The modern world has become considerably more gender equal since woman gained the vote in 1928, but there is still a long way to go for true equilibrium. So what is a modern day feminist fighting for?
Elizabeth Ilsey’s work ranges from thought-provoking quotes dubbed over vintage porn to hand painted profanities on leather jackets; her work is likely to get the guys hot under the collar and women burning their bras. The Birmingham based print maker has been causing a stir in the big smoke with blogs queuing up to interview her and it-girls dying to get their hands on her unique wearable art.
You have recently announced that your art and wears will be available in the London department store Liberty. How does it feel to be stocked in such an iconic British institution?
It feels so great to even be recognised by such a landmark like Liberty. I’m so excited for every aspect of it, but most of all for more people to have the jackets and for them not be as exclusive as they have been.
Your studio is based in Birmingham’s creative hot spot Digbeth; did the temptation of moving to London ever play a part in your plans?
Digbeth is like home to me, I eat there, drink there (a lot) met most of my friends there, work there… I will fly the flag for Digbeth and Birmingham in general forever. I’d rather be in my cheap studio with loads of space in a supportive community, close to my friends and family, with links to London whenever I need to go down there rather than live in an overpriced shit-hole in London unable to afford a workspace! When I was at school I dreamt of going to Goldsmiths and living in Camden – now I couldn’t think of anything worse. I will stay in Birmingham for the foreseeable future.
Empowering women is a focal point of your work, what message are you sending to your sisters with your work?
The messages I’m sending to everyone, not just girls, that it’s okay, to be honest! I made my prints to get over a guy who was horrible to me, and those prints have helped other people get over breakups which were awesome. But I like to make people laugh too and let’s not take sex so seriously; let’s promote our real bodies and emotions and stop crying all the time.
Some of your work contains X-rated material, has this lead to any negative criticism?
The x-rated themes and imagery I use have only ever been negatively criticised by men. They think I’m vulgar and a ‘slag’ and it always, always makes me laugh.
Has your work always been so provocative?
My work since the ‘I shave my legs for you’ jacket has been provocative. Sometimes unintentionally, just because all my work is honest and about real life stories I have about me. And the saucy stuff is always the most interesting, right?
You have a large social media following, how important is this for gaining exposure for your work?
Instagram has really launched my career. I sold work, got exhibitions and exposure just through posting on Instagram. I like to use it but don’t cry over it if anything gets censored or anything changes on there. It’s just a tool I use.
Who would you name as your icons and inspirations and why?
My icons and inspirations would be, Tracey Emin, Courtney Love, Jenny Holzer, Robert Mapplethorpe, but a lot of comedians too like Jo Brand and Joan Rivers. My mom too, of course.
Any exciting future projects you can share with us?
New jackets for Liberty, all of them bespoke. I’m collaborating with Tara Starlet, and self-publishing my own photography book. Aaaaaaaaaaaand finishing my final pieces for my uni degree show. And that’s all I can share for now!