deVour Magazine: Do you find your work relaxing?
Tea Cake: It’s more than relaxing for me; it’s like therapy. I am equally blessed and cursed with a very loud brain… tuning out my thoughts and all of the things I have picked up throughout the day can be very difficult for me and often I end up feeling extremely exhausted from it. The only time I am able to detach from that is when I am working on my art. It’s almost as if it transports me to another place. I am an empath and, as such, I absorb other people’s moods and feelings, often without even realizing it. Any break I get from dealing with that is extremely welcome! So yes, my work is relaxing, therapeutic and absolutely essential to my well-being. I guess it’s just nice that others like it too!
dM: What inspired you to work with essentially branding and wood?
TC: I’ve always loved the patterns and textures of all of the various different types of trees and the wood they produce. There’s something inherently magical about it-- the fact that every pattern is unique, the rings and knots and imperfections. So, with this appreciation in mind, I have always been drawn to anything wooden… furniture, objects, artwork-- all of it. Another thing I am fascinated by is fire. The fact that they go hand in hand plays a part in it. I wanted to explore that middle point in between nothing and complete destruction, to use fire to change and enhance the appearance of wood without completely engulfing it and destroying it. Absolutely everything about it is wonderful. The sound the heated wire makes when it touches the wood, the smells, the different effects of different levels of heat… even the tears when the smoke gets in my eyes! I just love it.
dM: What is it about wood that speaks to you? Are you interested in pyrography in other mediums?
TC: As I mentioned before, the variation you see amongst different types and different pieces of wood draws me in. It’s almost as if my art is merely a continuation of a work that has already been started. I guess, in that sense, it is collaboration. I am also interested in pyrography on leather and have applied it in a few projects before now. One that will always stand out in my memory was a private commission that involved a very expensive, designer handbag that my client was somewhat disenchanted with. Suffice to say, it looked very different when she got it back!
dM: You mentioned that your use of symbols in your art may contain a message of sorts. Do some get it or do you think they buy because it is provocative?
TC: I honestly feel that, more than it being a case of buying something provocative, people buy the things that they might not necessarily understand on a symbolic level purely because they are visually appealing. I don’t really consider the symbology I use as provocative, but that may be because they are merely an extension of language to me. The symbols you see in my work are generally ancient alphabets, alchemical symbols, sigils (some of which are my own creations) and magical glyphs. I don’t use anything with any dark or ‘evil’ connotations, mostly because I find that sort of thing to be tacky if it’s being used purely to get a reaction. Some might argue that my use of inverted crosses in my work is ‘provocative’, but first and foremost, they are not a religious symbol to me. Secondly, anybody who believes the inverted cross to be a satanic symbol or in some way detrimental to the Christian symbol of the cross needs to learn a little bit more about their faith before they start telling me what my work means.
dM: Can you explain the significance of the term “sacred geometry”?
TC: Well, it’s a very broad term, as it appears in various different cultures throughout history. My own understanding of sacred geometry lies in nature. Patterns that recur throughout nature that, over time, humanity has recognized, worked out and applied to its own creations. The mathematical aspect of geometry fascinates me, though I can’t for a second claim that I understand it! Going back to the term itself, geometry is geometry. Patterns and shapes and their construction and formulae are just geometry. What makes sacred geometry sacred is its application. It has been used throughout history in the construction of religious structures, monuments and imagery. Recurring patterns appear in the mosques and temples throughout the Middle East, all based on similar geometric rules.
dM: Have you ever been so in awe with a piece that you just had to keep it?
TC: I have been in awe of some of my work before now, from the point of view of somebody who has always paid close attention to the techniques of others and often wondered if I will ever be at that level… and then, at some point, recognized that same level of execution in my own work. I have sat back and looked at pieces and been awestruck at the fact that I developed from where I was to where I am now in terms of technique and ability and been quite amazed by it. That’s not to say that I sit back and look at my work and bask in my own glory, because I simply do not have that in me-- quite the opposite actually! I have a rather self-deprecating attitude mostly, which isn’t good, I suppose. But anyway, I have never kept a piece of my own artwork because I can’t let it go. I have been sad to see things go, but by some wonderful chance, each of the pieces that I have felt that way about has ended up going to an extremely good home so I know it’s being appreciated and looked after!
dM: How do you pick your canvas?
TC: That depends on the canvas! If it’s woodwork, I pick it based on its grain, its color, its weight and, most importantly, its feel, physically and otherwise. If I touch it and it feels right, I’ll use it and I will revere it throughout the process. If we’re talking about my illustrative work, I am extremely picky about the materials I use and I will only use certain weights and types of paper. It’s experience that has led me to this preference… how certain types of paper behave under the conditions I apply to it etc. Trial and error has got it all figured out for me now!
dM: You now call LA your home. Have you found inspiration here?
TC: I can’t even begin to tell you how much inspiration I have found here. It’s a completely different type of inspiration to that which I would derive from home (the English countryside), but there is definitely something about the environment I am in here-- the fact that I can drive an hour or three in any given direction and be either at the beach, in the desert, in a forest or up a mountain. It’s sensory overload, in that respect. I am surrounded by new people and places and a whole new world of flora and fauna. It’s like a giant playground for me at the moment! I hope that never fades!
dM: House of lld seems like it could be a welcomed return your jewelry days. It is a beautiful shop with lovely metaphysical items. Can you share more about that journey?
TC: Thank you! Ok, so, that is a whole different story that I could talk about for days on end, but to paraphrase slightly, ever since I was in my early teens I have had a strong interest in the metaphysical side of life. I am a witch and I have been all my life in a way. I recognized it when I was fourteen and first began exploring beyond that which was laid outing front of me at home and at school. Thankfully, my family is very relaxed about this sort of thing, so they had no problem in letting me go and learn about the things that interested me as long as I wasn’t getting pulled into anything dangerous, you know? So this interest has been a big part of my life for sixteen to seventeen years now. When I met my husband and started coming out here to LA more often, I felt compelled to start doing something with my beliefs and knowledge and the things I had learned along the way by myself back at home. House of Ild came about as a result of that. My husband and I co-own and run it, but I am the main creative force behind it. We have so much new stuff to add to the store and I have high hopes for it this year. We will certainly be adding jewelry to our repertoire at some point but I am taking my sweet time in developing it. For now our main focus is on candles, crystals, incenses and potions. I am also working on a tarot deck, which I will be releasing as a dual effort between both myself, as Tea Cake, and House of Ild.
dM: What do you hope your audience takes away from your art?
TC: Mostly, something to contemplate. Obviously I want them to be in love with the imagery, like I am with the art by others that I surround myself by, but I also want them to see it as a window into something else-- another world that exists just beneath the surface of our day-to-day lives, another perspective from which to view everything around us and perhaps a reminder that there are forces at work in nature that are so much bigger than we are. It may sound conceited to think that my work should evoke such a response from others, but I don’t think it is really. That is the mindset that I am in when I make the things I make and I hope it carries over to the viewer. The work I put out is undeniably linked to and influenced by the occult. The word ‘occult’ itself means hidden. Make of that what you will!