House of Mei Mei: Interview with Marta Corada.
Updated: Apr 19, 2021
Laura: Marta, you have quite an amazing career as an artist, I will like to ask you how did you get to this point. Tell me about your background, how did you become a sculptor and a photographer?
Marta: Okay let me see how long in the past I want to go. Yeah, I have always liked art, and I have always liked drawing. I have always known I wanted to be a creator more than an art consumer or someone who works in the art industry just doing something related to art. I always knew I was more driven towards creating. I love photography, and I just ended up going for a fine art degree because I wanted to explore all the fields and not just photography. I started in Spain in Barcelona, when I was working as a photographer for performance artists. I would also help them to build up their choreography, getting involved in the creative aspect, as well as photographing their practice. So I was always interested in this theatrical aspect, whether it is photography or painting. I am always more on the kind of unreal side of it, out of context kind of things, departing from reality and giving it my own twist.
I focus on street photography, but I manipulate the images that I take, like taking all those images and character out of context and developing my own composition. I have been working with that kind of work for a long time, I came to London 9 years ago. But on the side, I have always kept feeding that other fantasy world that I have always felt really enthusiastic for and fascinated by. I never really stopped making those drawings, creating fantasy characters. I always love everything related to the weird and wonderful, the esoteric, all sorts of weird stuff.
At some point, I discovered an artist who works with felt. So as a photographer, I was taking photos of her workshop that she was running, she is a Japanese artist, and I fell in love with that material and I started experimenting with it. All of a sudden, I got into this current project am working on and at the moment, it’s my main focus.
Laura: Absolutely, incredibly detailed pieces. For anybody who wants to lookup Marta’s work, you can have a look at her website, so people can understand the imagery you are talking about. Do you still do photography then, do you have time to do both?
Marta: At the moment I take photographs because I record my pieces and that is very important. Of course, I have that knowledge of how to take a proper photo, how to make the most out of what you want to represent in the picture, or what you want to depict. But the type of photography I was doing, I have to commit to one thing fully. So, I had to put it on one side. However, who knows, it’s there just waiting for me to go back to it.
Laura: The pieces you create take a long time to make presumably. How long does it take you to make one of your sculptures? Could you talk through that?
Marta: Yes, of course. I started with small pieces, because at the beginning I was just experimenting with it. I can show you the first piece I made. This is the first creature I made. It wasn’t even felt, its fabric. It's more like a toy kind of thing. And I love it, I will never sell it.
Laura: It looks like a little baby!
Marta: Yeah, I love it. It always tears me up. So, from this, I started developing more and more and more. I love experimenting with new materials, I just really like it. If I have a problem, my problem is that I find it hard to focus on one single thing. So, the fact that I like experimenting with new materials and I also love objects. I mean I have a huge amount of junk in my studio. It's not trash or rubbish to me.
Laura: Yes, I do, because you build up your ideas around the objects you have, one takes inspiration from it, or it reminds of you things happening in the past, you connect to it, and then say ‘Oh, have got an idea and I will make something out of that’.
Marta: Exactly, you got it! I started combining this new material I was working with, which at the time was felt with the object and I ended up combining this kind of ceramic piece.
Laura: Did you create this technique yourself, combining the ceramic and the felt that you use?
Marta: I think have always got that part from the idea of the mask, have always felt really interested in the mask, whether it’s in theatre, just the way it expresses so much, like exaggerating features and stuff. And I have always drawn, I mean if you look at my old illustrations, they were all a mixture of a hybrid body with exaggerated human features and really anatomical. So that aspect of combining both concepts has always been there, and you can see in this one, it's like a mixture of two things. But this is a very old vintage doll face made of fabric. I just started to get interested in the history of dolls, and all that stuff. I can’t really remember when I moved from fabric faces to ceramic faces, it just happened.
Laura: Which artists are you inspired by? Do you have anyone in particular that you worship or get inspiration from?
Marta: Yeah, lots. I think mostly my source of inspiration comes from classic, old masters like Flemish art. I really like the work of Hieronymus Bosch, not just because of the aesthetic, but also because of his concept. There is something really kind of disturbing there in his work but I am sure he did it on purpose. It’s not about doing something creepy for the sake of it.
