21 Aug, 2009

Grayson Perry let loose

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Artist Grayson Perry talks to Luke Tebbutt about designing for Liberty, the best place to see ceramics, and his incontinent cat

In pictures: Highlights from Liberty’s Prints Charming exhibition

Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry has been using Liberty prints for years in dresses for his transvestite alter ego, Claire. So when Liberty asked him to design his own fabrics, he leapt at the opportunity. The four prints range from a delicate 50s-style pattern of bicycles to more subversive designs that mix teddy bears with tombstones. He is one of six artists who were invited to design prints, which are now on show as part of a new exhibition celebrating Liberty’s fabrics on the London store’s fourth floor. Perry lives in London with his wife, daughter and cat (and his teddy bear).

Did you feel you had to self-censor while designing for Liberty?

We struck a compromise, let’s say. On one design I had little factories and aeroplanes and I’d written Liberty on them, but as it was about pollution they weren’t that keen. But then again, they let me put knuckle-dusters and hand grenades on others, so it’s swings and roundabouts.

How would you like to see your Liberty prints used?

I’d love it if I saw a woman on the tube wearing a dress she’d made out of one of the fabrics. Particularly if it was the type of dress that I would approve of – something with a bit of volume and prissiness.

Would Claire wear the prints?

Oh yeah, definitely.

Much has been said about pottery being a poor relation to ‘real’ art. Do you think you’ve helped raise its profile?

I’ve probably raised the profile of Grayson Perry rather than the pottery. The debate rages on about craft and art. My position at the moment is that craft is something you can teach and art is the bit that is very personal to each artist.

Where is best place to see ceramics?

The new Percival David Gallery in the British Museum is great if you want to see the highest quality Chinese ceramics. And the V&A is reopening its ceramic galleries in September. I’ve had a sneak preview and it’s going to be amazing.

How would you feel if you went into somebody’s home and saw your ceramics being used?

They don’t really look much cop with flowers in them, my vases. They’re not really made for it.

What is your home like?

We’ve lived there for close to 25 years, so it’s got quite cluttered. We’ve got a lot of art on the walls and piles of books, and a lot of clothes, of course. I have Claire’s room, which has toile de Jouy wallpaper and a brass bed. It’s like a country house hotel, with tiebacks on the curtains.

What do you hide when guests come over?

The cat tray. Our cat isn’t the most continent cat, and he doesn’t hit the tray very often either.

If you could take one thing from home with you everywhere, what would it be?

My magnifying mirror, because when I’m travelling about and I want to get dressed up, there’s never a decent mirror in the hotel. It’s really frightening when you first use it, because your face looks like a lunar landscape.

What item in your home best represents you?

My teddy bear, Alan Measles, who I have had for 48 years, since my first Christmas when I was nine months old. He’s got a golden throne and he sits on it in the bedroom. He’s my personal god. I’m trying to encourage a cult around him.

Is he still in good condition?

No. He’s very war-weary. He’s been in a lot of battles.

• The Prints Charming exhibition is on the 4th floor at Liberty, London, until 2 September. Call 020-7734 1234 or visit liberty.co.uk for details

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