Inspired by… V&A curator Katy Canales

With Morley’s national Inspired by… V&A competition well under way, we caught up with competition judge and assistant curator Katy Canales from the V&A Museum of Childhood to find out more about her work, inspirations and tips for entering the competition. 

What does your everyday job as a curator at the V&A Museum of Childhood involve?

There’s nothing everyday about my job, which is what makes it so great. Some days I can be installing an exhibition with 100s of items, whilst others can see me scouring the Museum to track down our bug traps and monitor their catch. But what makes everyday exciting are the public enquiries I answer and the handling sessions that I run, as these are unpredictable and offer the opportunity to discover new aspects of this incredible collection.

VA Hats - Inspired by

What is the relevance of looking at art from the past in creating art today?

I believe that pieces from our past can provide the creative springboard to propel new ideas. We can learn so much about the development of materials, forms and designs by looking at past work. These items were shaped by their makers and their place in time and they allow us to bridge lives, locations and eras.

What is your favourite piece from the V&A Museum of Childhood collection? 

There’s a little felt bulldog toy in the permanent galleries which is my most coveted item. Its semi-mechanised so if you were to squeeze the belly its mouth would open and it would have squeaked. Sadly over time and possibly use, it has lost its voice. This is such a well observed representation of a bulldog, the stance, the whisker spots and gradient colourings around the mouth and the alert ears. I always make time to stop by this case when I do my gallery checks. It reminds me of my own little French bulldog, Scout and it makes me smile every time!

Bulldog toy - Inspired by

Katy Canales dog

What inspires you?

From the collection it has to be Pumpie. This little soft felt elephant was part of a collection of much loved toys owned by the Cattley family who lived in Ealing, West London in the early 20th century. The Cattley family made exquisite little costumes for Pumpie and his friends and drew them in beautiful storybooks.

Beyond the collection, I filled my journal with images, clippings and sketches and my phone is packed with photographs of materials, ribbons, furniture and landscapes that catch my eye. The last entry was of the fantastic array of felts and Petersham ribbons made and dyed in Luton for hats. Seeing the racks of colours I felt like a kid in a candy store. The colours were mouthwateringly delicious. I am inspired by colour harmonies and how artists can balance them with textures.

Vilhelm Hammershøi oil paintings are wonderful studies in gentle tonal undulations and the representation of light. I adore the witty playfulness and lively forms in Roksanda’s fashion designs. One of her outfits could banish the banal out of any dull day!

And I admire Frieda Kahlo’s bold self-awareness and her deployment of historical and contemporary cultural references and symbolism within her work.

Pumpie - Inspired by

What advice would you give to anyone interested in entering the Inspired by… competition?

Please do it! Even if you don’t submit an application, just taking a moment to think about the concept of what inspires you and what others may have been inspired by, gives you a new creative perspective. And hopefully it’ll trigger you to create and take part!

The deadline for entering the Inspired by… competition is 17:00, Friday 11 March 2016.

With our national Inspired by… V&A competition well under way, we caught up with competition judge and assistant curator Katy Canales from the V&A Museum of Childhood.

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