Interview with Lilly Creightmore
Updated: Apr 29, 2021
Photo by Natasja Fourie -Tangier 2018
Describe your art practice and your family dynamic:
I am a mother to a beautiful 10-year-old soul called Elliot and I have been known mostly as a photographer for over a decade, also a filmmaker who's been slowly incubating a feature-length experimental music documentary called TRIP, which is hopefully being released later this year. I have also been known to write, design hats and to DJ.
Throughout the pandemic I have also been turning my attention to pastures new, performing and music. Also a newfound obsession with metalwork and jewellery design.
Have you got any upcoming events or plans that you can share:
I have my second photo zine, 'I Think I'm in Love Probably just Hungry', coming out in the next few weeks. You might find me making some noise in a Berlin den of iniquity soon.
And all things crossed, my 13 years in the making debut feature film TRIP will premier at a UK film festival later this year.
I have been working on it since 2008. Still, I suppose the project really spawned in my late teens in the early 2000s, a time when real rock n roll was pretty absent in the mainstream charts or on the radio. The internet wasn't our world yet...
Having saturated my hunger for alternative music with punk and grunge legends of the past, I was on the search for a sound with a substance that I could identify with, a time when the mainstream hype bands of the moment where doing nothing for me. It was at this time, through my love of bands like Ride and Spacemen 3 that I was introduced to the music of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Having grown accustomed to missing out on seeing the groups I loved by decades, it was with excitement I learnt that there was a small bunch of like-minded musicians who were very much alive, kicking and touring regularly. And as the circus travelled, I found myself caught up in the carnival.
In October 2008, I was fortunate enough to be invited on tour with The Black Angels when they took to the road as a backing band with 13th Floor Elevators founder, the ultimate inspiration and grandfather of garage-psych music, Roky Erickson. It captures the story of a handful of artists old and new which influenced a new generation of psychedelic inspired sound in the US, Europe and South Africa, at a time when a small few of my generation were in search of an alternative from the corporatisation of the music industry, to the capitalist ideal that was beginning to very visibly collapse.
Tell us a little bit more about how you developed your technique?
It might be obvious, but time and perseverance and ability or means to listen to intuition and those that can offer you valuable experience, managing the ego and competitive behaviour, and the inevitable feelings of low self-esteem.
I am also interested in certain aspects of magic, practice manifestation, dabble in psychedelics which have helped me boundlessly in managing depression and anxiety and more recently strengthening my physical space and spiritual boundaries, for example, learning to say no without guilt. Managing relationships better, both work and personal, that take more than I can give.
It's a continual learning curve but seemingly has served and delivered a healthier experience so far...
That all being said, I'm rarely so serious and certainly no holistic or wellness puritan. I very much enjoy the follies and idiocy that comes with being human most days.
I love a drink, a dance and being sociable. Those three things have led me to more beautiful friendships, partnerships and opportunities than anything else.
You’re based in:
Have you lived or studied elsewhere:
Indeed, London, Paris, Cape Town and brief stints in Los Angeles and Medellin Colombia.
Has your location affected you, your art practice, perspective and network:
Absolutely, moving around is crucial to my creative drive. I don't have much in the way of things, but I consider myself very fortunate to have the friends and family that I do and have made along the way.
Can you tell us a bit about your childhood and your relations with your family?
I was fostered when I was 3. My birth parents were/are nothing short of loving but caught up in some mental health difficulties. It was decided by my mothers parents to save face (My Grandfather was a High Court Judge) that it would be a good idea for me to be raised by a family up the road who lived in a Waldorf community.
I attended the local Waldorf school and spent most of my days riding my horse around the forest and drawing. It was a very free and for the most part, happy childhood. I would see my birth family regularly and knew who everyone was. When I was 8 my foster brother tragically died at our school in an accident, and that was obviously a very traumatic and difficult thing to get through for all of us, but it brought both my families closer, and we all found a way to live on, relatively happily. Both my grandparents died shortly after that. I left home and school at 17 and moved to London and modelled for a bit as well as take up shitty jobs for years instead of study. I was content just to exist and absorb the big bad city with my boyfriend at the time. When that relationship ended, my dreamer self led me to the USA and then South Africa and everything has kind of spiralled from there really, as life does...
What is your story on becoming a mother, and has your approach and methods changed since you became a parent:
I was 24 and visiting my friend and occasional lover in South Africa, and both of us were far from planning it, but the moment I discovered I was pregnant, it felt like the right path for me.
My families never put pressure on me to follow "social norms", settle down and get married etc. Hence, they were amazingly supportive and happy for me when I made the decision to have El.
If anything, it gave me more of a drive to continue with my work in a healthier and more driven way.
Polaroid of El and ‘Pampar’ - London 2014
How is your experience with the representation of female artists combining motherhood within the art world/your community:
Becoming a mum when I did certainly meant my work took a backseat at times, but I didn't think becoming an accomplished artist making a living from my work should come before being properly skilled and knowledgeable in my practice.
