Meet ACAVA prize winner Pamela Storey
Pamela Storey, All that lies between us. Photo courtesy Pamela Storey

Meet our artist community: Q&As

Part of an ongoing series, members of our artist community share insights about their work, their stories and their relationship to ACAVA. Visit this page to read more.

Pamela Storey is one of three winners of last year’s ACAVA Hosts: Three Counties Open Residency. In partnership with Keele University and the Three Counties Open Art Exhibition, the three winning artists will each benefit from a one-month-long residency at ACAVA Spode Works Studios in Stoke-on-Trent. Learn more about the programme here.

Pamela’s residency started on 20 June 2024 – read on to learn more about her fascination with Barbara Hepworth, why she works with found materials, and her experience participating in recent shows at The Hepworth Wakefield and Saatchi Gallery London.

Your name?

Pamela Storey

Your type of art practice?

Where can we find your work?

Pamela Storey, I'm Not Here. Photo courtesy Pamela Storey
Pamela Storey, The last bee. Photo courtesy Pamela Storey

Pamela Storey (b. 1981) grew up in Bollington, Cheshire, and has returned to the county after living in St Ives, Cornwall, London and Hamburg. She is a self-taught artist, working predominantly with wire making small figurative pieces. Her artistic concerns are the human condition, time and the environment. Pam relishes the challenge of sculpting from nothing, intentionally working with readily available materials, for practicality, and to connect her work to everyday life. She mostly uses metal wires and found objects, working sustainably as much as possible. She enjoys using materials that can flow and transform; fragility and corrosion are an intentional aspect of the life of her work. Pam has exhibited her sculptures locally in Cheshire and increasingly across the country, most recently in The Hepworth Wakefield and Saatchi Gallery London.

What else can you tell us about yourself and your work?
I’m British, born in 1981, and I use she/her pronouns. Sculpture seems to be my go-to response when trying to articulate my ideas of the world. My sculptures often feature an ‘Everywoman’ in wire, and are rooted in themes of powerplay, chance, and comment on my Everywoman’s place in the world. I also enjoy painting. I tend to focus on outdoor scenes of nature, where humans have left traces behind, a mineshaft, a wall, a shed. I like the relationships and the transcending power of the natural world and how humans have tried to touch (and often ruin) it. I’ve always been keen on life drawing too. I think it’s infinitely interesting to observe humans and the practice helps maintain the looking skills. 

What are your plans for your upcoming residency at ACAVA Spode Works Studios?
Being in a fresh environment with some physical and mental distance from my norm will give me an interesting perspective on my practice. I’ve been thinking recently about where I sit as an artist, my journey, the artist’s journey, and how it all fits in the world. I suspect I’ll end up with more questions than answers, but that’s part of the fun of it, isn’t it? But I am already ruminating on ideas for new work.

Pamela Storey, Woman, undone. Photo courtesy Pamela Storey
Pamela Storey, Woman on Chair. Photo courtesy Pamela Storey

Who are your artistic influences / heros?
Barbara Hepworth has been a long-time heroine of mine. I went to her house and garden in St. Ives, Cornwall when I was 17 and fell in love. I love that she’s a northerner, there’s always been something comforting about that, and that she carved (pardon the pun) a way forward in a man’s world. When I’m struggling, I often ask ‘What would Barbara do?’ It’s a similar feeling with Tracey Emin. Her work changed my world when I saw it at the Sensation exhibition in 1997. She showed me the possibilities for a woman making art, something that my formal education had not. I’ve followed her career and a lot of her work resonates deeply with me. I think the work she is doing now to establish the art scene in Margate and support emerging artists is excellent. Maggi Hambling is another one whose work and attitude keeps me going. Louise Bourgeois! These women’s work and efforts are like food, they sustain me and give me encouragement to keep on.

What inspires you to make art?
I think art is fundamentally about communication. It’s the impulse to respond to the world that is articulated in form. Creating and expressing is a very basic, primal need. I think that’s why it doesn’t take just one shape; it is reactive so on reflection it makes sense it should manifest in many ways.

What inspires you to keep making art?
I think it’s pretty impossible to be in this world and not react to it. It is, however, very difficult to walk the tightrope of making art and making a career in art, because the two are seemingly not happy bedfellows. They are often in opposite rooms of the house and it’s usually artistic integrity that gets left out in the garden. I’ve tried to keep my means to survive separate from pure creation in order to allow freedom to do what I want. Even so, I often feel a lot of doors are shut and the monsters of the art world are winning. At such times I seek solace in other artists, such as those mentioned above. We all need trailblazers.

