Featured Artist: Lou Smith

Hello Lou! Where is your studio?
My studio is in a shared railway arch in Blenheim Court, Peckham.

How long have you had your studio here, who do you share it with and what do your studio mates do?
I have been in my current studio for about 5 or 6 years, though I have association with the arches here for more like 20 odd years. I am on my third arch in that time!

I share with no fewer than 6 very different ceramicists and a conceptual artist and felter.

Peckhamite Bags by Lou Smith

How else does working alongside other artists help you?
The productive hum of people creating is a great environment to create in!

The relationships between the different arches are long established and provide a great support network and a diverse talent pool for finding solutions to problems, tool and equipment borrowing, help with moving heavy stuff, having a chat over tea and some cake. We shall have to pull together going forward to retain our community, as it is increasingly under threat from development and rent hikes.

Tell us about your art practice: How did you get into it and what do you love about it? What’s the most difficult part of the process?
My practice is almost schizophrenically diverse ranging from sound sculpture and installation art, photography and videography, screen-printing, jewellery and sculpture. I design and make Made in Peckham and Peckhamite branded goods.

I love processes, especially the rush of learning a new one and experimenting with it. I get obsessed with it, and being self-taught, I am free to make happy mistakes.

Currently I am obsessing over preservation and immortalisation of natural objects using electro-forming. Some of it I turn into jewellery.

Daisy ring in silver. ©Lou-Smith

I have often found mummified frogs in my garden during the spawning season and am fascinated by the expressiveness of the shapes they create as they dry in the sun, so was searching for a way to capture it for posterity. The process ties together my fascinations for chemistry, physics, metallurgy and the natural world.
I have been able to do little else for the past year or so, adapting it to different subjects. Frogs, flowers and fruits, skulls, insects, octopus tentacles, snails and origami have all been incarcerated in copper, often then cast in silver or bronze. The next most difficult thing is sculpting raw octopus.

By far the most difficult part of the process is the bit where the actual process ends, and marketing and promotion begin, talking about my work rather than making it.

Where can people find your work online and get in touch?
I am building a body of work before unleashing it on an unsuspecting public.
I have blogs for my band photography stuff, workshops and branded goods. For my current work: @lousmithphoto #lousmithjewellery and www.facebook.com/lousmithjewellery

Tell us a secret
1979, summer. I accidentally set fire to the then largest roundabout in Europe. Was chased for miles, escaping by jumping in a river and wading and swimming across. Statute of limitations must apply by now… I hope.

Visit Lou during Peckham Festival’s Open Studios (9-11 September 2016) at Blenheim Arches.

If you are an artist in SE15 and you would like to participate, there’s still time! Visit www.peckhamfestival.org/openstudios