So, tell us a little about you.
I’m Charley (on the left), or Charlotte if you want to sound like my mother. I’m an artist, a theatre maker, director and writer. My passion is telling stories, through whatever medium that best lends itself to the story I am trying to tell.
What’s your story? Tell us a little about your background and what you do.
I studied Drama and Theatre Studies at University of Surrey Roehampton. Part of my course was a year long placement in a SEN school, exploring how drama could be used to enable students with communication skills, I used drama techniques and skills to empower them with the tools they needed to tell their own stories. I have also always made art in some way - drawing, painting, illustrating and making. My degree qualified me as a Facilitator, so I regularly lead groups of young people and adults to make art or theatre as a way to unlocking their creativity.
What artist or artwork inspired you the most growing up?
When I was about 20, I saw a piece at the Tate Modern by Cornelia Parker, she is an installation artist who creates ‘breathing’ pieces that have a narrative behind them. I saw a piece where she’d collected lots of quintessentially British objects - teacups, bicycle wheels etc, and put them in another British institution, a garden shed. She then got another British institution, The Army, to blow up the shed and everything in it. Cornelia collected all the pieces and hung them in a room in the Tate, orbiting around a light bulb, strung on thin pieces of wire. The result was a room where you walked between the object and the shadow, the piece affected by the observers movement. It was one of the first times I understood that art is not flat, not dead, it breathes and lives and is changed by my interpretation of it.
What artist are most inspires you now?
Marianne Elliott, director of War Horse, Curious Incident of the Dog at Night Time and Angels in America. Marianne’s approach is one of imagination. When she tells a tale, she finds whatever language best suits a piece. She is resourceful, imaginative and utterly individual. All of her pieces leave a little bit undone for the audience, so that they can add their interpretation to it, making it unique to them and only them. I aspire to tell stories the way that she does.
What do you create mostly for work and what do you create mostly for fun?
I make theatre or write theatre for work, but it does not seem like work. I find it so exciting to be making stories for people to see. Most recently I wrote a play for Hazlitt
Youth Theatre Kent and got to watch 15 teenagers say my words for the first time ever. That’s my work. When I’m doing things for fun, it is more painting, illustrating or graphic
design. I only really paint or illustrate for other people, for presents or for someone else’s design, maybe I consider that more ‘fun’ because it’s not for my own ends.
Neither of them feel like work though, they just feel like things that need to be done!
What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?
When my best friend gave birth to her first child, Evie, I wrote and illustrated a picture
book for her. I had it printed and made it into a book using a Japanese Booking Binding
Technique. It is by no means the greatest piece of art I have made, but it was something
I loved making and something that I knew would show my friend how much I loved her
and gave Evie something that was hers and hers only. Evie is now five and has a baby
brother who she reads the book to, so that makes it absolutely the piece of art I am most happy and proud to have made.
Do you think people are just born creative or is it something everyone has, but many don’t explore?
Creativity, like any skill, is something that has to be nurtured. I don’t know that anyone is or isn’t born with an innate ability. But what I have learned through years of making and teaching is that imagination is key, and having the courage to follow your imagination is the thing that makes you grow as an artist. I think most Western education systems
position making mistakes as bad, but if you want to create - whether that’s a piece of art or working out the theory behind Black Holes and Dark Matter - the most important and productive thing is to make a mistake and to learn from it. I think if we were all taught to trust our instincts, to play and to experiment imaginatively, to fail and try again and that that isn’t the end of the world but just a step on the process, we would all be more creative and would all be much more fulfilled because of it.
What’s your favourite colour? Why?
Turquoise or Teal, maybe because it looks like a shallow sea in the middle of summer, or
maybe just because it looks nice, but either way that’s my thing.
What’s your favourite album to listen to whilst you create and why?
If I’m writing, I can’t have words, so then it is a mix of Chopin, Gorceki, Fanny Mendellson and a bit of Elgar chucked in for good measure - they are all phenomenal composers who make worlds with their notes, which means I strive higher when writing without realising it.
If I am painting, I want something similar but with a story, so I either have an art or history documentary on in the background, The Guilty Feminist podcast (because that triggers my brain and is just generally the most awesome thing) or maybe some Florence, Adele or Lamb as they make music that has very strong narratives, build up in incredibly compulsive ways and are able to use notes that bypass your brain and just pull your emotions out without you realising.
If you were stuck on a desert island and had to bring 3 items with you to create with, what would you bring!?
Something to make fire with, so I could make charcoal to draw and write with. A book to keep me aware that I am not alone on the earth and paper. Everything else you could
make - string, pigment, canvas, colour, it’s all there in nature, I would just have to keep
experimenting until I found the right leaf to paint with and the right earth to make ink with!
If you could give advice to yourself growing up, with the benefit of hindsight, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and be wrong. Those things don’t really exist, so once you find that out, you’ll be free to do what you want.
What / who made you decide to become a professional creative, rather than doing it as a hobby?
No one, I just didn’t really see anything else to be.
What makes you most happy?
Making a story with friends.
What’s next for you? What you would like to be doing in 12 months?
I am currently writing an adaptation of The Christmas Carol for The Hazlitt Theatre Kent and am developing a play called ‘What You Risk’ with my theatre company, Scrawny Cat - since January we have staged it at The Pleasance Islington and The Tristam Bates Theatre. In the next year we hope to get some ACE funding and stage it for a full, Off West End run. I also produce a Period Poverty night, Thicker Than Water, which is aimed at raising funds and awareness for Period Poverty. Over the next year we want to grow that and also start taking the night to Calais to raise awareness for the refugees still kept there and provide entertainment for the amazing people who are giving up their time to bring relief to those refugees.
Is there anything exciting coming up that you would like to let people know about?
The next installment of Thicker Than Water and What You Risk, details of which can be found at my theatre company’s website !
Otherwise, see you at one of M.Y.O's workshops where we can relax and get a creative work out!