SUN, SAND, SEA AND FAT POM POMS
Fat Pom Poms creator Jess Gladwish on all things pom pom from jewellery to the first pom-pom commission of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, writes Katie Hagan
Among Margate’s assorted mix of higgledy-piggledy streets, ancient edifices and swathes of fish and chip shops stands a workshop that is full to the brim with pom-poms. Just a two-minute walk from Margate seafront, this unassuming workshop is bursting at its seams; home to the bright, vibrant and ingenious Fat Pom Poms. Specialising in pom-pom jewellery, figures and head wreaths, the online brand is a modern-day phenomenon heralded by festival goers, craft-lovers and those who experience visceral delight in being attracted to an object for no other reason than its compelling uniqueness.
Putting pom poms on the map is Jess Gladwish, owner and maker of Fat Pom Poms. Katie Hagan caught up with Jess to discuss all things pom-pom related; as she showcases her pom-pom expertise, talks about her artistic connection with the Kent landscape and unveils a Fat Pom Poms first – a pom-pom commission of the inimitable Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.
Q: How did Fat Pom Poms begin?
A: Fat Pom Poms started around five years ago simply from an urge to ‘make stuff’. I felt very lost after realising university wasn’t for me, then totally out of the blue I watched a program on TV that showed you how to make pom-poms. I was instantly hooked, so I managed to get some wool from my Nan, bought some very cheap and flimsy pom-pom makers from eBay and started making!
Q: Who and what inspires you?
A: I’m doing that ‘creative thing’ where I say anything and everything inspires me. It can come from the most random of places - I’ve been inspired by the colours of three garages next to each other before. But mostly I am inspired by the people around me; from my talented friends to other makers on Instagram and of course the people who commission my work.
Q: How do you think Fat Pom Poms lets people express themselves?
A: I think it’s important for people to feel like the piece of jewellery or art is completely theirs. Handmade work means there is always room for customisation and imagination. A lot of my work has come from someone asking for a variation of another piece I have made. Not only is this how my work evolves, it’s how I progress as an artist too.
Q: What tools do you use? What does the pom-pom creation process involve?
A: I use my trusty pom-pom makers, which will last until the next Ice Age, good strong sharp scissors and I always use vegan-friendly yarn in a double knit weight. That’s all you need to make a pom-pom!
Q: What’s the most memorable piece you’ve made? What made it a challenging or rewarding process?
A: My most memorable piece is the one I made recently and that’s my Frida Kahlo! I’d always wanted to immortalise this tremendous woman, but turning her into a 'pom-pom person' was such a great challenge.
Using fibres to create a person means it’s quite hard to make it recognisable, so you have to rely on the sculpting and colours you choose.
People have loved her. Now I’ve decided to create a series called 'Wonder Women Wednesdays' where I hope to showcase women past and present who have changed the world.
Q: You’re a Kent-based artist. Do you think your work is influenced by the landscape?
A: Even though my work can be very multi-coloured and bold, I always found inspiration in Kent’s wild flowers and its vast, endless green expanses. But in the last couple of years my influence has come more from the beach, the sea and everyday life. I grew up in Deal and was always hanging out near the beach, even on freezing winter evenings. This focus has inspired me to bring in a more muted palette with less patterning, really contrasting with my earlier work.
Q: What’s next for Fat Pom Poms?
A: I’m expanding my DIY kit range so everyone can learn the art of sculpting pom-poms. I’m also making more exciting jewellery and developing my skills in the art of ‘pom-pom people’. I find my newest project will always have been developed from a previous piece of work. I’m always learning new ways of doing things - and that is the secret to how I keep things fresh.