Diane Goldie – Interview by Jo Blackened

Diane Goldie…she likes to make precious things!

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Diane Goldie (nee Parsons) grew up in Sutton in Ashfield Nottinghamshire as an only child, before immigrating to South Africa in 1975 with parents.

Hey Diane and thanks for joining me today…Firstly I have to say that I do really love your work!
What made you get into crocheting?

Thanks so much! It’s great to bring joy to people with the humble craft of crochet. I’ve always made things. Ever since a small girl, I found joy in starting with nothing and ending up with something; the creative process, I suppose. Even when wild camping in Wales as a 5 year old, I found flat pieces of slate and found that I could create pictures on them if I scratched it with other stones.

Once I became a teenager and had a need to make clothes that were different, I turned my hand to knitting weird and wonderful jumpers for myself and friends. My granny taught me to knit, but no one around me knew how to crochet. It remained a massive mystery to me for years. In fact until just 2 years ago when I taught myself on Youtube tutorials. I wanted to make a blanket for my brand new granddaughter and crochet seemed faster ( and indeed it is) and much more exciting.

It took me a while to get the hang of it, but once I got going I was hooked, literally! ( forgive the pun) So yeah, I only learned crochet as a granny, fitting I suppose! Albeit a young granny at 46. ( Best gift I ever had)

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Where have you studied and where did you get your ideas to start designing?

I studied Fine Art ( painting ) in Cape Town , South Africa at the Cape Technikon. The idea was that I went there to study graphic design as they guaranteed everyone got employment after leaving that particular course. Of course, life being imperfect, I was hopeless at the graphics side of things. I remember redoing a lettering project three times before my lecturer telling me not to bother anymore, that I was really good at life drawing so not to worry! So… I changed to the Fine Art department where my messiness fitted in perfectly and I found my niche.

I used to wear the jumpers that I knitted to class, and I remember distinctly one of the painting lecturers suggesting to me that I should maybe consider knitting my paintings. That thought resonated with me . I was heavily influenced at the time by Leigh Bowery and his body modification/ costume and performance art. I used to match my make up with my clothes. I was known to come to class in a full black and white zebra skin ensemble, including the full matching face! I felt stuck in the backwater in Cape Town while England seemed to be the hotbed of creativity. I longed to return but couldn’t afford to do so until I made a bit of money singing in a cabaret show ( how random…) at 21.
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What are your main influences?

Ms Marnie Scarlet has to be my main influence. I feel she has taken my passion for Leigh Bowery and recreated and reinterpreted it in female form. So wonderful, especially as I am a passionate and committed Feminist. Being from an art school education, it was inevitable that I’d be heavily influenced by performance art and the drag scene. Nina Hagen and Klaus Nomi were the backtracks to my art school years! Oh and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I still have a crush on Frank N Furter to this very day. Issues surrounding sexuality and gender and the nature of identity fascinate me. I can’t forget the very wonderful Tim Burton either.
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Where have you worked in the past?

After leaving art school I worked in a art materials shop . Then I got the job as a Scenic Artist with Cape Performing Arts Board after being given the interview task of painting the Mona Lisa on a canvas with poster paints. I got the job. The painting was subsequently stolen on tour of Annie, the musical. Someone must’ve liked it! After that job, I left for London where I worked as a chef at the Royal Court Hotel, winning the employee of the year award. I got a pay rise of 50p that year. That’s hotels for you. Then I fell pregnant and spent the next three years being Mummy and set up my own children’s entertainment business ‘Diane’s Puppets’.

My making skills came in handy once again. Also I am a bit of a performer and show off so it suited me perfectly. It remains my main job to this day, 20 years later. I love being a professional silly sausage and talking to my hand for a living.
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Have you held any exhibitions?

Not as many as I would like to have done. I’ve been part of a few group exhibitions over the years, minor things that are not really worth mentioning although I did sell a soft sculpture piece of two dollies around 20 years ago to an artist who said it inspired him. I guess I’m going back to that now again. My most recent exhibition was a solo exhibition at SHH! women’s sex shop in Hoxton. It was rather a fitting venue for my conceptual painting piece and it got a really great reaction.

What is your personal favourite piece you’ve created?

Apart from the Show Us Yer Tits painting collection of which I am very proud, so far it has to be the Poison Ivy Dolly. She has such character in her face and her stance and her ruby shoes are so pretty!

You recently made a crochet Doll of Marnie Scarlett, how did that come about?

It’s a bit of a long story…
I’ve been crocheting stuff for sale for a bit over a year now: hats , fairies, doggies , stuff for kids mainly. I called myself Crochet Bright and Beautiful as a play on the old hymn All things Bright and … you know the rest.

My eldest daughter Imogen inherited the creative gene, she is a singer/songwriter as well as being quite an artist and writer. It was when I was supporting her at one of her rare gigs that I met John Lee Bird, an extraordinary human being and fabulously creative artist. He adopted my Imogen ( The New Verb) as one of the people he wanted to include in a future exhibition that day ( now he has painted her in the same exhibition as Marnie) and has become a true and valued friend. I saw Marnie’s painting on John’s Facebook page and needed to know who was behind that extraordinary image.

