“My work adds a touch of humour to otherwise deep and political issues about women’s rights” – Interview with Anna Tamas-Katzer

Arts, crafts and fashion have always had a symbiotic relationship through history. It’s very hard to distinguish where one finishes and the other begins, such great is the influence on each other. During the last year people’s perception has changed about arts, and so has the way they enjoy or purchase it. Are we being more appreciative? Do we see it in a different light? Are we moving fashion and arts online. Where is the line in between them? My interview partner is Anna Tamas-Katzer, who is a London based young artist/designer, and she was talking to me about her experiences, the female period, and hardships in this past year.

Anna, please describe yourself in one sentence. Who are you?

I’m a quirky needle artist.

Can you tell me a bit about your background, your upbringing, when and how did you decide to be a designer?

I became interested in fashion at the age of 14. My family was not much of an artsy family though, so I took the initiative to go out, look for people and places where I could learn more. After I finished my Bachelor, before starting my MA, I realised I’m more into animation and illustration  but I’m still very interested in the making part, because I love the physical aspect of design. I’m a maker.

Photo: Tom Sacchi

Can you tell me about your education as well? Since you were raised in Hungary, can you tell me how you see the difference between the two countries?

I was born and raised in Budapest. I moved to London when I was 18 to start my Bachelor (Hons) at London College of Fashion and I am currently finishing my Masters at the Royal  College of Art. It is a little difficult to compare the two countries because I studied at different levels. I finished high school in Hungary, I did the IB program in English so my English skills had become very good  by the time I moved to London. It was an intense 2 years having to pass  6 subjects where really the only that mattered to me was art  and the other is that I was able to do a portfolio outside of school which could apply to universities  with. London is just so open minded and diverse having a different mentality than the one at home. It’s great.

How has your career been developing in the UK?

I started my own small business selling my boob purses and boob T-shirts. These are more everyday, commercial items that are relatively quick and easy to make. I’ve been to a couple markets before the lockdown took over but we are not allowed to do so now. I also have my online shop for people to purchase. I got into tattooing during the lockdown and I am starting to tattoo others. I also became very interested in graphic design and animation so now  I do social media and all other design tasks for Notting Hill Arts Club.

What are the challenges you have as a young designer generally creativity doesn’t always pay the bills. Also, people just consider a lot of things you do easy for example ‘it’s just a drawing’, but  they forget they hired you for a reason. I always find it very difficult to put a price on my work.

Over lockdown everyone has become an artist. People had a lot of free time, there are loads of new small businesses.

Photo: Tom Sacchi

How do you find it to be a post-covid young artist?

I do think we have the advantage as nowadays technology is a commonly used tool, and it has become especially vital during the quarantine. I believe many companies and individuals will continue to use and rely on it very much. Covid has forced everyone to become more digital and take advantage of online platforms, showcasing and selling our work via a digital platform. The audience and customers have also accepted this is the way it works now. I believe many other people  still prefer to see something physical and tangible since we  like going into a store, look at something from up close. And we should take every opportunity When we can to go out in the real world to show our work. But with Covid forcing people to focus more on viewing and displaying work online, I think we have an advantage because even if we can’t afford to rent out a space, many people have become more inclined than before to look at artists online.

Let’s talk about your designs and projects. I had a good look at them, and I am very interested in your ideas and presentations of the female body. Can you explain it in more details?

It all started with a knitted white top and crochet boobs sewn onto them. People saw it and I became Anna the Boob Girl. There was no going back. My work adds a touch of humour to otherwise deep and political issues about women’s rights. I like to mock the beauty standards set by society, and  help women feel empowered. I do so with my saggy boob tops or my blood stained embroidered knickers. It’s all about shining light on serious and sometimes distressing feminist issues with a touch of humour to make it more light hearted and allowing for an easier conversation.

What is your process when you work on new project?

I’m always making. I get inspired by making. And making leads to more research that involves reading or going out to places, sites, museums.

Photo: András Nagy

You are normalising the images and feelings that comes with the female period. How  did you get involved in this  kind of activism?

I started reading books on the female biology and realised that I did not know much about it. I was actually very uneducated on the subject and knew very little about the workings of my own body. As someone who suffers from heavy flows and is close to passing out from the pain on her periods, I liked learning because it made me understand why certain things were happening. And I figured if I didn’t know this, it is very likely that many other women don’t know it either.

Would you call yourself a feminist?

Of course.

How do you see the female body?

Beautiful. Interesting. Loads of curves and shapes to be inspired by. Back when I was more into fashion, I liked the challenges that came with designing for the female body because you had to pay attention to all the ‘bumps’. Whereas with menswear I was focusing on the actual fabric and viewed the male body as a big flat canvas.

Who inspires you as an artist?

I’ve always been drawn to artist with bold, colourful aesthetic. I’m a huge fan of Basquiat and his way of conveying his political messages through his art.

I have  also become obsessed with the work of Greg Barth in the recent years. He’s a creative director, animator known for conveying his messages using humour. What I like the most  about him is the way he combines real people, craft and technology.

Photo: Anna Tamas-Katzer

What kind of art projects are you involved in at the moment?

In the last project I did I focused my attention on  food items  as my source of inspiration had shifted a bit away from the female body and more towards our relationship with food. I have moved away from fashion in the traditional sense. If I make any garments, they serve more as ‘costumes’. The things I create are more to be used as props for shoots or videos, however you can use them for whatever you like.

Back to the fashion side of your work. How popular is your design amongst women? I’m talking about the tops with the crocheted boobs or the Tampon earrings , for example. What is your experience business-wise? How do customers respond to it?

Either you get people, especially girls, love it, and they just can’t get enough of it. They like the gross, uncomfortable aspect of it. And there’s the other side of the spectrum with people who just see how gross it is and don’t understand.

Knitwear is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, with customers opting for very unique pieces. As an emerging designer, what is your experience around this?

I agree, knitting has definitely become big in the UK. And with this pandemic, now it’s one of the most popular new hobbies people have picked up on. Now they can understand how long it takes to make something. But I think people in general have more appreciation and interest in unique pieces, and also a huge interest in small, independent businesses.

What are your plans for the next few years? Where do you see yourself?

I have a couple of things in mind. I want to continue with my brand, start to collaborate with other artists like I did at uni. I want to start tattooing professionally. I would like to work at a creative or advertising agency, be able to make animations and illustrations. Also, I want to have my own hot chili  sauce. I have become a victim of this lockdown trend and I am now obsessed with hot sauce. I will have them in store with my packaging design soon.

Author: Rita Tamás

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