Interview: Ellen Mulcrone, creator of Pearpod
PUBLISHED: 11:13 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:33 07 February 2018
With the marriage of Ellen Mulcrone's introverted nature and love of pears, Pearpod began. We speak to Ellen about her bespoke creations, working on projects all over Europe and her love for Frome, her home town
When and why did Pearpod start?
Pearpod all began with the marriage of my introverted nature and my love of pears. While I was studying art in Falmouth I began to notice my desire to be alone, to retreat, to rejuvenate this way. I enjoyed others’ company but, whereas extroversion seemed to be widely celebrated, I noticed there didn’t seem to be much space or understanding for introversion. The balance of both seemed esential to me, and still does.
Alongside this I found myself becoming increasingly obsessed with the form of the pear. I would constantly be drawing its outline, making casts of them, creating large abstract paintings and even wearing the fruit in my hair. For my final project, it seemed natural that I created a large pear-shaped pod that harboured an introvert-friendly environment while being suspended in a public place.
I guess this marriage could have ended there. However I noticed how well other people reacted to the pear-shaped pod I had created. There was an overwhelming sense of relief from most people as they crawled into the space and settled down. I began to realise that we all have an inner kid and most of them want a den. It was great to realise that an object that felt so important for me to have in my own life also chimed with so many others. It seems that our current society is becoming only faster and more extrovert-oriented, so the need for a small safe space to nestle in to is increasingly necessary.
How long have you been designing/making?
I’ve been building and crafting ever since I can remember. I work things out with my hands. Even if there isn’t a piece of paper around I’ll often draw things out in thin air to get a sense of the object in my mind. I need to move through my ideas, physically. In a sense, making feels a lot like dance. Moving the body in such a way that one’s ideas can burst in to reality.
Who runs the company?
It’s me, myself and I. I’ve toyed with the idea of expanding but at the moment that small scale production and super bespoke method of making is perfect. Sometimes we can feel the need to take the steps that we see other people’s businesses making but in reality the simplicity of working alone creates ease and harmony. My partner has recently begun to take a little time off work to add creative input to the designs and this has been a joy, but in general slow, simple and small works well for me.
Where is the company based and where are the products made?
One of the joys of the nature of this path/job is I can weave wherever I am. This works well as I tend to move around a lot. Be it cycling around Spain, walking through Portugal, volunteering in Greece...to be able to work with the resources local to me at the time keeps the work engaging and enjoyable. It means I can move freely and create pods wherever I am.
Currently I am living in Frome where I seem to be settling. I grew up here and, after travelling around and studying away for seven years I have found myself returning to this creative hub. I have a workshop here, where I build larger pieces, or smaller pieces, like some woven copper placemats I am currently working on, are often made from home. There are many projects which I build on site as well.
How do you think of your designs/products?
I see the pieces I make as small pockets of oasis. Bubbles that have burst out of the world of calm and simplicity into the world of chaos which most of us live within. I see them popping up all over the globe, drawing in those who need rest, alone time, relaxation, play, stillness, even simply a quiet corner within which to read, and the feedback I receive from those who spend a little time in one always reassures me as to these purposes.
I am particuarly interested in installing them within high stress environments, such as offices, prisons, schools, shopping centres.
Have you been involved in any notable pieces?
Personally, the most notable piece was that which I completed earlier this year in Greece. With the use of the ‘Help Refugees’ wood workshop, set up in a warehouse on the edge of a motorway an hour out of Thessaloniki, I built a five metre wide and three metre high community centre. It was in the design of a geodesic dome which basically means the curve is made up of lots of equaliteral triangles, all of which were woven from discarded clothes donations to the refugee crisis. I ran workshops within some of the refugee camps and myself and the residents wove the panels together. Sometimes it was tricky to get in as they were ran by the military which made it illegal to enter without an organisation. Once I had found a way to sneak myself in as well as 65 huge triangle frames and a few sacks of fabrics, it was great fun. I brought tea and music and we danced around whilst we wove; women, men, old and young. It was fascinating to see all the different patterns that people created and colours people chose. Once it was built I left the dome behind and returned to the UK. It is still moving around, from camp to camp, and even was exhibited recently at a sicence and technology festival in Thessaloniki.
What makes your items a little bit different?
I think the intention behind my work is what maybe sets it apart from other potentially similar items. I am interested in creating spaces for people to be; where people can relax, recouperate and nurture their introverted sides. Because of this intention the material choice is secondary. I do not see myself as a willow artists, which has prevented any sensation of material restraint and as a result I have built from a multitude of mediums. What is more important is that the most effective material is chosen for the piece at hand. Upcycled plastic fishing net, for example at a science festival in Wales, unused donated clothes at a refugee camp in Greece. This, combined with a throughline of creating bespoke pieces, to suit the exact needs of their context, is what maybe sets my work apart.
Where do you get your inspiration/motivation?
I am inspired often by other species. I have noticed how every creature, other than the human, builds their nest/cocoon/pod according to their own size, in balanced proportion. This seems logical and functional, much more so than the irrationally large houses we aspire to reside within, and as a result spend much of our times cleaning and repairing.
Not only in size but also in respect to sustainability do other creatures’ cocoons inspire me. They are built from perfectly sturdy materials yet last only the length of their own lives. We seem to have adopted an irresponsible habit of building in such a way that our products outlive ourselves. One element that is important to me about my own products is that they echo that of our fellow creatures in that they disintergrate back in to the earth before we do.
Why do you love Somerset?
Having grown up in Somerset, I have witnessed the changes over the years, at least to Frome. It seems to be a bit of a creative magnet! Especially since the free steiner school has popped up, there seems to be a surge of artists and people who appreciate art. Whilst I am wary of the draw to Frome causing gentrification and rising house prices, apart from this currently it seems to be mostly positive change. It is amazing that such a small rural town has become so popular. There’s a real buzz and a strong sense of community, of which people are very open and welcoming. For this reason it has been a joy to return to, to return to wandering old familiar streets, reconnecting with old faces, as well as discover new gems and join the everchanging community.