In the spotlight: Rachel Burke

We are all surrounded by a multitude of things; our lives are literally overflowing with objects. Despite our best efforts at decluttering, sometimes we need to take stock of our stuff.

Rachel Burke is an artist, designer, photographer and stylist who has tapped into her unused household objects and found inspiration in their mundanity.

This August Engage Arts will collaborate with Rachel Burke to present her on-going craft project The Magical Mundane that transforms the most boring household rubbish into bedazzled works of art. Rachel will invite you to unleash your creativity in a series of DIY drop-in activities and workshops held at The Pod in Brunswick Street Mall, Fortitude Valley.

Magical Mundane isn’t Rachel’s only on-going creative project; Rachel’s inventive output includes the community art and craft ventures like ‘I Make, You Wear It’, where she raised funds for charity by making a new dress each day for a year, and ‘Apomogy’ a project that encourages people to send anonymous apologies using pom-poms.

With such a diverse creative practice, we can hardly wait to see what Rachel will present for her upcoming residency and we jumped at the chance to ask her more about it.

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Magical Mundane object by Rachel Burke. Image courtesy of the artist.

 Kerry: You work full time as a women’s wear designer but still manage to maintain your own creative practice. How do you keep up your creativity every day?

Rachel: I make a conscious effort to schedule in time for my creative practice, as it is incredibly important to me, and something I look forward to each day. I do all of my personal making projects late at night or on the weekends. I have been balancing it this way for so long now that this practice has become second nature to me.

Kerry: Much of your work invites people to participate, and to connect with a seemingly simple idea or object. Is the idea something you have in mind when starting a new project or does it evolve?

I am an extrovert by nature and find that I get a lot of energy and inspiration when working with, or at the very least, involving other people in what I’m doing. I also find that there is more to learn by including others in what I’m doing – other people will reveal things about my own ideas all the time. For me, this always leads to more interesting conversations and results.

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Magical Mundane object by Rachel Burke. Image courtesy of the artist.

Kerry: Can you tell us what inspired you to start The Magical Mundane project?

Rachel: A few months ago, I decided to clean out my pantry. As soon as I started, I was struck by how many unused products I was holding to (aka hoarding!!) and in turn, how difficult I found it to let go of products I wasn’t using. I started to realise that this was a trend that was echoing throughout my house – my bathroom cupboard was also filled with things I wasn’t using, but couldn’t bring myself to let go of.

I decided to gather all this stuff up and really assess what I was holding onto. All clumped together on my kitchen bench, the collection represented all the mundane things I was overlooking and neglecting in my household. After this assessment, I decided to continue holding onto the items, but instead of shoving them back into the pantry, I decided to decorate them and begin a process of transformation.

This experimentation started to develop and the more I did it I realised I was truly changing these everyday products, elevating from the dark spaces of my cupboards, and bringing them to the foreground. I continued to explore this further, and have begun scanning supermarkets for things that I want to highlight in my collection of mundane items. Generally, I search for products that I think might be unpopular, seen as strange (like tinned tongues), or things that simply speak to my personal aesthetic.

In addition to decorating products, I have also set my sites on other mundane items like rocks and discarded rubbish.

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Magical Mundane object by Rachel Burke. Image courtesy of the artist.

Kerry: Your practice covers visual art, styling, photography, and design yet maintains a strong influence from craft. Can you tell us how you got started (and stayed) hooked on craft?

Rachel: I have always loved making things, but was always pretty focused on honing my skills for the purposes of garment design. However, along the way I developed this immense love for the materials I was using and making things purely for the sake of experimentation instead of wearability. I have a fairly addictive personality, so when I am interested in something, I can’t help but seek to repeat the process across all aspects of my life, and in this case, my artistic mediums. For example, my love of pom poms has translated into garments, pom pom themed photoshoots, I had pom poms at my wedding…and I started an art project using pom poms (Apomogy).

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We can’t wait to see The Pod sparkle! Stay tuned for the program details!

All images courtesy of Rachel Burke.
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