Interview with artists Scapa Joe
Tell us about yourselves! What is a typical day like for you?
Yes, we're in Chesterfield, Derbyshire in the north of England, though I (Caz)
spend most of the summer working and diving Scapa Flow in Orkney,
I'm usually up around 6.30a.m, go for a run together and chat about ideas we have, and how they will work best. Then home for 3 pints of coffee for me. Dean drinks less than that.
Then I have breakfast and after that I go into my little studio and start work. I listen to heavy metal radio all day. Dean goes off working as a photographer, usually corporate work and weddings. When he gets home, he unwinds by 3D designing / printing/ painting our sculptures. I'll either be painting or sculpting all day.
I work 6 days a week and often well into the night. Once I start, I get so engrossed, I can't stop. Dean's like that too, and will often send me a video late at night of how a piece is coming along.
How did you come to collaborate?
Dean took photos for me around 10 years ago of my paintings, then in 2017 we started making art together. We both feel strongly about pollution and climate change, and wanted to make art to try and increase awareness. We decided to call ourselves Scapa Joe - Scapa after my rescued cat, and Joe after his grandad.
Your dioramas are an exquisite and unsettling blend of the kitsch, death, decay and grotesque. What do the popular figures such as Mickey Mouse and the Simpsons symbolize?
Mickey Mouse, Simpsons and other popular modern culture, symbolize the modern world's obsession with non-reality, finding happiness in consumerism, fame and fortune. Often people search for happiness by buying things, reality tv, dreaming of more, e.t.c. Why pay to go to Disney to see a fake, materialistic world when you can go see nature? Watch the clouds, see the shapes they make. Or listen to the birdsong. Nature is amazing. The dioramas represent the death of reality, choked by greed and our never-ending obsession for more, whilst the natural world shrinks; bigger skyscrapers, smaller rainforests. We need to live in harmony with our wonderful world and not persist in our plastic existence. Krustyland looks happy and inviting from the outside. But deep inside, it's a dark hell. Lots of the dioramas include our small doll, Poppy Liptic, one of the few survivors of famine, pandemics, wars and other human-caused apocalypses. We are knowingly exploiting our planet, and our work represents what our futures could look like.
You dive into the ocean for raw materials for your art pieces. How did they happen and can you tell us more about your work process?
I've dived for over 20 years, and have seen a massive increase in pollution. I often find discarded fishing hooks and lines. I have found numerous crabs tangled in line, unable to move, the line wrapped them and rocks. If they are still alive, I've managed to cut quite a few free. Sometimes it can take 20 - 30 minutes, they are so tangled up. And because the fishing line is almost invisible, so many creatures get trapped. I collect the line, hooks, and other trash, both underwater and on land. What I think we can use is taken back to the studio, while the rest is put in the bin. Then we have a chat about how we can use it. For example, the whale flukes are made using trash. We made some whale flukes in paper mache, then made moulds. We put various trash in and then cast them in resin. They symbolize the whales in the wild full of plastic. Some of the coral in our sculptures is made from straws we collected on beach clean-ups, which we distort with heat, then paint them. We also go to car boot sales and thrift shops and buy old toys which we also use in our sculptures.
How do you divide the labour among you?
We get an idea and work out how we can make it between us. Dean does the 3D design and 3D prints anything we need. For example, he 3D printed the Mickey mouse head to make the Mickey house. Then I trashed it, and we painted it between us. I made the base and he did the wiring for the lights. We work well together and both have different skills. I paint all the canvas paintings, he takes all the photos and videos.
You invite charities to use your imageries. Can you tell us your favourite charity story?
Our 'Teenage Mutant fag End Turtle' has been used by quite a few charities. Often people think of ocean plastics, and don't realize that cigarette butts are such a massive problem too. Turtles eat the butts, which swell up inside them, then they feel full, so eventually starve. I collected the butts in less than an hour on a beach in Egypt. I brought them home and we made the turtle. It disgusts people and some have said that it's shocking, but sadly that's the reality for many turtles.
What advice do you have for people who want to begin with small changes to reduce their impact on marine pollution?
Please re-use as much as possible. Get a drinks bottle/coffee cup and refill it yourself, rather than buying lots of bottled drinks--and it will save you money. Whenever you go to the seaside, try and pick up some litter, if there's no bin, take it home to put in your bin. We can all make a difference, however small. That one piece of trash that you pick up could save a marine creature's life
How can people find you?
Thank you for your interest in our work. We hope that our sculptures and art will help raise awareness, and if any charities would like to use any of our work, we'd love to hear from you. Many thanks!
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