Gemma Gilleard

In 2005, after spending much of her life growing up in moorland and sparse landscapes, politically motivated Yorkshire-based artist and designer, Gemma Gilleard (aka Gx2) upped sticks to London to work on a degree in Fashion Design at the London University of Arts. Since graduating she has thrust herself into the world of self-employment and, taking inspiration from the DIY art studios are guerrilla art in the capital, Gemma returned home in 2010 to create The Beating Arts Shop with her sister. They’re now working towards their next project, The Artery.I spoke to Gemma to find out what inspires her, who she’d like to have dinner with and what her plans for the future are…

admin 12 years ago

How did you get in to art – was it something you were always good at or were you pushed during school and college?

It’s kind of hard to define, I feel like it’s always been there. Both of my parents are creative people and I recall my dad spending ages on pen and ink drawings – so he used to spend a lot of time with both me and my sister when we were young, teaching us drawing methods. I guess this encouraging and creative atmosphere proved quite pivotal as we’ve both grown into creative disciplines! School also encouraged me. I recall my textiles teacher in high school taking me to one side and asking me to take it as GCSE because of my talents, and in college I was given a lot of creative freedom with my work and allowed to do portraiture in comparison to the other students. I think it’s because I lived and breathed it and practiced it in all my spare hours – and my teachers could tell.

You studied Fashion Design Technology at University, how do you think that is reflected in your current work if at all?

My relationship with Fashion Design is a funny one. I pursued it from quite an early age as it encompassed a lot of different aspects of the creative industries. I was interested in photography, styling, illustration, costume and the 3D sculptural properties of clothing and fashion seemed the one industry where I could dabble in all three conceptually. Although I don’t design for clothes any more, I think it has definitely affected my work. I have gained quite a geeky passion for Branding, which I think has spawned from my degree. I’ve started my own product line, Gx2homegrown, which focuses on applying artwork to everyday objects and making it affordable. Whether it’s a teacup, print or necklace. I’ve just given away a hint for my next collection!

The product side of my work has definitely come from my fashion background. I saw fashion as a way of wearing art, and so now I look at ways of tackling it in other mediums. As you can probably tell, I like to try and work in lots of different ways, creating and crafting and tackling new challenges – I think it’s all come from my initial reason of why I chose Fashion in the first place

What inspires your art work? Are there any hidden messages or subtle meanings – I am particularly interested in the crows and the feathers..

When growing up, I had an avid interest in Native Americans, from playing dress-up and going on long walks in Welsh Forests pretending to hunt. It’s a culture I’ve had an affinity with my whole life and so it plays a huge part in my visual works – including my past fashion collections. Other indigenous cultures from around the world are also a large influence, I’ve done a series based on women in folklore across the world, Haiti and Kanaval and The Zapatistas for example. The other massive influence for me is music – I love all sorts and it’s a big part of my life (thanks again to my dad!) and it’s probably affected many choices I’ve made in my life.

What other artists do you take inspiration from?

Swoon has been one of my favorite artists for awhile now; she’s an inspiring woman to say the least. Her work comprises of large paper cut paste ups, illustrations and lino prints – and her interest is seeing the way they decay on the streets over time. I can’t explain how excited I got when I saw one of her pieces near my favorite art supply shop in London, seeing her fragile paper work still hanging on to a large wooden gate. Francisco Goya is another one, I love his black and white etchings – I like the nightmarish quality of his work. I’ve also luckily found my muse, he entered my life over a year ago and I feel like he can see what I see. He understands my creative thoughts and inspires me – he has just started out on his venture into Sound Design and Composition for media, film and games under the name [STØY]. He’s worked on a soundscape for my new website which is currently in development, but he manages to have encompassed how I see my work beautifully! And in return he’s gained some branding from me – synergy

What materials do you use to create your work?

It’s quite a mixture really, a lot of my illustrations start out digitally to save me needing a scanner of epic proportions. A lot of my work involves craft as well, so I like the merging of the two. From something so digital and clean to working with inks, print and sewing.

Is there any material that you prefer to work with?

If I had to choose one, it would have to be my graphics tablet and computer! But, if I spend too long with it I often hanker for a simple pen and paper to sit and curl up with.

Can you tell me a little bit about the Beating Arts that you’re involved with?

The Beating Arts Collective started out whilst I was still at university and was set up by me and my sister (Cbloxx). It provided a collaboration and then an umbrella for our work, and in 2010 it became a shop based in Leeds. We sold a lot of urban art, screen printed tee’s, upcycled accessories, vinyl toys and over time created a platform for other local artists. The Beating Arts has always been socially conscious, and after closing our shop we set up INK for AID, gathering artists locally and internationally to help raise money for the Japanese Tsunami. We are still working on such events, like INK for AID as well as setting up our latest venture, The Artery

What are you plans for the rest of the year?

I should hopefully be acquiring a studio space very soon, which should allow me to start tackling screen printing again, yay! It will also mean I can develop my products and hopefully bring about an INK for AID 2012. The Beating Arts will be heading down to Upfest in Bristol this June – which will be exciting, it’s been awhile since I was last there and will be great to do larger scale work again. Exhibitions, Collaborations and Commissions are all on the cards for the rest of the year – including book and record covers and posters

Dinner with one artist – who and what tips would you like to know?

Oh, that’s a tough one! I would have quite liked…loved to have been able to have dinner with Mervyn Peake – he is one of my favorite writers and his illustrations are just as wild as the characters he creates. I’m not sure what tips I’d ask for, i’d probably just want it to be a moment where I can clamber into his mind and find out what made him tick!

If you want to see more of Gemma wonderful artwork, here are some useful links;

The official website is – it will be reworked and updated soon. I update my facebook continuously which can be found here

You can purchase my work on Etsy currently I have some future stockists on the cards, but I ship internationally and handle all my Etsy orders personally. You can also get in touch for something truly unique and commissions through the same shop or always drop me a message on my facebook or through my e-mail –

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