Artist: Ptolemy Elrington
Business name: Hubcap Creatures
How do you describe your work, Ptolemy?
I generally make representations of natural forms from recycled or reclaimed materials. I’ve diverged occasionally, because I’m always up for a challenge, but that’s my preferred work direction. A lot of work is with reclaimed hubcaps, hence my website and business name.
What is your creative process like?
I like the process of discovery that is an inherent part of the work I do. If I make something from a basic material, like clay or wire for instance, I’m completely in control of the form, and thus for me some of the pleasure of discovery is taken out. Seeing or finding a shape or constituent part of a shape in a found object keeps the process of creation fresh for me. I have a general idea of what I’m going to make, it’s dimensions; shape; character etc, but the details of it’s final form are denoted by what fits, or what comes to hand during the process. Sometimes I can step back from a particular piece or part of a piece of sculpture, and feel excited and energised by it without any sneaking feelings of immodesty. This is because I feel that the shapes of the individual ingredients are as much to do with the final form as my energies of creation.
If I have a particularly challenging commission or idea I want to tackle, I’ll study images, sketch and try to get to see the subject in the flesh, but generally I work from images either in books or from the web. I plunge in when it comes to the building process, but for me no amount of planning alters the ‘drawing’ with the actual materials.
I work as often as I can and in as many different ways as my diary and my inclination permits. Sometimes a large commission can be a drudge, especially when making a large and repeating part, and although this is a hill to climb, the view is always better for it. A deadline focuses the mind and stops an inclination to procrastinate. Alternatively, I can have a desire to create a particular form for days, and when in the studio with no particular place to go at any time soon, I can look up from work to find six hours have passed unnoticed.
I almost always play music when I work, louder when the studio’s other occupants are absent, and I like a complete variety of stuff, form Mozart to gangster rap to ambience.
What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
I spent a while experimenting with life choices in my late teens, and began to focus in my early twenties on a possible artistic path. I attended a part time foundation where I attended more or less full time, and from there studied art and design on a multi media course at Bradford and Illkley Community College. Although that course kind of put me off main stream art, it did enable me to learn a whole raft of skills, and meet a selection of like minded people who I continued to work with for seven years on community projects and festivals. During this time I continued to create personal work at a low level. Then I travelled, moved away and ended up ‘messing about’ with found materials in a way that attracted enough attention to enable me to attempt to earn a full time living at it. The web is a very useful tool to communicate and advertise my work to potential clients, galleries etc.
Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
I’ve got an old pair of thin nosed pliers with bits of rubber and sticky tape all over the handles that I couldn’t do without. I’ve used a variety of similar tools but these ones are perfect. If they disappear occasionally in the maelstrom of my studio I come close to a panic attack.
What inspires you to create?
Form and character inspire me, but the main drive is something inherent in my character. If I’m away from my place of work for any length of time, (for instance I was in India for a year) the urge to produce something is intense. I end up writing poetry, short stories and drawing manically when I can’t sculpt. In the studio marine forms are obviously of interest to me, and insect shapes are very intriguing. I’ve made an effort not to look too closely at the enormously exciting variety of shapes in the insect world, as I’d find it depressing not to have enough time to them justice. There’s more than enough to keep me occupied for the rest of my life in the marine world. Saying that however, I have made a few insects when I couldn’t help myself.
What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
I think, ‘What else would I be doing?’ and consider the jobs I’ve done in the past. Roofer, scaffolder, multi-drop driver, and then consider what I’d like to do…and I can’t think of anything else.
What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
Definitely to keep at it, to keep doing what you like no matter what, and to bear in mind the thought of how satisfied you’d feel at the end of your life (assuming you have the chance to contemplate the question) ‘did I do the things I wanted to do or did I just pay the mortgage?’
What takes up the majority of your time besides your art?
I tinker with and ride my motorbikes, read, socialise and watch rather a lot of anime.
What are your favorite just-for-fun activities?
Aforementioned anime. Japanese comic books turned into films or series: I can get completely lost in them. They’re a bit like music in that there’s a whole variety of style to choose from. Sometimes the artistry is astonishing and I can watch the same film time and time again saying “wow look at that” every time.
I also like travel books, Lauren Van De Post, Theroux, Eric Newby etc. and playing with my bikes too…