We know her best as the founder of the luxe, Cape Town-based leather goods studio, Missibaba. This month, Chloe Townsend is expanding on her creative talents with her first foray into fine art with her first ever exhibition, The Magic Cat.
Which came first for you, fashion design or fine art? Or are the two linked?
I’ve been slightly obsessed with drawing since I can remember but didn’t believe I could make a living making art… Starving artist archetype and all… Accessory design allowed me to hone my cutting skills and play endlessly with colour combinations and proportion. I am finding now that I’m building on all that’s already in place, there are endless possibilities to explore new mediums and layer it altogether.
What is the inspiration behind your debut exhibition, The Magic Cat?
The title The Magic Cat seemed to feel right while working on the largest piece with the same name. Tigers have crept in everywhere, as well as a sleeping, slightly surreal cat which seems to have dreamt up the paintings.
What have you learned about yourself throughout the process of making art?
I have found heaps of self-doubt has risen – especially in the early stages of making the work. It took some time to find something that felt authentic. I wanted to cancel the exhibition many times… Thinking, “What the hell have I done to myself?!” I spent a lot of time fixed on one idea that in the end turned out to be a dead end, I had to drop it, cut it all up and start again. A life lesson there… The idea of exhibiting work feels pretty exposing. I can’t hide behind Missibaba [www.missibaba.com], which has become a separate entity. This is just me. Trusting what wants to be exposed, working until it reveals itself and also knowing when to stop have all been an interesting learning process. I feel I have opened a little trapdoor which has revealed a glimpse of a wild and wondrous world full of endless possibilities… And it’s wanting to be explored. I’m incredibly excited at the prospect!
Are there any similarities in inspiration/method between your creations for The Magic Cat and your ranges for Missibaba?
There definitely are. Nature, pattern, colour etc… Although, I have found the possibilities of working with paint, paper, pencil crayons and printing far more expansive [than fabric and leather]. Endless really, and cheaper… And it doesn’t have to weather the wear and tear of everyday use.
How does it feel to make the transition from fashion designer to artist, or are both one in the same?
The transition between designer and artist has been a pretty seamless one. I guess the one difference is that I am not painting with a buyer in mind, I am painting for my own pleasure.
Where do you do your best work?
Probably late at night while all are asleep… This has made for a very grumpy household for the duration of this making process… I have a small child, so it’s probably not sustainable. Later in life perhaps I can live a nocturnal/early morning existence. For now, I will settle for headphones and rad music to transport me to that solitary space.
What’s the best part about exhibiting at Chandler House’s Voorkamer Gallery?
I have always loved Michael Chandler’s glorious space and the man himself is a marvellously talented, hugely optimistic being who I love being around. He celebrates all that makes my heart happy and has a wonderfully light approach to art. It feels like the perfect fit!
What are your tips for staying inspired?
I’d say get out into nature and admire the wonder, magnificence and intricate design of all that’s around us. This glorious being Mother Earth, that we are fortunate enough to call home, never ceases to amaze me. Well, that’s where I get my kicks at least. Nose about until you find something that makes your heart swell.
What do you hope your art will make others feel?
I hope my art with lift those who view its mood and leave a little joy with them as they move through their day.
The Magic Cat – a debut solo exhibition by Chloe Townsend – is on now until 26 January 2018 at The Voorkamer Gallery, Chandler House, 53 Church Street, Cape Town