking in now.
“One of the things I most enjoyed about working on the book was taking the images which are pretty much all mine. Taking my own images has become a hugely enjoyable part of my work and I really am beginning to adore it. Whilst I'm out looking for fabrics and textiles to use, I am now looking for pieces for props. I love being in control of this side too. I guess when you work for yourself, you become very head strong and precious about your work and being in control of you images is really great.
“When I think of chic, I see it with a feminine connotation. For me it’s a timeless word but one that would be used for a woman, to describe her dress or perfume. It’s not a weak word; I find it strong and cool. It’s not to be overused as there are only certain things that are chic.
“I do get asked to lend my pieces to shoots and especially fashion ones but I generally say no. Before I worked in textiles, I made jewelry and accessories and the fixation with shooting everything on a stunning model just bored me rigid. I'm not saying I wouldn't shoot with a model in the future but I like wonky teeth and big noses somebody with a bit of character you know. I don't want to shoot Cinderella. I want to shoot her ugly sisters.”