Artist Q&A: Bryony Pritchard
03 Nov 2020
Interdisciplinary artist Bryony Pritchard has worked with us since 2010 devising and delivering creative activities across our programme, from early years movement workshops and creative storytelling, to sessions for people living with Dementia. During the UK Covid-19 lockdown, Bryony has continued to work as part of our Burberry Inspire schools programme, creating filmed activities for school children to do at home. As part of a unique creative exchange, the activity films were shared with pupils in New York.
What was your path to becoming an artist and were there particular mediums that attracted you?
Creativity was all around me from the beginning; my dad’s fiddle playing, the folk stories my mum would tell us. There would always be a project happening somewhere in our house or garden. My sister and I were encouraged to make things with our hands, especially in wood, clay and textiles which were familiar materials in our home. The smells still linger with me – the barky and oily smell of my dad’s cluttered shed and the earthy smoke of my mum’s raku kiln in the garden. I felt reassured by these materials because I could see the joy the creative process brought to my parents – they’d be absorbed in their tinkering, playing and refining. It was also thrilling to know that something was about to be created or transformed. I still get that fizzy feeling when something creative is afoot.
Did you have any particular inspirational teachers or peers?
Yes, but where to begin. My inspiration map is not linear and it’s changing constantly when I reflect on it differently. All kinds of people inspire me every day, for different reasons, either hearing somebody speak on the radio or a podcast, or reading somebody’s wise words in a book. Probably the most inspirational people to me are from magical encounters at storytelling festivals, dance workshops and creative gatherings. I’m sitting in my office studio right now and looking at all the books that surround me that I constantly turn to for ideas, guidance and a fresh perspective. There are so many amazing creative and brilliant minds that bolster me up on a daily basis. Experimental dancers, storytellers, conservationists, feminists, sound healers.…
What is the creative process you go through when planning a new work? For example is drawing an important part of the process?
It starts with curiosity. It’s usually a fascination with a found pattern or code. This might be a piece of binary code, a weaving pattern in a mill archive, a pattern of nails in a wall or my son’s sleeping pattern (which isn’t very consistent!) I take the time to wonder…. I wonder how I could translate this pattern into something else through a different artform like dance, music or drawing. And then I play! It’s often with other people, I really enjoy collaborations especially with others who work in another field. We gather together through walking, talking, eating and then something begins to grow. In the past I’ve developed projects with live coders, graphic designers, musicians, BSL interpreters, plumbers, writers and scientists.
As an interdisciplinary artist, I think my brain enjoys the challenge of bringing lots of different branches of knowledge together. The ideas take their own sweet time to unearth. I’m waiting for the right moment, the right collaborator or the right type of weather even. I have drawers of notebooks and sketchbooks filled with scribbles and drawings of ideas. I’m a collector of objects, images and books which are scattered around my home and studio, which offer some kind of compass to where my ideas might be going.
Does your work in movement and dance interact with or cross over with your physical installations or are they quite separate parts of your work?
I can’t see one without the other, they are interconnected for me. An immersive installation invites you to travel and move your body through it; you physically experience it with your body. I see movement as an ever-changing body sculpture that journeys through space and reveals new patterns, shapes and 3D compositions, especially in group circle dances, which most of my movement pieces are inspired by.
Working with other people seems quite important to you, is sharing creativity/inspiring others a central part of your work?
Inspiring others in their own making and ideas is a huge passion of mine. As an artist educator it’s one of the biggest joys to be with somebody who is completely alive with discovery and imagination. It’s especially powerful when somebody has that discovery with a piece of art and their whole being is experiencing it. That’s why I enjoy facilitating movement or multi-sensory activities in galleries. They will never see that artwork in the same way. They are connected to it forever.
I believe creativity is a human right and everyone has the right to playfully explore an idea for the sheer joy of it. I work with diverse groups of people where their expressions can be non-verbal and fleeting. But every expression is precious. And when we gather together with others for a creative purpose it helps us stay connected with ourselves, other people and our surroundings.
Something amazing happens when we are in creative flow; our breathing and heart rate slows and we drop into our parasympathetic nervous system, which boosts our digestion, sleep and immunity. It feels good too. Art is powerful medicine.