Pamela Storey, Woman, Nesting. Photo courtesy Pamela Storey
Pamela Storey, Woman on an Island. Photo courtesy Pamela Storey

Did you study art?
I studied art at school to A-level and did a year of Art History (Western, from 1400 to the present day) at university, but I barely held a pencil from finishing school until 10 years later when I realised I had a corporate job by mistake and wasn’t supposed to be silencing my inner creativity. I then started life-drawing, which I did weekly for years mostly at Candid Arts Trust in Angel, London. I also took a life painting course under Simon English at CityLit in Holborn, London. Some years on, I moved back to Cheshire and continued life-drawing in spurts. I was frustrated with ‘the way forward’ so I took a session with an art tutor. He recommended I do some self-portraits. I fell out with myself terribly in this pursuit and never returned to it. At the same time, I became rather ill and bedridden for some months, and in a sort of protest, I picked up some wire and started sculpting my ear. This led to me making my entire head. Since then, I have been making. So by and large I am self-taught. I’d love to know how to do a lot of things, and study lots formally, but I don’t have the funds, so I do what I can and learn mostly through trial and error. It’s a lot of fun (when it works!).

What materials do you use? What do you like about those?
Wire, glass, stones, found things, anything. I like wire for its fluidity. I like materials that can change, like rust, and how this becomes part of the life of the work. I try to reuse and recycle materials and avoid using plastic, for both environmental and budget reasons. I used to use acrylic paint and still use what I have left but I made a deal with myself to use watercolour going forward for its greener credentials.

Can you tell us about your artistic career so far?
I set about becoming a ‘serious’ artist around 2009, when I hired a studio at Mother Studios in Hackney Wick, London (it’s since gone, to make way for high-rise living). However, I was working a very full-on full-time job so I didn’t really get going. Some years later, and with a career change, I had more time to create in earnest and I began sculpting. I then showed with some small, local shows in Cheshire, and then cast my net a bit further afield nationally by entering a few open calls and competitions and joining groups.

It really bothers me that a lot of calls and groups require fees, often hefty, and with no guarantee that you will see any benefit. The system is skewered. So, I’ve been very selective with what I do, what ‘feels’ right, and what I can fit in with my other jobs – in addition to the call costs, travelling up and down the country to take work / pay courier fees / attend private views, it all has to balance with my other commitments and life, both timewise and financially. This last year I showed in an exhibition ‘If Not Now, When? Generations of Women in Sculpture in Britain 1960 – 2022’ at The Hepworth Wakefield. The show later toured to the Saatchi Gallery London. That came about as I had answered an open call from The Hepworth to complete a survey about life as a woman sculptor, at the time I had no idea it would lead to one of my works being included in a show. Separate to making art, the art world seems to me to be a matter of learning to play ‘the game’ . However, there are seemingly no rules to this game. I’ve learnt that as an artist you have to decide how you want to play that game, if at all.

Pamela Storey, Into mine. Photo courtesy Pamela Storey

Do you collaborate with others?
It’s pretty solo, what I do, but during the pandemic I got involved with a project called ‘Home’, a group collaboration project by the Belgian artist Klaas Rommelaere. Everyone involved made a tapestry of something that conveyed ‘home’ to them and then at the end it was all stitched together to create a suspended ‘Home’ you could walk into at Newlyn Art Gallery, Cornwall. It was solo making but with the odd group Zoom conversation to keep us going. I hadn’t ever done any tapestry work but I descend from the cotton mills so I was up for the challenge! It was the first show I got to see out of the pandemic, so maybe that contributed, but there was so much joy and emotion in seeing how my work fitted in along with the creations from other artists all coming together. You can view a 360 of it here.

Where do you want to take your art next?
I would like to make bigger, life-size sculptures. I have a fantasy I’ll one day be able to live in a house in the countryside, smelling the sea air and spending my days working in my studio on my heart’s desire, without having to worry about anything. Fingers crossed.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given as an artist?
‘Fuck it!’ (Simon English said it to the life drawing class I was taking). It sounds quite throwaway but actually it was in all seriousness. It was in relation to being too easily caught up and focussed on a piece of work, and that one should not be too precious.

Pamela Storey, Bird on a wire. Photo courtesy Pamela Storey
Pamela Storey, Come to me. Photo courtesy Pamela Storey

How has creativity impacted your life?
It has led me to where I am now, despite my best efforts.

Do you have an art studio? If so, how has having an art studio impacted your practice?
I have dedicated a room in my house to be my studio, however, as I am still in the process of renovating and moving house, it has become a room for storing everything in! It’s frustrating, but there will be a point when it becomes a reality. Aside from the studio I had at Mother Studios in the early days, I’ve always had to double up and use rooms assigned for other purposes in my house. This will be the first time I’ll have an actual dedicated space I can stand up in and get messy in.

Do you have any upcoming shows or events?
I think that this residency at ACAVA Spode Works Studios might finish with a bit of a show. Watch this space!

Where can we find your work?