Alida Rosie Sayer graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 2009 with a D&AD Best New Blood award to her name and, in the following year, a solo exhibition of her work. There’s a pleasing broadness to what she does, each design discipline often overlapping and finding form in each other, like Slaughterhouse Five, a series of static animations of sculptural type. “I think it’s about testing how many different directions I can push my ideas in – trying to find out what they, and I, might be capable of.”
Tell us about the Slaughterhouse Five/There is no why series, the process and techniques and motivations behind their forms. Did you make them to be animated?
This was a series of three-dimensional typographic pieces exploring the theme of visualising time and how it is ‘arranged’ in our minds. It was inspired by concepts from Kurt Vonnegut’s cult novel, from which I took all of the quotes. There are no digital elements to these works at all, they were all made using traditional printing processes such as letterpress and screen-printing and I cut every piece by hand with a scalpel.
I was inspired by the process of making stop frame animations and in particular the technique of ‘onion-skinning’, when several frames are layered up and made semi-translucent in order to see how they relate to each other. I thought it could be interesting to imagine individual moments in time this way – as layered frames from an animation, arranged sequentially but in such a way that they are all partially visible at once. By translating these ‘moments’ into carved 3-D planes I wanted to create something more like a stilled animation that could be observed from many angles, removed from the ‘flow’ of normal experience. Ideally I’d like them to be huge, big enough to walk inside and become completely immersed in.
Can you tell us a little about what you’ve been up to since graduating?
Extending the Slaughterhouse Five series last year for my first solo show There is no why at Marsden Woo Project Space has been the most extensive and in-depth body of work so far. Other projects and commissions have included music artwork, illustration, fashion branding, animated titles for a short film, guest speaking at an architectural practice, assisting with television set-design and three-dimensional window installation. A real mixed bag, but that’s how I prefer it.
I’ve also been working at Marsden Woo Gallery in Clerkenwell since I moved to London in 2009, which gives me a fascinating insight into a completely different sphere of the creative world. I’m gathering all sorts of new skills and knowledge that I could never have anticipated and I can feel it all feeding into what I do.
Meeting with numerous designers, artists, writers, agents and curators since graduating has been very important in my quest to understand where my work and I might fit into the creative industry. Quite where that actually is, I’m still not sure, but I’m coming to the conclusion that perhaps I don’t need to know just yet!
How has your work developed since graduating and has this been affected by where you do your work nowadays?
All of the new work for my solo show was made in a little box room in my flat including 400 screen prints, which I had to do in batches of 50, rinsing the screen out using my shower in between!
My ideas have not gotten smaller, but for the moment the practical means to execute them is more limited. That said, being resourceful is probably one of the most important things to get to grips with in this line of work. Gauging the equilibrium between executing projects within your means but without compromising the quality of the ideas is vital. Most of my work is constructed using paper because it’s what I can afford. It’s easy to get hold of and I understand it, but I don’t see it as an integral part of my overall creative vision. Hopefully I will be able to experiment with different materials and scales in the near future.
As I work freelance alongside other work, I also have to be extremely organised. Deciding where it’s most important to focus my time and energy is a constant balancing act. It means I always look very closely at whether I think ideas are worth following through immediately or saving for later on.