I was fascinated by how she’s used body parts of toys to create sculptures and faces in the most disturbingly life-like way. The more you look at them the more you find and the more the mind boggles at how each piece fits so perfectly in the place she’s put it. Two legs for a nose, plastic fence for hair, a bare bottom for a chin…
Calling herself a ‘plastic surgeon’ (!) and comparing her works to the portraits of Milanese painter Guiseppe Arcimboldo ‘with a hint of the Toy Story Trilogy’, Freya spends hours collecting, planning and piecing her art together. And this is from someone who was once a policewoman.
Let me introduce you to the artist and find out more about how she delves into the worlds of consumerism, upcycling and recycling in her absurdist sculptures.
What is your background and how have you ended up where you are today?
My name is Freya Jobbins and I am an artist living in the Macarthur area. My home studio is on a property just outside Picton. This is my second career: I was a policewoman in my first career. I have three children, the youngest being 15. I studied Fine Art at Campbelltown & Wollongong TAFE, majoring in printmaking and sculpture and graduated 10 years ago. I still continue to use my press, working on a body of work each year, currently revolving around my eldest son who served in Afghanistan. In between hunting for the perfect pre-loved toys and building my plastic assemblages with old toys and dolls.
Your children’s toy sculptures are a clever mix of the surreal, the humorous, and slightly disturbing. Can you share a bit about the creative process and stories behind them? How time-consuming is it to piece each together and work out which toy is right for which spot?!
The toy assemblages are more of an obsession with me now. For me it’s the hunt/search that is just as important as the entire creative process. I could be working on a particular piece and I search specifically to complete that piece or I find a supply of toys that I immediately see as a completed piece. Currently I am continuing the series Anthropomorphism – anthropomorphised rabbits created from imitated human body parts from Barbies and Bratz dolls, mainly their hands and ears. I have a piece in the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize that is the second of this series and am finishing off the third of this particular series for the Blacktown Art Prize opening on the December 5. I am searching for Bratz hands – anyone have any ..? Inspiration here comes from the natural human acceptance of animals being portrayed ‘human like’. Does anyone else question why we humanise animals ..?
Each piece is an original and can never be replicated. Finding the same dolls again is highly unlikely and creating each piece can take months, if not more than a year as with the larger pieces. It’s very time consuming but is a fantastic job and very fulfilling. It suits my personality: OCD at times, with a sense of humour and a love of poking fun at an over-consuming society. I like reaching out and chasing the response from viewers – not with shock tactics but, as you said, disturbing thought-provoking pieces.
Why children’s toys and where do you source them from?
When I built my first piece eight years ago, it was to keep the attention of children at a local art exhibition that was a bit conservative and probably boring for young school children. The children and teachers reacted so positively I continued experimentation with plastics and glues. Toys, specifically, because they were a positive bright material that all age groups could identify with, and they were accessible and cheap. Charity stores like Vinnies and Lifeline have a great selection, plus I felt I was donating back to my community by supporting these organisations. I am still buying an average of $20 worth of toys each week. Friends and friends of friends now know what I do and so I receive many donations of old plastic toys. At the moment I am only requesting skin-toned baby dolls, Barbies and Brats dolls.
Tell us about the importance of upcycling and sustainability in your work, work practices and home life? Explain.
Upcycling and creating assemblages from pre-loved toys is very important to me in my art practice. Occasionally, for maybe a commission, I have to buy new toys and I can feel uncomfortable using them. But some second-hand toys and dolls I buy are just so perfect and beautiful I cannot cut them up, so I collect them. I have an incredible collection of beautiful toys in my studio which I love looking at and appreciating. I feel, as a society we overindulge our children with plastic toys. They jump from one fad to the next and we as parents enable this obsession. Unfortunately major companies have too much control over our children; major food restaurants, too, with the enticement of a cheap Chinese-made plastic toy as a reward for the child.
The toys I can’t utilize in my practice I use in the children’s workshops that I take. The children create Funky Toy Faces with small unwanted toys and parts of other toys they cut up to recreate a face. I do not like waste so use as much as possible from each toy. A friend is a weaver and has asked that I save the doll hair I don’t use in my works for her. At home I reuse constantly. About 80 per cent of our furniture is preloved. Even our house is a recycled Queensland house transported here with an old Sergeant’s mess added on by the previous owners.
Who or what would you most like to recreate in a sculpture?
I would love to one day recreate a statue of David with skin tone resin cast doll parts.
What do you do or where do you go for inspiration?
My inspiration comes directly from the society that surrounds me: Television, news, personal reactions, my questioning. I have an overactive imagination anyway and also my life experiences help give my work a bit of depth.
My guilty pleasure is …?
Buying a new piece of clothing. Every second year I do not buy myself clothes. If desperate, I only buy second-hand clothing. And when I do buy new it has to be on special with at least a 50 per cent discount. So buying a full price piece of clothing is for me a guilty pleasure.
The best thing about living in/near Sydney is …?
I am only an hour’s train trip from the city (Sydney) I love going in and seeing exhibitions, having lunch and train home. I love it that Sydney is close so I can drive in to deliver artwork. And when we do drive in, it’s so lovely coming home to the green hills and the quiet.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?
Definitely! Who would have thought this immigrant (I was born in South Africa to German parents), raised in Campbelltown, South West Sydney, would finally become an artist after having a ‘real job’.
Freya has some exhibitions coming up, so if you’re in the area you should pop along:
Currently, she is in the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize until November 2 at Woollahra Council, Double Bay. You can vote online for the People’s Choice. She is also a finalist in the Sculpture in the Vineyard in Wollombi with her caravan filled with toys called ‘Museum of Childhood Memory’ – 25 October to 29 November.
She is in the Fishers Ghost Art Prize at Campbelltown Art Centre, 24 October to 14 December.
Plus, she will be part of an exhibition with a print (below) called “Someone’s Son” at Casula Powerhouse next March for the celebration of 100 years of ANZAC tradition called ‘Guarding the Home Front’.
Thanks so much, Freya, for an insight into your fascinating creative life! You can see more of Freya’s work here.