Alumna’s Art is Inspired by Nature

In a time when digital art is on the rise, Heritage alumna Chloe Chapman prefers to make things with her hands. One of the first Leavers from the class of 2016, Chloe has just finished a degree  in Fine Arts from Norwich University of the Arts, earning first class honours. Her latest work was recently included in the university’s Grad Fest, an art show consisting of work done by graduates. In her work, Chloe will often source natural materials, such as wood or clay, and create pieces that are drawn from nature. Included in this exhibition were six beautiful wooden hand-held sculptures painstakingly carved from found pieces of wood using chisels, sanding bits, sandpaper, and a tiny drill.

The final pieces—gleaming, hefty objects with soft surfaces—were made to be held and are suggestive of natural elements  such as pollen grains or ripples in a pond. Often taking heavy inspiration from the block of wood itself, Chloe would start the process of chiseling and follow the wood to ‘see what popped out’.

At times, in carving the pieces, imperfections were revealed which simply became part of the sculpture. ‘Wood isn’t a perfect material; it’s from nature, so I’m dealing with imperfections,’ she explains. ‘For me, it’s all about God’s creation.’

Also included in Chloe’s exhibit was a ‘Curious Collection’; glass vials filled with natural objects that she has  been collecting since the beginning of lockdown. The foundation for this concept came from the nature tables at Heritage. She recalls collecting a leaf or branch during a nature walk,  identifying it, and then painting it with watercolours. Now when she’s out collecting, she says,  ‘I’m picking up these things; some of them I recognise, but others I don’t have the foggiest idea what they are. I put in my research, and sometimes I find out what they are and sometimes I don’t.’ Chloe chooses not to label any of the vials, preferring the questions that naturally come when people examine them closely. ‘That’s what makes it art; people are intrigued, confused, interested, curious. It’s not a museum because I don’t painstakingly label each one. It’s quite a personal collection.’

When asked to point out some of her favourites, she immediately picks up a vial of miniscule sea urchin tests (the internal skeleton of a sea urchin), which she found while visiting family in Kenya. She also pointed out some more local objects that many Heritage students will recognise; beautifully displayed vials of lichen, seed pods, and galls. 

Chloe has some excellent advice for Heritage pupils who want to create. First: ‘Ask your mum and dad for a few jam jars or a shoebox, or a little shelf in your bedroom, collect all of the interesting rocks, next time you go to the beach, collect a cool shell; it might be something nobody else finds interesting—it could literally just be a pebble that fits in your hand nicely. Or it could be a really fascinating and weird bone, or a strange seed. Bring it home, and surround yourself with things that bring you joy and make you want to create.’  And also: ‘Just get into the habit of making stuff; not for the final product, but for the joy of making it, because it’s fun to take a potato and cut it in half and carve a little stamp in it and mix it in paint and get messy.’ She continues, ‘Let yourself go a bit wild; make some weird art, make some abstract art, make something that doesn’t make sense to other people. Don’t feel like your work is bad; just that you’ve made it makes it good. And if you want to make better work, the only way to get better is to make more. The more familiar you are with the material, the more you’ll figure out how it works and you get better at it without even noticing.’