Learning by osmosis has been my M.O and that takes time, probably to my own detriment. I have also always been quite sincere and honest and never felt good about bullshitting or "faking it to make it."
I decided to move back to London when my son was born. My son's father had visa difficulties and we separated when El was a baby and was four by the time he was able to move to the UK, so although he was supportive and a present father as much as he could be, we shared custody etc. I was technically running our home and trying to work unsociable hours as a single parent the past decade.
London is definitely not an easy city to juggle both a career as an artist and be a single parent, and I still don't make a "living" solely from my creative work, but I'd do it all over again for the sake of my freedom and integrity, which I have never taken for granted as a woman.
El and I in the Bath
Photo by Natasja Fourie - London 2011
What advice would you give to emerging artists entering motherhood:
A Woman/Mother's intuition is a powerful force and will serve her well. Also, try not to feel guilt ever for making decisions that might serve your happiness, but maybe mean you can't be there for your child all the time.
I instilled a little independence for us both from time to time from early on, and it seems to have served us both well.
What do you want to bring to the table within your art community / Are you missing any discussions, themes etc:
I would like to see a broader focus on up and coming female artists of all ages and backgrounds. So much has changed for the better in the past ten years with the rise of social media platforms like Instagram etc. However, at the risk of sounding like an old fogey, I still feel society has a fixation mainly with youth culture, particularly in my fields of photography, film, fashion or music. It still feels a bit like, if you haven't "Made It" by the time you're 25, then give up.
Conversely, I feel if you've found a way to keep at it into your 30's, 40's and beyond, alongside other life experiences, that only serves to legitimise or fortify your creative path and ultimately your work.
Trippin - Joshua Tree 2020 by Lilly Creightmore
A Birthday in Iceland, January 2021
Photo by Hákon Adalsteinsson
Can you describe a moment or artwork that you feel was a turning point in your career?
I couldn't really pin one single moment. I can certainly attribute my grandmother and foster parents for encouraging me to draw and paint and take photos as soon as I could hold a brush or a camera. A childhood of watching the more abstract 60's and 70's British cinema and music documentaries with my mum is the root of my passion for film and music. I think I'm very much my father's daughter when it comes to seeking out the more obscure in art, fashion and life as a whole. My education at Steiner school was also very nurturing towards following that creative intuition.
Do you have daily routines or rituals that help you get into work mode:
I try to get up at a reasonable time in the morning, have a bit of breakfast and usually hot lemon and ginger or mint tea to get the metabolism going.
German beer has been unkind to my waistline this winter in lockdown, so I've started trying to hit the yoga mat at least a few times a week. Then a shower and a coffee and then I'm generally ready to crack on with whichever tasks I've set for my day.
That's not to say this happens every day at all. If I've had at least three days like this a week, I feel like I've accomplished something.
The rest of my time is either spent making the most of any decent weather we're lucky to see, going for walks or bike rides and exploring my new home city. Making food and drinking with a few close friends in our "bubble."
Where is your studio, where do you have private space to reflect and develop and execute ideas?
Our spare room is my studio at the moment, and then a good friend has this rehearsal space in Kreuzberg where we try to get together once a week for "Primal Scream" therapy...
How much time a week do you spend on working/thinking/planning:
If I'm not doing it, I'm thinking about it. I'm not someone that switches off easily or can watch mindless crap on Netflix all day, except maybe with a hangover...
Do you have someone that inspires your art practise or reflect ideas with:
My lover is my daily sounding board these past strange months. He's singer/writer/musician. He has been an endless source of inspiration and motivation since we got together last summer. I have always been really lucky in that department; I have a strong community of creative friends older and younger who inspire me and that I talk to regularly.
Renata Wilting - Los Angeles 2020 by Lilly Creightmore
Jarvis at the Desert Lake - California 2018 by Lilly Creightmore
How do you relax / where / how do you source your power:
Walks, baths, a good film or book and dinner with friends are my go to's at the moment and power naps, I've got that art down...
(How) Has the pandemic changed your artist practice:
It has definitely allowed me more time and less feelings of angst about how I use that time. I've really enjoyed the slower pace of life and knowing the rest of the human race is in it together.
The massive downside has been losing live music, festivals, and nightlife. That was my main source of work and community, so that's been really tough on us all.
Could you see yourself as a mentor to another artist / What would you be good at mentoring:
I'm always happy to help anyone seeking advice, an opinion or experience. I am sometimes known as 'Mama Lil' and try to help out anyone that asks for it. There's no need to be shrewd or judgemental when it comes to sharing these values in my experience.
What excites you most about your future:
On a personal level, seeing my son grow into a wise and wonderful young adult.
El and I on Lions Head Mountain - Cape Town 2013
Photo by Nicolas Gaillard