INTERVIEW: SCARLET CRANHAM // HEDGEWITCH ART
Scarlet Cranham is a talented young artist studying Fine Art at Leeds Arts University, creating some beautiful work centered around "witchcraft, the sacred feminine, and nature as a source of spirituality". I recently had the pleasure of pulling Scarlet away from her painting, vegan baking, and herbalism study to talk about her gorgeous work.
DRAB: First of all, hello! How’s quarantine been treating you? Have you found it's been enabling or even blocking creativity?
Scarlet: Hi! Quarantine has been… interesting? Like a lot of people I had to leave Leeds and my first year at uni super fast, mostly because I wanted to get back home before the inevitable lockdown - obviously it’s such a weird time, and everyone is feeling thrown off with life being far from normal, but I think I’ve found a good routine with good habits that I’m trying to stick to. I’ve been trying to make some art most days, and have started a series of paintings reflecting on the connection I have to the natural world; when we have such massive limitations on what we can actually do at the moment, the daily hikes in my local woods are a source of both sanity and creative inspiration.
That's lovely that you're managing to still find inspiration in nature. I touched on it briefly at the start of the interview, but what are the themes around your art?
My art is heavily inspired by witchcraft, the sacred feminine, and nature as a source of spirituality. Witchcraft is having a bit of a renaissance in the art world at the moment; the ‘witch’ being reclaimed as an anti-patriarchal symbol, who was previously persecuted for traditionally feminine practices such as healing, but is now celebrated as a woman aware of her own power and connection to the Earth.
To me, those themes really strongly come across in every single piece of your artwork. Is there anything you take inspiration from in your personal life that may not be so obvious?
I have lived in rural areas my whole life, so constantly being surrounded by nature is a huge source of inspiration. In terms of witchcraft, my mother and grandmother have been a source of fascination since childhood - my grandma reads tarot cards and practices spiritual healing, and my mum filled our house with crystals, incense and hand carved wands.
So these themes were prominent even in your childhood? How long have you been making art?
Basically ever since I could pick up a pencil - my mum had a hard time stopping me from drawing on the walls, and art was always my favourite subject at school. I’m so grateful that I was always encouraged to pursue art by teachers and my parents - I guess what actually got me into art was the amazing art teacher I had in primary school, she was really cool. Keeping the arts in the education system is so important and I hope people realise that more so, after this global shake up of lives and priorities.
Wow so you've been refining your art for your whole life pretty much! When did you develop this particular style?
I think I started developing my drawing style when I was about 16, massively influenced by the style and work of Egon Schiele and Danish illustrator Kay Nielson. I started to realise my interest in witchcraft and spirituality could be used within my art practice in a three dimensional/practical way a couple of years after that.
Kay Nielsons pieces are so stunningly whimsical. Are there any other artists whos work inspires your own?
Yes! One of my favourite current artists is Ayesha Tan Jones - their work can be anything from dream sculptures to ritual meditation, and explores themes of gender, spirituality and eco-consciousness. They also recently exhibited at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I also love the Fourthland collective - they were formed to make new myths about the land and people, through sculpture, installation, performance, and ceremonial practice, and explore ancient concepts of sacrality and the unconscious. I would recommend checking out their performance pieces ‘The Blue Veil’ and ‘Mother’.
Those pieces are remarkably powerful. I can definitely see the the relation to your work. Who are some artists you like at the moment whos art isn’t necessarily related to your own?
My studio buddy Lucy @heybigmoon is making some really cool sculptural and projection work at the moment. I have also recently discovered Stanislava Pinchuk; she maps areas of conflict around the world and how landscapes retain the memory of violence using tiny tattooed dots. She creates all of her tattooed works in exchange for goods or favours, not money.
What an interesting method, I've never heard of an artist working in that way before. Are you working on anything new at the moment?
Yes and no! As are a lot of artists, I’m currently working on how I can bring the practice I was developing in the studio into my family home - before I had to come back, I was experimenting with a much wider range of mediums like sculpture and installation, which isn’t so easy in my box room bedroom! The main project I was working on was installation and ritual performance out in nature - it’s not something I’ve ever really been brave enough to do before, and I’ve found it really freeing and exciting to work with. Depending on the lockdown situation, I might be working with my friend Romy @romy.helen to create a large scale installation piece in response to her upcoming EP release.
That's very exciting! Cannot wait to see that come into fruition - hopefully the current situation does allow for it. In the meantime, is there a piece of yours you can tell us about that you're most proud of or is your favourite?
Probably the tree dressing and shrine - I loved how it came out, and it felt really special to me - not only because it was something artistically way out of my comfort zone, but also because the woods have always been a sacred place to me, so it felt right. I always make sure I don't leave anything behind that isn’t natural plant material.
What are you listening to at the moment or whilst you work?
I’ve pretty much been listening to The Doors and The Brian Jonestown Massacre on repeat for the past three weeks - my favourite thing is to burn some incense, put my headphones on and enter a bit of a psychedelic painting trance. I also have to recommend an Isle Of Wight based musician - I’m loving Goo Lagoon for a chilled, sunshiney isolation soundtrack.
So you hail from the Isle Of Wight - about as far south as you can get. Why move to Leeds?
I really like how Leeds has everything you want from a big city like amazing bars, gig venues and galleries, but has more of a smaller community feel than somewhere like London.
What do you like about the art scene here?
Something really cool about the art scene in Leeds is how it feels much more inclusive, and less cut throat, than the vibe that I’ve got from other unis and cities that I visited for open days and interviews. It’s been amazing being surrounded by incredibly talented artists that you can work with cohesively and support each other rather than it being every man for himself. Wharf Chambers in Leeds is an amazing example of that, being an inclusive and affordable space for anything from music and art to politics. Hyde Park Book Club also has banging vegan food, live music and art and plant sales (all of my favourite things).
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! We adore your work and wish you best of luck with your artistic endeavors during this unprecedented time.
You can find Scarlet on Instagram @hedgewitch_art - give her a follow to keep up to date with all of her latest projects and artworks!
Writing by Summer Crane
Artwork by Scarlet Cranham