A nice interview by Jack Sunnocks for LOVE Magazine around the subject of knickers and desire and how it has been a preoccupation in my work for many years.
Lisa Z. Morgan is the artist behind Strumpet & Pink, a collaboration with Melanie Probert to make the most fabulous pair of knickers. What this means are extravantly ruffled, knitted and laced numbers which whilst not ideal for everday wear (obviously), would be ideal for an elaborate seduction in a Fellini film. We got Lisa to talk about her obsession with desire, the best songs about it and what makes the perfect pair of pants.
Your work is quite multi faceted to say the least – if you had to describe yourself in one phrase, what would it be?
Why is desire such a preoccupation for you? When did that start? What was the journey to where you are now?
I believe that desire is a powerful and fundamental force, which propels us in a myriad of ways. It pushes us to move forward, to search, reach, develop and grow. If we fall down we must have the desire to get up again, to strive for a goal, explore a concept or fulfil a dream. It is our hearts desire and also, naturally, the foundation of our sexual selves. Desire in so many ways is the defining energy, which drives us as sentient beings.
In terms of a journey, I have always been drawn to and driven by desire. I have been filled with all sorts of desires and these desires appear to have grown incrementally as I have developed both as a woman and a Mother. But the beauty of this ripening is that it has grown in tandem with my work. However, there have always been key moments, people, conversations, books and experiences, which have awakened something other inside.
From being small I was obsessed by flowers, collecting them, pressing them, making posies however, the strongest desire was to immerse myself into the flower, take in the colours and then take in the scent. At 16 I remember reading Joe Orton’s Prick Up Your Ears and my imagination was ignited at the thought of Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell carrying out such irreverent and subversive creative acts with library books.
Another defining moment was when I first saw Meret Oppenheim’s Luncheon in Fur and then the discovery of Victorian bloomers. Laughter is also highly desirable and then there is also my Love. So in terms of a journey my preoccupation with desire or rather articulating desire and the internal impulses of the feeling of ‘feeling’ has been innately connected to and with my life.
How did the idea for Design Behind Desire come around? Where did you seek out your content?
In 2009 I was giving a Salon at Kiki de Montpanasse in NYC and was speaking about ‘Pink-ness No.6’, which was a perfume I created as an art piece in an attempt to explore the colour as an internal sensation. Patrice Farameh was in the process of researching a book about the world’s most inspired lingerie designers and she wished to speak to me about an interview for the book. After my talk Patrice was supposedly taken by my ‘intellectual approach with a wink of an eye.’ A series of conversations developed from our meeting and she invited me to curate and author a book about desire. Design Behind Desire was the concept I developed.
The moment that desire was handed to me as a subject it was surprising how seamless it was to develop the book. All of the ideas and thoughts had already been brewing inside for a very long time and they all revolved around desire inhabiting the imagination combined with an acute connection to materiality. I knew immediately who I wanted to interview, people with a very particular approach toward desire and/or who were motivated by desire, such as Sam Roddick, Betony Vernon, Fleet Ilya, Mark Brazier-Jones. I was also inspired by The Cabinet of Love, an 18th Century book of sex poems which was a book hidden inside a book of everyday verse.
Friends of mine were creating remarkable works connected to eros and I explored fashion, design and art bloggs along with magazines and the books on my shelves. I also have friends with varied and specific fascinations so many suggestions and leads developed very fluidly through conversations. Quite simply, Design Behind Desire flourished in every direction and began to develop a momentum of its own.
Alessandra Ambrosio wearing Strumpet & Pink's 'Willow' design in LOVE 11, photographer David Armstrong, fashion editor Panos Yiapanis.
Can you explain the book’s chapters Generating, Contemplating and Fulfilling – sounds a bit like an orgasm.
There was certainly an element of play involved in the division of the book into these three distinct stages/phases. Predominantly because I believe that the journey to the orgasm is one of the most glorious and desirable experiences. You are absolutely in the moment, fully present and yet entirely lost, open and surrendered. You journey to a place, full and complete, and within that moment there is utter abandon combined with a still-ness. To my mind that seemed to be the moment one would wish to reach when desires are fulfilled. But on the way to this ‘destination’ there are ebbs and flows, variations and undulations and differences in heat. I wanted the book to have a visual tempo, which embodied these fluctuations and grew incrementally as one travelled through the ideas and images. My hope was that this would encourage people to slow down and savour the book page by page. In other words to…. take…. time…. i.e if you flick through the book you really miss the essence of it and like the orgasm the rewards are so very much more when you slow down and explore with purpose.
Knickers! What sort of knickers do you wear? Or would you classify them more as pants.
They are definitely knickers, as I would define knickers. But that is all that you need to know.
Tell me about what your design mission is at Strumpet & Pink.
Strumpet & Pink now exists as a living and breathing art piece i.e only the bespoke or special commission pieces are now being made. However, the pieces continue to be exhibited and photographed and so even though many of the designs are no longer being made, they are still ‘alive’.
At the height of ‘production’ Strumpet & Pink was rarely, if ever, approached as a design mission. It was more of an emotional mission fuelled by stories and feeling. The motivation being the exploration of the contradictions and complexities that one can have, as a woman, with regard to one’s body and sensibility; laughter and eroticism, innocence and seduction, the hidden and the overt. There was always an inter-play between different emotional experiences. The question that we always asked ourselves, as an idea developed, would always begin with ‘how does/would it feel if…….?’ For example ‘How would it feel if your lover wanted to bite your cheeks but you wished to remain covered? How would it feel to be entirely buttoned up and held by hundreds of silk peony petals, and then for the petals to spill out as you are unbuttoned?’ How would it feel to wear warm knickers that are fashioned as an eiderdown and yet would be as charged as the most barely there slip?’ The pieces were sexual in a slow burning way i.e the closer one becomes the more one will discover. The designs were never just a visual exercise. There was always purpose behind the aesthetics.
What components make up a really fabulous pair of pants?
Emotion, narrative, materiality and cut.
Who are your lingerie heroines?
I think my lingerie or rather undergarment heroines are those whose minds I would like to inhabit, Anaïs Nin, Annie Oakley, Marguerite Gautier from Camille and Vivienne Westwood. And if I am allowed a hero/ines it would have to be Mr Pearl and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Is there someone, either real or fictional that you’d love to see in your creations?
This can probably be answered in the previous question although I would like to add PJ Harvey and Queen Elizabeth I.
What are your three favourite songs about desire?
Love to Love You by Donna Summer, The Ship Song by Nick Cave, Superstar by Sonic Youth.
Words Jack Sunnucks