Meet the Squishies: Daisy Collingridge’s collection of wonderfully grim flesh suits
The London-based textile designer has created a joyful and performative family of characters, named Dave, Clive, Burt and Hillary – one of which is modelled by her dad.
- Ayla Angelos
- 19 March 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Meet Dave. He’s mates with Clive, and sometimes he hangs out with Burt and Hillary. Often, you’ll see them lunging, sitting, lounging about or having a kneel, but they don’t wear any clothes – oh, and they have quite a lot of excess skin, too. They’re part of the Squishies, a collection of soft fabric-made flesh suits created by London-based textile designer Daisy Collingridge.
“Because they are made from a soft fabric, people are drawn in to touch (or squish) them, because they’re so tactile,” Daisy tells It’s Nice That. Created purely out of an inherent “impulse” to make things, Daisy first began to build on these character-based suits for the fun of it. That was until she saw one being worn and photographed for the first time, then they became “more than just a sculpture”. She adds: “For me, they are a celebration of flesh, form and fabric. The imagery I produce is positive and empowering; they are intended to be joyful and beautiful.”
Daisy is a firm believer of craft. So much so that she grew up working with fabric, creating things from teddy bears, soft toys, and then progressing on to quilted dresses and free-standing sculptures. Drawn towards the medium for its tactility and relatability, Daisy’s most interested in the ways in which the fabric hangs off a body. “[Fabric] lends itself so beautifully to the human form, since, unlike stone or marble, it’s soft and warm like skin and flesh.” Alongside this innate fascination with materials, her mother was also a large influence. Daisy refers to her as a “proper craftsperson” and one who’s able to “turn her hand to anything” – including quilts, cakes, curtains and upholstery. Their house growing up was filled with How-to books, which consequently fuelled the imagination of a creative kid, one who’s eager to get their hands on anything.
“My work is a product of my childhood,” she continues to explain. Surrounded by doctors, nurses and scientists, the human body was analytically presented in front of her from the get-go – so it’s no wonder that it became a focus point for her craft in the later years to come. Daisy recalls a trip with her mum to see the Body World exhibition by Gunther von Hagens: “It showed the human (and other animals) in their biological, anatomical glory, preserved by plastination,” she says. “Combine these scientific dinner table conversations with a mum who can turn her hand to all the crafts – she can crochet, silk paint, dye, toy-make, quilt and embroider.” Alongside this, Daisy also visits art galleries as much as she checks out body builders on Instagram – “this combination of practicality and creativity seems to have irresistibly steered my work to what it is.”
When asked about how she creates her wonderfully grotesque pieces, Daisy responds abruptly: “no software!” Because, quite simply, she’s a maker who’s true to her craft. She chooses a needle and thread as her tools of choice, as well as the occasional bit of machine work for the base. “They take a long time to make,” she adds on the process, “and the fabrics are all hand dyed”. The dying method is something which she adores due to the fact that it’s a bit like painting, “you can mix any colour, though I am never quite sure what I am going to get in the end.” A slow process that involves layer upon layer of stitching, shaped wadding and jersey, but one that’s totally worth it.
The finished result is an entertaining spectacle. What also adds to humour of it all is that Daisy photographs and models in the suits, alongside her father, Dave – whom she’s made a suit specifically for. “It’s fascinating to watch my introverted dad work the crowds in his protective ‘flesh suit’; changing the person beneath is something that I want to explore more,” she comments. “They are made with movement in mind, so I would love to get some real dancers (not just me) in them.” In fact, the first suit she made was modelled by a dancer, and Daisy was enamoured with the confident and empowering way in which it was worn.
Performance plays a huge part in this collection, and is just as important as the person that wears it. Aware of its prominence, Daisy plans to produce a sort of exhibition-cum-performance at the end of her studio residency in London over the next couple of months – soon we will all have a chance to witness these characters in real life. “They are sitting with me in my studio at the moment,” she concludes, “but there is something magical about bringing them to life. Movement is an important part of the design of them, they are intended to be real, living, breathing celebrations of the human form.”
Daisy Collingridge: Changing Rooms 2 (Burt), photo by Mark Sherratt