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MAKE//FRIENDS #3 Emma Cocker, Textile Taxidermist

Well dressed and surprising, Emma Cocker's characters come to you like a creature straight from a Roald Dahl story, by way of Wes Anderson's costume department. Like the best of Dahl and Anderson, Cocker's work displays both whimsy and melancholy; her characters are curiously individual. In an economy where craft must increasingly have a specific purpose to be saleable, Cocker is doing something particularly brave, and we think, important. Beautiful and unique; we'd like to introduce you to the clan.

Ok Emma, let's start with the hardest question. How would you describe your work?

Storybook characters that walk in the woods and sail on the sea. Half human, half animal dressed with vintage, modern style.

We were struggling to describe your work to a friend recently, when I realised how much it reminds me of Peter Firmin's The Clangers! Were the stop-motion animations of SmallFilms in the 60's, 70's and 80's an inspiration to you? And if not, what is? And what drew you to begin creating your work?

I guess as a child of the 70's it’s hard not to have been influenced by these great animators. I’ve always enjoyed making things and the magic of theatre and puppetry. There were times when I was at University, studying textiles, that I considered transferring to the animation degree, but my passion was always more in the making process. My dream one day is to create an animated story with my characters and the world they inhabit. So watch this space…

What do you listen to while working?

Radio 2 in the day and 6 Music in the evening; although we recently acquired a record player and I’m really enjoying Carole King at the moment. And when I really need to concentrate, all the music goes off and I just listen to the water and seabirds outside the window.

Describe your processes for us. There must be a variety of techniques used in each piece?

I always start with the head. This is created from a number of flat pieces which are individually machine embroidered before being hand-stitched together. Once the head is stuffed and three dimensional I can begin to create the face and the personality of the character starts to emerge. Then I mould a wire armature which fits inside a simple cloth body, which is again stuffed – my tool kit for this tricky business: a trusty piece of driftwood and a snapped dowel!

And finally the clothes…each garment is hand sewn or knitted to the characters size and requirements. It can be so hard to decide on an outfit but this is where he or she finds her true character!

How do you find the process of selling your produce? Have you found the maker's community supportive?

It is definitely challenging and by far one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do so far. I come from an arts background and I find the idea of my work being a product quite difficult, so it’s been quite a struggle. However, the other makers I meet at shows or online are really supportive and have been invaluable to my journey so far. My boyfriend is really supportive; he is from a design background so he understands the making process, but more from a product perspective, which is useful when it comes to promoting and marketing my work.

Do you have a favourite piece?

I’m sorry I don’t – I get really attached to every piece I make and find it so hard to part with them. But there are a few pieces I would never sell, as they are the originals!

We're asking all of our MAKE//FRIENDS makers what techniques they have for when they get stuck in a rut. What do you do to get inspired when you're up against a creative wall?

Walk, walk and walk. I’m so lucky to live by the sea, so I normally find a stomp along a cliff path or beach the best brain space. If that doesn't resolve my funk at least I will feel more refreshed and energised.

And if that’s not possible a headstand!

Describe your ideal Sunday for us.

That’s easy… a walk to one of my favourite coves, a dip in the ocean (season dependent!), followed by a hot thermos of tea and a slice of cake, finished off with dinner at the pub and back home to knit in front of a movie…

You can view more of Emma's work, and dates for upcoming exhibitions on her website.

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