Amy Worrall’s colourful ceramics are both adorable and introspective. These bobbly little characters and their amusing expressions draw heavily on the young creative’s own adolescence and her experiences coming of age in the noughties. “My work is essentially a weird, skewed vision of my own reality,” the young creative tells It’s Nice That. “It’s me consuming huge amounts of pop culture, digesting it and spewing it out as these sculptures.”
Amy can trace the roots of her practice back to long afternoons spent playing with Fimo as a kid. The deep fondness she developed for the squishy sculpting material never really went away and she found herself returning to it frequently when feeling uninspired. “During my illustration degree I was always attracted to working in 3D and playing around with polymer clay,” she recalls. “After I finished I knew illustration wasn’t the right fit for me so began to seek out evening courses.”
Settling on a ceramics class, Amy fell in love with the medium almost instantly, finding that it provided her with the expressiveness and experimentation she’d been looking for. “I think the attraction comes from the strong connection clay has to play,” she muses. “I can make something and if I don’t like it I can reuse the clay over and over in that way it feels limitless.”
It’s the tactility of this process – being able to tease, squeeze, roll and scrunch the material so directly – that Amy cherishes most of all. “The most exciting aspect for me is how much fun the process of making is: the physicality of clay – especially when working in a fairly large scale as I do – turns it into something I have to engage my whole body with,” she says, reflecting on the intensively hands-on nature of the discipline.
The joy Amy takes from this playful process shines through in her zany characters and their humorous demeanour. However, while on first glance their saturated colours and unshakeably cool attitude stand out, a closer inspection reveals a more reflective and critical tone. “The women I make are caricatures of confidence that thinly veil the paradoxes of being a body confident woman in a world of Facetuned social media and critical press coverage,” she muses, adding: “I want my work and the world I create to be both the ideal and the reality, reflecting the way we are forced to navigate our personal image in a time when the personal is also public.”
Amy’s latest series Not a Girl, not yet a Woman explores these pressures and their dualities in the context of her own adolescence. “It is a celebration of what has shaped my world and how this is so intrinsically linked to the male gaze,” she explains. Featuring prominent icons and activities from her youth – notably “Britney Spears, binge drinking and the inescapable angst of my formative years” – this charming set of ceramic women navigate the complexities of these formative years with intelligence and style. “They look at the notion of the ‘presentable woman’ and how the gaze of others shapes this – specifically gaze of my beloved pop music from the naughties,” she says. “It’s a Hollywood love story from my personal account of pop culture – a purposely superficial world that only hints at the contradictions and mixed messages held within its glossy exterior.”
Reflecting on the ways in which the appearance of her characters express these juxtapositions, Amy explains how “they look young and old at the same time, they are simultaneously cartoonish female forms and completely shapeless, they draw you in and are kind of repulsive all at once.” Ultimately she concludes: “I wanted to reflect the way I feel about others and myself and these opposite ideas which sit in mind at and constantly overlap.”