As soon as I saw Marnie’s pictures it was like I’d found what I was looking for. My heart started to race, my fingers started to itch and I just had to make Marnie from crochet. I chose a Mexican day of the Dead photo as the make up and hair translated well into dolly form and seemed the simplest option . I contacted Marnie to ask her permission and sweet generous soul that she is, actively encouraged me to do it and was delighted with the result. I love her energy and spirit, I hope that comes across when I make the dollies. With the creation of that Marnie dolly came the equal and opposite sister to Crochet Bright and Beautiful : Crochet Dark and Decadent.

What designs to have in mind for the future?

I’m looking to create a body of work based on Marnie’s costumed characters. She is constantly coming up with fresh ideas, it’s just hard to keep up or even choose what’s next. I am also open to other ‘Divas‘ who I find inspiring. But they have to be something special, on the inside as well as the outside. I’ve made one other Diva dolly apart from Marnie thus far, and that is one of Drag artist Sid, aka John Carey who blew me away with his confection of huge fluorescent pink hair, metallic pink catsuit and heels plus diaphanous cloak. Oh did I mention the matching two tone pink and black face? Divine darling. How could I not make him?

If you could have your work displayed anywhere, where would it be?

( Giggles) It would have to be the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Not strictly an exhibition space , I know, and not exactly practical but I just love the atmosphere there, plus it is local to me. I did a painting at art school many moons ago of a cabaret venue that was spookily like the RVT. So much so that when I first walked in there I felt a massive sense of deja vu.

You were part of the ‘SHOW US YER TITS!’ Exhibition?! Can you tell us a bit more about this?

Ever since leaving art school I’d always wanted to create a conceptual piece of art. It took me many years to do it, to find something that properly resonated with me enough to have something to say in art form.

SHOW US YER TITS my very first solo show would be my chance to have a dialogue about issues surrounding women’s identity. Responding to the macho rallying cry so often heard by women of reproductive age, ‘SHOW US YER TITS!’ is a collection of paintings exploring identity. These are paintings of breasts, all of real women found on various sites on the Internet. They are third party ‘self portraits’ but no fancy camera angles here, typically a hastily pulled up shirt and a quick snap of a webcam. Despite their simplicity and absence of fancy lighting, perfect bodies and post production techniques there is an honest attempt through the painting process to show the beauty in the average, the different and the individual.

This is a collective portrayal of women’s secret sexual revolution: a librarian advertising for regular gangbangs, a civil servant seeking a master, a single mum proudly advertises her ‘true slut’ status. We get a chance to see what is really going on in real women’s bedrooms. This is a group portrait of vulnerability but also of courage. These paintings are adverts and the flat, abstracted paint surface tries to reflect the poster –like quality inherent in the image.

These women are choosing a body part to attract interest in a no strings attached night of passion. Despite the presenting female subject matter, this exhibition is not just about women. A debate is provoked on the complex dialogue of expectations and judgements that go on between men and women in our ostensibly liberated society. Who is pleasing whom? Is this really pleasure and at what expense? These questions are underscored by the titles of the paintings that are directly sourced from what women say about themselves and what others have said about them on various contact websites.

The exhibition was very warmly received and the staff at the shop reported that they had customers who spent much time on the stairs carefully studying and discussing the paintings with one another at length.
That’s all an artist ever wants: to provoke a reaction and debate. It remains one of my life’s most satisfying moments. The paintings now hang on my living room wall and have provoked many different reactions from visitors (including a bemused and bewildered police detective at one point. Don’t worry, I didn’t do it guv!)

What are your plans for the future?

To clone myself so I can complete all the things I have planned to crochet.
Jokes aside, I’d love to aim towards a crochet art ‘happening’ combining performance art, exhibition of my dollies , a bit of a boogie and at the end an auction so the dollies can be sold to the people who love them the most. At the minute it is a bit of a pipe dream, but I’m working on making it a reality. Crochet Dark and Decadent has only been in existence for two months so I suppose it may have some time left to develop. I’m open to suggestions really.
There are so many inspiring Divas out there, so little time to crochet them.

Where can people find your work?

Since Crochet Dark and Decadent is such a new venture ( barely two months old) the only place to find my pieces is on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CrochetDarkAndDecadent

I am working on setting up a separate website of it’s own at some point, when I’ve managed to put down my crochet hook.

Oh I almost forgot to mention, I made a very limited edition of five ‘scaries’ that can be purchased at the Amsterdam toystore Heelgoed Speelgoed. ( Gerard Doustraat 101)They’re all unique dollies , dreamed up from my twisted mind. There’s a really funky witch with a very cheeky knowing grin, a creepy courtesan with one eye and blood stained hands, a blue haired zombie school girl, a sassy red haired red devil girl with horns and a horny glint in her eye and a figure to die for and a bloodsucking vampire diva. I’m sure they won’t be there for long.

What advice would you give someone wanting to follow this career?

It’s a career? Not even my puppet job is regarded as a career. All I’ll say is us artists survive tough times like these better than most because we know how to adapt and think creatively. I have a very happy and fulfilled life. Rich I’m most certainly not, but satisfied? OH YES!

Thank you Diane for your time today!

Thank you! I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank all those of you who have supported Crochet Dark and Decadent in it’s very short life so far, the love I’ve had has been overwhelming! Who’d have thought this granny could make something that resonates with such cool people as you … I’m dumbfounded.

Also, trying not to sound like a sycophantic nincompoop, a big shout out to Dark and Decadent’s muse Ms Marnie Scarlet herself; Without you I’d have had nothing!

After seeing Diane’s work I couldn’t resist making a purchase myself & ordering my very own Mini-Me!!
Thanks again Diane, I love it =)

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