I have long been fascinated by the curious felted viscera of Simmone Spring from Your Organ Grinder. Eyes, kidneys, teeth, brains, hearts, lungs, thyroid… Who buys them? Why?
“I get to work with a lot of people who are ill or have had surgeries or have chronic illness. It is pretty special to be invited into a persons life when they are ill. Some of the illnesses people have had are things they are probably cautious about telling anyone about and I want to make sure no one has to feel embarrassed about the things their body does. I also get to learn a lot by talking with them, and learn how the illness makes itself known, what are good signs, things like that. It is wonderful when someone gets really enthusiastic to be able explain to me what is going on with their illness, I am always really interested to know!”
Simmone has a diploma of applied science and a degree in literature and sociology. She contemplated working with animals (and would still love to), but also thought about writing. She ended up working in a retail position that required crafting skills, and loves it that she is always learning new things – her job is being the coordinator for handsonbrisbane.com - a group dedicated to teaching people new craft skills.
Simmone started making organs about 6 years ago after a chat with a friend about her collections of animal skeletons and exoskeletons. “I didn’t think I could manage to make animals in jars but though an eye was possible, and maybe a heart. Once I started making anatomy it was hard to stop.”
After researching the shapes and colours of each body part, she starts each new design by cutting directly into the felt, admitting that drawing is not one of her strong points. “It requires a lot of effort. If I whip out scissors and just go for it I usually get a better result, and a much faster one! The first kidney I made was entirely free hand, and I then used what I cut to make a template. I also like to read a bit about the body part as knowing how they function can give a lot of insight into how to represent them.“
“I’m not a fan of a sewing machine but I do use it every now and then. Using the sewing machine always makes me frustrated so I allocate a very small amount of sewing machine work at a time and probably only use it once a month. Consequently there is screen printed anatomy all over the place that is printed, but has got no further.”
“I know I was making stuff all the time as a child. Cutting up fabric to make barbie clothes, making little gifts for friends. When my Nana taught me to knit I made a pink cape for a barbie, it was pretty terrible, my knitting still is, but to me it was the ultimate in barbie fashion. I made fairly dodgy stuff! My mum taught me crochet when I was quite young, 9 or 10, so I was always interested in making things and entertaining myself with making things.”
“Usually once at every market I have someone say something very rude to me about what I create. Thankfully I’m fairly used to that kind of thing as I have liked weird stuff my whole life and always been the person that gets told I’m a weirdo, or sick, or has strange looks from people. I’m lucky to have had equally weird friends and everyone in the craft community has some bizarre interest! I still do feel paranoid about certain things I am interested in and not a lot of people know about them, but often I am surprised to learn that there is someone else I know with the same interest.”
“I think my biggest influences are actually horror movies, because they spark my interest in ideas that I go off and research and find something interesting out from them. It is not necessarily anatomy that inspires me but more colours and techniques and idea’s. I have a real interest in how people represent and portray their creativity. Seeing creativity in action inspires me. I love watching RuPaul’s Drag Race as I love how creativity is portrayed in this show.”
Her favourite piece at the moment is her “Skin Hoop”, showing the structure and layers of the skin. “It’s a lot of hand sewing and cutting out felt really precisely and actually kinda a pain to make and takes ages but I love it. I put on a terrible movie to watch while I work on things like that. It was originally a custom order. I loved the result and had to make another smaller version. I definitely want to make more in this style.”
Many people think Simmone’s craft is a bit strange. But it’s not as strange as knowing what actually creeps Simmone out.
“Long fingernails, feet, anything to do with pregnancy and small babies, chicken on the bone, countless other foods. Pregnancy stuff makes me feel faint sometimes, just thinking about it. I also find doing some research can make me quite queasy and hot and clammy and feel faint. It is funny what does it!”