Laura: That is a really good point. It's not just frightening just for the hell of it, there is actually depth to it.
Marta: Yeah, I found a very strong connection with the surrealists, but mostly with women surrealists. It’s like when I discovered Leonora Carrington, I felt really connected with her work. We talk the same language.
Laura: In terms of your street art, I was talking to a friend from Penge and we talked about you, and she said she remembers that you used to put small sculptures around different locations in south London. Could you tell us about that?
Marta: This started a long time ago when I was in Barcelona, I created a few pieces, it was a test. It started from a drawing, and those pieces were from empty bottles, empty packet of crisps things I recycled. And they had expressions, they had arms, and faces, very similar concepts to what I do right now. I just did a few interventions in the street back in 2006 and that was it, I forgot about it. And just a few years ago, maybe like 2 years ago, I started it again in a more elaborate way. My partner is a street artist and he took part in Upfest in Bristol. I went along with him and I took a few pieces with me and put some of these pieces around in Bristol. I realised that people really like them, and ever since have been doing a few of those interventions here and there. So, this is like another path to follow, I wouldn’t say am a street artist, but every now and then, I really like that concept as well.
Laura: Absolutely, not everybody goes to galleries, a lot of people can see art work online and see posts about street art on Instagram for example. And word of mouth is so powerful, isn’t it Marta. It's like someone says to you, ‘Oh, I remember this artist, I saw a piece like that’ and they told me it’s a piece work in the street. That’s how people get to know about you.
Marta: It's super funny, it’s a totally different feeling, it’s a totally different vibe you get when you do something like that. I used to see it because of my boyfriend, and I used to be really jealous of it. It’s different, the process is just like people can see what you are doing, talk to you, it’s really cool.
Laura: It’s a very different experience to showing at the gallery. Would you be able to tell us a story from the highlight of your career, is there anything in particular so far that you want to tell us, something that happened along the way?
Marta: You know, there are a lot of weird and very hot moments in any artists’ career, I think. Most of it feels really out of the norm, really. I always tell people about the connection between my work and food art. At some point, I want to create something that is edible, I would love that! I used to work as a cake decorator years ago.
Laura: Oh really!
Marta: Yes. So, the way you work with colours and mix the colours, covering your cake with the icing, it really gave me that ah - ha moment, that I could work with other materials in a similar way, there is a very fun connection. And at some point, I will like to develop that even more, because I follow a lot of Japanese desert artists. It will be too much to develop it now, but I feel a strong connection.
Laura: You mention Japan. Could you tell us where are your clients are from?
Marta: Yeah, definitely, it’s mostly northern European countries like Sweden and Germany. And also the United States. I created a piece for Dynamite Gallery in Brighton, it’s a comic character. That piece really brought a lot of attention to my work. I started getting a lot of orders and interest from the US to create fictional characters and comic characters with felt, they are like a unique one-off pieces.
Laura: Yeah, that is a good point, obviously, that would move your work into props and set design, which is very different from your fine art. What is your next project coming up?
Marta: At the moment, am working on a couple of pieces for an exhibition that will take place in May at a gallery in Denmark. It’s going to be a super cool exhibition.
Laura: That’s amazing, I really hope you can go.
Marta: Yeah, I don’t know what is going to happen with that.
Laura: I know you do online courses too, do you mind telling us about those?
Marta: So, before the pandemic, I used to run workshops in my studio. A lot of people who want to take part in my workshops, they also come from other countries, so I started with an online workshop, and it’s working really well.
Laura: I would love to do one, but I don’t want to injure myself. I did a jewellery course once and it was the most difficult thing have ever done in my life. I have been trained to work on big canvasses and stuff like that and painting are very different, and this is extremely intricate, so I don’t think I will be very good on any of your courses Martha. Am sure that it's just amazing that you have time to do the course as well. It’s so exciting for people to understand how you create the objects and sculptures that you create, and how to do it is fabulous. We are at the end of the talk Marta, it’s been absolutely, incredible talking to you.
Marta: My sculpture work can be found at houseofmeimei.com. There is information about the workshops there as well. I also have my online shop, which is meimeishop.co.uk and the workshop can be booked in there in my shop.
Laura: I can’t wait to see you in person soon, hopefully. Thanks for joining us today.