Our first peek inside an artist’s studio takes us to Chichester, where illustrator Thomas Burden has crammed his converted spare room with ‘vintage tat’ picked up at car boot sales. Join us for a nose round and hear how an obsession with the toys he was denied as a child has shaped his creative work. Step this way…
I work from home, in Chichester, West Sussex, so my studio is a converted spare bedroom. Our whole house is pretty full of various things that my wife and I have collected over the years from travelling, car boot sales and charity shops, but my studio is my own space where I can cram it as full as I can without my wife feeling overwhelmed by clutter. (My wife has the other spare room as a walk in wardrobe, so that’s equally cluttered, just in a different way).
As far as my collection of vintage tat goes, my eyes are always drawn to similar things that I grew up around. I was lucky enough to have a pretty idyllic childhood. I grew up sailing and skiing and travelling, so our house (and my grand parents house, which was like a Wes Anderson set) was full of various alpine souvenirs and indigenous art that my parents collected, along with various bits of old boating junk and nic-nacs from car boot sales that my mum found interesting. I was always encouraged to be creative, and was allowed to draw murals about the house and stuff like that. So I guess I started taking note of a lot of visual references from an early age. This all combined with the fact that I wasn’t really allowed any toys as a kid, so I’d always be scouring the toy catalogues, looking at all the brightly coloured things that I couldn’t have.
In my work I try to convey that nostalgic trip through my vague recollections in as truer sense as possible – letting everything mix and slightly distort along the way. I don’t like to create pastiches, but rather I prefer to mix up all these influences and present them in the same way that they are jumbled up in my memories… to create something new, but clearly rooted in the past. How you remember stuff as a kid is probably better than how it actually was, so I like to convey that in my work by maximising colours and textures as much as possible. I think that’s why my biggest influences have been Wes Anderson and Mark Ryden. I can really relate to their inspirations and how they combine all these nostalgic elements in to something new and hyper real.
We asked Thomas…
1. What’s your favourite sound?
2. Out of all the things you own, what is your most treasured possession?
My cat – business partner, lawyer, and creative partner – Cortez.
3. Which word or phrases do you most overuse?
I’m not sorry and I’d do it again.
4. What’s your favourite bird?
Malay eagle owl. They look like real life furbies.
5. What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
Being free. Not being chained to a job and going travelling whenever/wherever the mood takes you.
Badger & Chloë Owens