Chinwag with Sarn Bell – Kinky Creatures by Jo Blackened

Sarn Bell is a visual artist originally from near Brighton, England. Drawn to Berlin by its extensive Goth and Fetish scenes, she now divides her time between Berlin, London, Dresden and Brighton. As well as working in Fashion (with an outfit on permanent display at Brighton Museum) and Illustration, Sarn Bell also makes Kinky Creatures!

Hey Sarn, thanks for taking the time for this interview!

Please can you tell me abit about Kinky Creatures?
I make and sell Kinky Creatures; they are cute PVC Plushes, that love style and fashion!
They come in both human-doll and animal form that portray a particular subculture or style.
The very first Kinky Creatures wanted to go to famous Gothic Festivals in Germany – Wave Gotik Treffen and Mera Luna – and so the Kinky Creature carrying bag was born!

I love making the creatures and designing all their outfits, and its great to be able to travel around with one on a bag – so I always have one with me!
Doing the photos for all 3 series was absolute chaos – 25 PVC Plush models and loads of little outfits – not to mention the squabbling! Sarn laughs.
Series One is available now, with Series 2 and 3 already in the pipeline!
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Your Kinky Creatures designs are very unique and individual, where do you get your inspiration and ideas from?
Kinky Creatures was created and designed by myself and Synara (from the band Synthetic) who now does their photography and web design.
We came up with the idea one evening in a bar in Dresden called ‘Little Creatures’ and they gradually developed into a full collection. Kinky Creatures express the different threads of the Goth scene – from Steampunk to Cyber to Gothic Lolita; They are like fetish rag dolls.
To some extent they are influenced by graphic novels and Anime and Manga, as we wanted to produce a series of Designer Collectables.
I love to spend time in shops like Forbidden Planet in London, Modern Graphics in Berlin and comic shops everywhere, looking at their range of collectables and character merchandise.
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You also do a lot of work in Fashion, can you please tell me more about your styles & themes you like to create?
Three themes constantly recurs in my work : Gothic, Victorian and Fetish.
I have an extensive collection of original Victorian Bodices, including a full dress with skirt and bustle from 1886, I have also always loved the Gothic style.
Often seen carrying a whole roll of PVC home, I have been accused of buying up all the PVC fabric available in Brighton Sarn giggles!
In fashion, I design and make corsets and outfits in PVC, Latex and Leather.
Brighton Museum and Art Gallery commissioned one of my Neo-Victorian PVC outfits for their Fashion Gallery, I also produce individual pieces and commissions and am currently developing a collection to sell on-line.
My fashion work is often based on fitted clothing with lots of panels, I love to explore pattern cutting from my original studies and developing them into finished pieces. I like to produce shiny, sexy, stylish outfits!

Congratulations on the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery commissioning one of your Neo-Victorian PVC outfits (bodice, skirt, corset and bustle) for their Fashion Gallery.
Can you tell me a little more about how this came about?
Yes – that was so exciting!
I met Angela Charles, the Museum’s Fashion Project Researcher, when she was working on the new ‘Renegade’ collection for the brand new fashion floor (the whole Art Gallery and Museum was being redeveloped at that time).
She was collecting oral histories with people from different subcultures and having seen me at a club in one of my own outfits, she asked me for an interview, of course, this lead to her seeing not only my original Victorian clothes collection but also my own work in Fashion.
I was at that time I was working on a series of four collections that were later to be displayed at The Carnival of Souls Fashion Show, Angela was so excited by it she immediately recommended my work to the Museum and I was commissioned to produce an outfit for the exhibition!
As the clothes were to be displayed along with the footwear worn with them, I was also paid to buy another pair of my favourite thigh high platform boots just for the display!

I am delighted that the Museum commissioned my work as part of their permanent collection – so my work will always be on display there, across from a Victorian Day Dress and a design by Alexander McQueen.
I pop in to ‘visit’ it sometimes when I am in Brighton and have had a wonderful response from the visiting public.

Fashion designs are very individual, where do you get your inspiration and designs from?
I have always designed and made my own clothes!
When I was a child, I was constantly designing for my dolls; that time I had some very fitted designs that could only be put on the doll by pulling her head off first – and replacing it again of course! Sarn laughs.

Personal, identity is very important to me and I like to express that through my own work.
Obviously I have studied Victorian Fashion and love the Illustrations from that period. I love tight, fitted clothes and enjoy combining elements of the wonderful cut of Victorian designs with fetish fabrics such as PVC. I also explore re-inventing aspects, for example, in my Neo-Victorian outfit in the Museum the bodice is worn with a very short mini skirt not the expected traditional long skirt, and the corset and little bustle are on top!

Of course for Kinky Creatures, the important thing was how to capture a particular style in clothes on a PVC Plush! I loved being very particular about details; For example, the Goth has real corset grommets in her corset, the Steampunk has a little Top Hat, and the next one I release will be a Cybergoth with a great pair of googles!

Oh – I design clothes for Porcelain Dolls too, and am developing a Collection of Porcelain Dolls in my own outfits. I now rework the Dolls themselves first – taking in their waists and adding boobs to fit their corsets and bodices correctly! I presently have about 60 re-dressed Porcelain Dolls, some of these will be for sale in the near future!

