Poppy Nash, artist, activist and all around rock star in our eyes, is Rug Lane’s Muse this month.
We first came across Poppy Nash’s work when she was doing a piece at the Tate Modern in London for the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA). Nash studied graphics at The School of Arts in Glasgow, although she admits she almost didn’t make it. “I wanted to go towards the beach but my brother and my dad had to sit me down and tell me I was crazy for passing it up”. She’s always liked textiles and fabric and wanted to switch to the textile department while she was at school, “I tried to change into textiles and it was really sad they wouldn’t let me change but in the long run though I’m glad they didn’t let me. It’s really design focused which is limiting to what I want to do”. She does do a lot of work with textiles, but in her own artistic sense rather than having to design textiles as products, “I use textiles and fabric more than paper. I really like colour - colour gets me going a lot”. When asked if she would want to do fashion design she explained that would be “terrifying”. She has a few friends who do it and can understand “you have to go through a lot of shit to get anywhere. It’s the real devil wears prada experience. If you have a passion that’s strong enough then I think it’s fine. Like in anything. But I don’t have that passion for it”.
Since graduating she’s gone more into art than design and products. When she finished art school, like most of us, she wasn't sure what was going to happen from there. She did a commision for Drones Club, making costumes for interviews and performances then she got asked to work at an event for the NDACA. Nash was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 6, having to do injections and measuring her sugar levels multiple times a day. During art school, Nash started printing the numbers from her blood sugar monitor on fabric then turned the fabric into wearable artwork - weaving her blood into clothes essentially. When asked how it came about she said it was because “A. I was interested in it and B. I was totally ill and it was all I could think about”. When introduced to the NDACA, Nash had never really thought about her work as political or disabled art, “I felt quite uneasy about being picked up by them. I had never considered myself as a disabled artist. Being a disabled artist is a huge part of your identity and people were talking to me like that and I wasn't ready for it”. She was invited by the NDACA to display her works at the House of Lords. When asked about the experience she said “In the back on my head I felt like a con artist, I felt like I shouldn't be there, it wasn't really me but I wasn't going to pass that up”. The NDACA is an online resource that documents the whole disability arts movement in the UK and goes live this month. As Nash says, “It's only really just be recognised as a serious movement and has a lot of the art from the Late 70s and protest movement through to today”.
It’s that struggle with defining herself as a disabled artist she spent some time working on. “I found this whole group of people I felt connected to who openingly accepted me in. I wasn't sure about it but I massively connected with this gang. It’s a really cool gang and it was such an emotional part of the journey”. She still does a lot of work with them and has been given a grant to do work on invisible disability (disabilities including epilepsy, depression, diabetes - ones that aren't necessarily visible to the eye). “Society has this idea that disability is someone in a wheelchair but it's so much more than that”. She describes that in some ways it’s both a blessing and a curse to have this invisible disability, “It’s like a secret which is good and bad. You don't get judged physically but then you don’t get any slack sometimes - not that we need it but people sometimes just don’t understand”. She talks about her experience at school for example, “A big problem is I have mood swings and I would get in trouble at school at lot because I just couldn't concentrate but often the teachers wouldn’t understand”. Most people unaware of diabetes don’t understand the severity of the impairment, it’s not just something that happens every once in a while and you feel sick occasionally from, “If you actually think about it, I'm walking around and having a low sugar, essentially I'm dying but we don't think about it like that....I don't just do an injection after lunch I think about diabetes every 20 minutes, it’s my entire life”.
Nash showed at Tate Modern earlier this year as part of the Tate Exchange ‘Ghosts in the Machine’ Programme where she had drop-in creative session exploring the heritage of the Disability Arts Movement. She invited people to contribute slogans and ideas in response to the provocation ‘what does equality mean to you now?’, which she then re-interpreted into text printed onto material, in response to the barriers that disabled people have faced within the past and present. When talking to Nash, she spoke about how much she loved running workshops with people, like the one she did at the Tate Modern and she says, “even if the outcome of the workshop isn’t that great, it' people sitting around doing something with their hands, having conversations - that’s such a nice feeling”.
For part time work Nash makes childrens clothing, doing pattern making at a local brand. She’s got other cool projects in the works including a show in an old pipe factory in September for the Open Doors Festival in Glasgow which plays out over 3 weeks in unusual spaces across the city to demonstrate the architecture. She’s also got a show at Scotland Design Museum (The Lighthouse) in August where she’s looking at the Economy of Care and how disability and health conditions affect the people related to the person with the disability. “My boyfriend for example has to deal with diabetes but doesn't have the support”. She did a research residency for the project where she stayed in a "very modern hut in the middle of nowhere - super slick" and undertook a survey to ask people in that inner circle of disabled people ‘How does it make you feel?’. “These are questions I always wanted to ask my family. Did my brother miss out on stuff because of me? Was he annoyed?”. She was worried about the results that would come out of the survey, afraid of resentment, but had her faith restored in humanity somewhat - “they were all so nice and genuine, hardly any resentment”. For the project she’s making some “ridiculously big curtains” that display the feedback from the survey, being careful not to give away too much private information, although the surveys were anonymous, she still wants to keep the integrity of the responses and be respectful to those who shared their stories.
You’d be wise to keep your eyes on this talented artist and catch her when you can. We can’t wait to see what else she’s got in store!