A conversation with the young artist who illuminates her own body to spread positive messages related to body issues and gender equality.
Fern Cooke is a 24-years old artist from Manchester and an empowering and upcoming voice for body positivity, mental health and gender equality. She is also a textile artist with a degree in Textiles in Practice from the Manchester School of Art and impresses us with her unconventional, but highly sustainable work made from recycled materials. Her unique and meaningful artwork is heart touching and has caught the attention of many, including Viola Davis, Ashley Graham, Daily Mail and us, of course. In this interview, Fern talks to us about the inspiration behind her work that pushed her to become the artist for social change she is today.
When did you start doing art?
I've wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember, when I was young I was always "illustrating" my books or doodling on tables! It's only been fairly recently however that I've actually started to have real confidence in my work and be able to put it out into the world, some of it has really connected with people which is the most amazing feeling.
What pushed you to become an artist for gender equality and body positivity?
A lot of my work draws on personal experiences or feelings that I've had, especially my recent photographs relating to body issues. I never saw positive messages like that when I was young but I wish I had. Now I'm illuminating them on a body that I've struggled with for years, so that it might help other people build a better relationship with themselves. I also realised quite a while ago that my creative drive is so intertwined with all my other passions, like gender equality and body positivity, that that's really where I want my work to focus for the foreseeable future.
Did you always have the courage to speak your mind?
Definitely not to the extent I do now but I've always been extremely opinionated and not afraid to show it. I'm really privileged to be surrounded both on and offline by people who share the same values as me, having that support is so important and it helps me feel secure in knowing that I've done the right thing even if people disagree.
On your Instagram you are also showing a lot of art made from recycled materials focusing on our environment. What is your main message that you want to spread about sustainability?
There are so many things I want to say about sustainability! It's really important that everyone feels empowered to make change in their life where possible, don't feel guilty if you're not able to cut back on waste to the same extent as others, we all have different circumstances! The main thing I want to push with my work is how not everything that's single use necessarily has to be, and if I can knit a garment out of "unusable" plastic then why can't large manufacturers look at the waste we already have as possible materials, instead of generating more?
Who or what influences your art?
I'm inspired by so many things! Nature, textures of different materials I find, other artists and their work, activists!
Viola Davis has recently shared your artwork! That's amazing! How did you react?
It was amazing that she shared my work however she didn't actually credit me for it or put any effort in to rectify that once called out so the whole experience was more unpleasant than anything! Credit artists!
Who is your biggest inspiration in life?
I couldn't pick just one! I'm inspired by my friends and family, people I meet online, other artists and people fighting for social change!
What do you want people to feel through your art?
It depends on the piece, a lot of the time I want people to feel empowered or more comfortable and at ease with themselves, mentally or physically. I just want my work to resonate with people in some way or another really!