Philippa (Pip) Playford.
'I happen to be a lesbian but the style of what I do has a campy quality.'
Glass and mixed media artist and designer Philippa Playford joined the Mardi Grass workshop as a volunteer in 1989 and worked from 1990-1992 as a workshop artist. 'I watched the '88 parade and it really inspired me. I thought, "I want to be in the parade. I want to work with other artists and make things".'
Her experience of the workshop affected her personally and professionally, freeing up the camper, more humorous side of her personality, enabling her to express her sexual identity through her artwork and opening her to the possibilities of a wide range of non-traditional materials. She no longer feels bound by traditional concepts of art. 'I really enjoy making props and sets and working in lots of different materials. I certainly don't feel bound by any one. I am not a purist by any means, so I find the material that will relate to what I'm doing.'
While at art school Playford developed the bright colours and cartoon imagery that have become hallmarks of her style. The humour, exaggeration and larger-than-life characters that are such a familiar part of children's iconography in Playford's hands become an almost endearing way to communicate serious issues in an accessible and non-confronting manner. She also acknowledges a religious edge to her work. 'Being brought up Catholic has had an influence on my work, the detail within some of the artwork, the gilt frames and chintziness, I really like that.'
Quite a lot of time is spent just thinking about what to wear at Mardi Gras. It is very important to her that the costume has a political idea behind it. 'I am really interested in using labels which empower me and also other gays and lesbians'. By maintaining a sense of fun, she ensures the audience can relate to it as well. Playford understands the momentary nature of the parade where there is a lot of competition for audience attention so she prefers to make a bold statement rather than concentrating on fine detail, recognising the crowd won't notice a few sequins out of place. Once the idea is clear in her mind she works quite quickly to make the costume: 'Cowdyke' was made in a week to a strict timetable for the completion of each piece.
The Mardi Gras parade is very important to Playford: it allows her to assert her identity and explore her creativity. When she gets into her costume, she can play around with the ideas of girl-drag and the exhibitionist within her is let loose.
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