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  • Carl Clerkin at the Great Heal’s Bodging Race 2015 credit Heal’s 192 Tottenham Court Road

Meet Twelve Tall Tales maker Carl Clerkin

Carl Clerkin at the Great Heal’s Bodging Race 2015. Credit Heal’s, 192 Tottenham Court Road

Tell us what you do and how you started doing it?

I am a trained furniture designer but I suppose officially I am—a product and furniture designer. I also teach a BA in Product and Furniture Design at Kingston University.

I became interested in furniture design whilst studying fine art and sculpture on a foundation course at Central Saint Martins. The foundation introduced me to furniture design really, up until then I always thought of design in the terms of fashion or graphics.

I spent many naïve years sitting in chairs and thinking ‘oh that’s a nice chair’ or ‘that’s a comfy one’ but never really thinking of chairs as being designed. However, the foundation offered me a platform where I spent a bit of time making furniture and found this to be a really interesting vehicle for my ideas. Through this experience I realised that I really enjoy the space between design and sculpture. I have enjoyed making objects in this area ever since.

What sparked your interest in your craft?

I consider the way I work to be more ‘crafty’ than crafted, I appreciate how things are made but I am more inspired by the ideas behind the work rather than it being heavily crafted. I would say that making things is my craft but I’m not a crafts person.

For example I see a lot of craft in industrial objects and don’t think other people see this as craft. For me craft is about the intelligent use of materials and processes rather than I suppose traditional heavy craft skills in terms of making.

Describe yourself in 3 words?

I would describe myself as Turkish, Irish and English.

My work is useful, playful and charming— just like me!

What inspires you and your work?

I am interested in the physical and intellectual dialogue between people, space and objects. I like to see how people interact with objects and spaces on a day to day basis and then play with this. So it’s the everyday that inspires me really and telling extraordinary stories about these ordinary every day interactions really pleases me.  

I like to impart narrative in things and to cross disciplinary boundaries. That’s what really excites me, more than if I’m a designer or an artist or whatever... a swimmer!

Fast basket, 2013, Carl Clerkin. Photo courtesy Gallery S O London

Tell us about The Other Way and why you started this project?

I design through making so when I have an idea I like to do a sketch and make it physically as soon as possible, quite often I’ll use what’s at hand to make these objects, they’re like physical drawings and whilst I love making them they often don’t see the light of day, they normally go in the shed or the attic.

The objects in Twelve Tall Tales are an extension of these physical drawings, as they are made to be exhibited in a gallery I enjoyed not thinking about commerce and just making objects for the joy of it and getting a response from people.

I also wanted to give the objects I created permission to travel or to do something different— it’s about that Micky Mouse moment just before your broom starts sweeping by itself. By using everyday objects you already have an understanding and expectation of what they are. For example, you have already formed a relationship with a broom, and even if you haven’t you certainly know what it is and how it ought to be used.

What did you want to convey through The Other Way?

I like to tell jokes but I don’t really have an agenda where I want to give an overall story. I wanted to ask questions like if a basketball hoop could do anything else what would it do? It might just get on a skateboard and sod off rather than hanging around!

There’s no real depth to it and the stories are not meaningful it’s more about the ideas. I wanted to make a series of objects that use logic, rational and reason in order to explain the ridiculous. That’s why most of the objects defeat their purpose in a lot of ways.

What did you find the most challenging?

I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to achieve in my mind. It proved challenging at times to make it come to life as I wanted things to have specific size or be made of a certain material. If it was too small or too big that wouldn’t have been logical or rational enough for me and that’s an important element of my work.

When I made the broom with the hoop, it was very important to have the circumference of the hoop the same length of the broom handle. It was difficult to get that hoop although it’s a standard chair part. Even trying to find a supplier for just the hoop or even finding a hoop with the correct diameter was challenging.  

Squash Caught, 2013, Carl Clerkin. Photo Sophie Mutevelian

What’s your favourite object in The Other Way and why?

The Squashed Court is my favourite and incidentally is probably the most crafted object I have in Twelve Tall Tales— in the end it’s a squash racket with a football stuck in it, but I had to make the racket to fit the football out of laminated aeroply. Traditionally squash rackets are made in this way.

It reminds me of a time I took my kids to the beach on Southend and made a film with us playing with it. It’s embedded with memories of that lovely day out with the kids.

You made a series of short films for The Other Way— tell us more?

The films were made to give the objects more narrative in Twelve Tall Tales. When thinking about how we could do this, a soap opera seemed like it might be a good way to convey information, a good narrative structure.

My brother and I decided to make some short films called Stenders, a take-off of the cliff hangers in EastEnders known as the doof doof moments. My brother is an actor and he played Joel Reynolds (the father of Ronnie Mitchell's daughter) in EastEnders for a few years ago, so Stenders seemed like a good fit.

Are you a fan of EastEnders? Who’s your favourite character or quote?

My son is massive fan of the show but I’m not. My Kids both loved their uncle being on EastEnders and thought it was amazing! For me it’s nothing like the East End I grew up in, we laughed a lot more than they do in EastEnders.

My favourite character has got to be Dot Cotton as she is funny and is a lovely actress. My favourite quote is Peggy saying “Get out of my pub!”

What are you up to now?

I’m just getting ready for the summer really as all my students’ assessments are finished at university so I get a bit of more time to myself. I will also be relaunching my homeware company All Lovely Stuff so look out for that.

Why do you think people should come to see Twelve Tall Tales?

There’s lots of interesting stories being told through each of the objects. They are accessible and easy to understand which I like.