Elizabeth Waggett is an artist known for her delicate monochromatic work. Often laced with gold leaf it represents a kind of fragility. A commentary on the relationship between value and purpose. Based in New York but originally from Manchester her work has been shaped by her travels and her upbringing.
Speaking over zoom from the states. Elizabeth was taking part in a recording of ‘Art Related Noise‘ the podcast we produce with the Enter Gallery in Brighton. Her work is popular this side of the pond and the gallery is a key partner for her. Moving into prints from originals, it’s allowed her to expand her audience.
Podcast Interview with British Artist Elizabeth Waggett
Change in Direction
Creativity has always been present. Growing up her family influences were always encouraging. Being in Manchester helped too. A creative city with a buzz and vibrancy. Initially studying fashion she soon moved from that into teaching. It was something that she found gave real purpose. An awakening experienced whilst travelling in the far east. Working in orphanages she would teach art to kids. It was the beginning of a passion for the profession.
“When I got back I was just so overwhelmed by the consumerism” she explained. “After being there (the far east) for six months you’re in that different culture. When I got back to England I found it really difficult to adjust”. This new reality impacted the way that Elizabeth thought about what direction she wanted to go in. “I just felt that fashion was a bit too vacuous and not important enough”.
Committing to re-training as a teacher she worked in the UK prior to then moving to Abu Dhabi. As a career she had always believed that this was something with which she could see the world. Now teaching in a more international setting it taught her a lot. Not least the fact that at some point she would need to head in her own direction with regard to her art.
Moving to New York was to be the next step and a significant one. It was here that she took the chance to go it alone as a full time artist. An unhappiness with what she describes as a “toxic” working environment in Abu Dhabi prompted the change. “It was that which spurred me on. To just get out of there and try art” she tells me. “I think I was 29 or 30. I thought ok, I’m going to exit this and just give it a go. What do I get to lose because I was miserable!”
“I love and hate that city” she tells me when thinking about New York. “Everyone you meet who has been there for a long enough time will say that there’s a love hate relationship. There’s no mediocre, no middle ground… But it’s New York and it’s magical”. It was in the city that never sleeps where Elizabeth Waggett’s artist career began in earnest. Going full time as an artist with a solo show in 2016. “It really is the land of opportunity! You know that song? ‘If you can make it there you can make it anywhere’! That’s very true I think”.
Talking about her work she describes it as giving a “peaceful and calm” feeling. It’s a balance she enjoys. The process of making the work acts as a kind of meditation for her. “For me when I’m making my work it’s very calming, very relaxing”. The fact that this translates to the feedback she gets when people put her work on their wall, is also something which is important to her.
Working with a variety of subject matter such as skulls. Elizabeth likes the fact that her finished work can exude a kind of wonder and gracefulness. “I’m trying to take it apart and put it together so we can discuss the subjects without just looking at them in a linear way” she tells me. Often working with graphite and charcoal with gold leaf on paper. “It’s beautiful and brings a kind of fragility to the work”.
She laughs when I ask her to think of something she misses about the north of England. “Oh Banter!” she says. That way of turning everything into a bit of a joke. It’s something that she’s missed during her travels. First to the far east, then to Abu Dhabi and now to New York. Travelling, teaching and finding her way with her art. Still though there is a longing for home and for Manchester. For Fish and Chips and having a good laugh with old friends.