Have you ever studied Art or Design?
I studied Art and Dance at Degree Level, and have always continued to develop my own work.
I have also taught Art, Fashion and Design at ‘A’ Level, specialising in units in Fashion Design and Illustration, as well as Figure Drawing and Oil Painting.
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Do you find designing an area to easily join or is there a lot of competition?
It is never easy to make a living from your own work in Art or Fashion – but all the hard work is worth it.
I love what I do and am always creating!

As well as designing you are also an accomplished Artist, can you please tell us a little more about this?
I love drawing, and find my work can spin in circles.
I design an outfit and then do an illustration of a girl wearing it, or produce a drawing that then leads to me designing a pattern to create a similar outfit to wear!
My work in fashion; which often incorporates elements of Victorian fashion, fetish designs and sleek, fitted garments, influences my artwork, and vice versa.
As well as drawing in relation to my fashion work, I have recently really focused on my artwork in its own right., of course my artwork explores the themes that always interest me – personal identity, the self expression of Goth and Alternative subcultures, through individuals’ distinctive looks.
I illustrate individuals in stances and attitudes that express their personality and pay close attention to outfits and style.
I love to draw bold, confident girls with attitude!
I am inspired by vivid images or portrayal of characters in film and theatre, or by pieces of music.
I am interested in iconic characters from Mistress to Whore or Vampire as portrayed in books, film and popular culture.

How do you prepare your Art pieces?
I love Goth and Fetish clubs and festivals and I am inspired by people I see, and have drawn some close friends.
I often start a new drawing from memories of people I have seen, or a striking pose.
I may work from rough studies or from real life, drawing and redrawing until I capture the attitude and style that I want to express. I work initially with ink and brush-pen, this original drawing is then scanned into a computer and developed further through painting in the digital medium.
I aim to enhance the figures through careful painting describing their form.
I love taking my work through these different processes and I have developed a style which is leaning towards more realism, rather than graphic; although I have explored both approaches.
At first my work was mainly drawings and illustrations, now I spend a lot of time developing my artwork through digital painting.

What preparations do you have before designing your creations?
I am constantly noting down new ideas, or details that catch my attention in my everyday life. I am always looking at the world around me, people on the street or at clubs, magazine images, paying attention to small details from the cut of a sleeve to the expression conveyed by a slight change in someone’s stance. The areas I work in overlap and so ideas feed from one aspect into another.
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Your work focus’s a lot on the dark, gothic scene; is this something you have always been into?
Absolutely! I love the aesthetic, the music, and the commitment!
To me Goth is a lifestyle, I have been actively involved in the scene for a long time, both in London and Berlin. I always go to Wave Gottic Treffen in Germany and also love the UK festiavls, for example; Whitby and Infest.
I played keyboards with the band ‘Synthetic’ and this led to lots of travel both in the UK and abroad, and of course I adore the aseptic of Goth and fetish fashion., self identity and the expression of it, is very important to me. As a Goth myself, I have always focused on Fetish clothes and love it when the scenes overlap!

You have travelled a lot & spend a lot of time here in the UK as well as Berlin; Where do you prefer to be based & what are the fundamental differences of being abroad?
I love to travel, see different places and met different people!
Berlin was an inspiration for me for many reasons; the Gothic and Alternative scenes there are on a major scale which is fantastic, but also the city itself. Once you get to know it, has a wonderful atmosphere, a respect for the arts and creative people, a laid back feel, which allows one the opportunity to just be in a city and develop ideas freely, of course I love being in London and Brighton too; the sheer bustle and energy of London is incredible.

Also, although the scene is bigger in Germany it can be harder to break into, there is much more money involved and the costs of advertising and stalls at events can be considerable.
The scene is smaller in the UK but very committed and it is easier to network work there and establish yourself, however there is a glass ceiling of course and to be successful it is ultimately necessary to develop an international profile.

Who are your favourite Artists/designers?
I really like the artwork of Luis Royo, David Hancock, Egon Schiele and Russell Flint, the fetish work of Eric Stanton and the graphic novel illustrations of Chris Bachalo.
In fashion, I admire the work of Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier and the Victorian designs of Charles Frederick Worth.

What would you like to achieve with your Art?
I would like it to be seen and enjoyed by as many people as possible, whether through exhibitions, print media or on-line.
I am currently arranging some of my Artwork for an Art Gallery in Second Life; This is exciting as it is such new media, the opportunity to show work in a virtual world., but I would also like to display my work in a very large format – each piece A0 or larger, then the lines and details really stand out in a different way to when my work is reduced.
I also sell my work as Limited Edition signed prints and as sets of Greeting cards!

Do you have any Advice for anyone out there interested in pursuing the same path?
Keep at it! That’s the main thing, and to prioritise the development of your creative work as much as you can.

What are your goals for the future?
Right now, I really want to get Kinky Creatures out there and am busy promoting.
I am also arranging my artwork, and hope to have news of an exhibition soon. I am working on my fashion collection which will be available on-line in the near future.
I have so much to do – but I love doing it, and could not imagine being anything other than addicted to my work!
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Thank you so much for your time!
Thank you!

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