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In conversation with… Jody Elphick

Our 3×3 instagallery has been running for nearly two years. We host a different artist each month—always a friend of Aesop, and always with a story to tell. The beauty of our gallery is that everything is temporary. The images disappear when the month is up, to be replaced by our next artist. Since we’ve started, we’ve been the ephemeral home of everyone from painters to photo journalists, potters to pixel artists.

This month we’re hosting Jody Elphick, social chronicler and insta-starlet of ‘Guardian Girl’ fame. 

So Jody, what’s your story?
For most of my life I kept this ‘way of life’ a secret. For one thing it’s really embarrassing to tell people you’re off to get a back massage because that’s what Bruce Forsyth (RIP) did on a Wednesday morning. It’s long winded and if someone like a boyfriend did work out what I was up to they’d generally try to talk me out of it. So I lived a covert life feeling that I had a rather strange and shameful way of doing things. One day in 2009 someone sent a link round the office to some blog or other and it occurred to me that I could do that too. I started a WordPress blog, but I still didn’t tell anyone except my workmate Cari, and only because I need help taking my outfit photos. I was still very shady about the whole thing and no one really read it. Eventually I shared it on my Facebook page and started to get a modest yet committed following, which was very emancipating because I felt like my weird obsessional thing was suddenly a good joke. I’ve been stopping and starting ever since. It becomes overwhelmingly inconvenient to do as I really try to copy every piece of lifestyle advice in the Weekend magazine each week, cooking all the recipes and wearing all the fashion and buying everything in The Measure. It gets on top of me and I regularly run out of money so have to stop, but then I feel the itch building up again and I miss it, so I start again. That’s my life really. Sad, isn’t it.

How did you develop a love for making art?
Sorry to burst your bubble but I wouldn’t really describe what I do as making art. It’s more like walking uphill naked on a treadmill in the middle of a shopping centre for six hours a day, in terms of the skills required. I do enjoy writing mildly sarcastic captions with dreadful puns in them, that is a true love.

What techniques do you use? 
I employ the ancient art of taking the piss.

Which work are you most proud of?
When you dive into my back catalogue there are very few isolated pieces of work I feel proud of. It would be better if I’d spent this time working at a food bank – then I might feel proud. Instead what I have is a general sense of achievement at having made life so needlessly difficult for myself every day. I am gratified that I’ve taken something about myself I am truly embarrassed about and, instead of hiding it away, I have polished it into some sort of malformed turd and put it on public display so that a small number of other people can then ‘Like’ it. And when I manage to match up an outfit really well and get the pose right, I get a kick out of it that can sometimes last for hours.

What’s the story behind one of the works in your gallery?
Here’s the story behind the first recipe I ever cooked for the blog, in 2009. It was a clotted cream shortcake. “Last night was my first attempt at the recipe side of all this and I had high hopes, what with two tubs of cream being involved. The ingredients cost me about seven quid. Unfortunately neither patience nor precision are my strongest points, which already causes me problems because I’m a sub-editor. Turns out I’m not only ill suited to my chosen profession, I’m also ill suited to the life of a baker. I forgot to buy baking powder. I forgot to buy baking parchment. I forgot that I don’t have a baking tray. I didn’t measure the ingredients, which I already know to be the cardinal sin of baking. Basically anything with ‘baking’ in it went wrong. Nevertheless I mixed up a bowl of crumbly yet gluey dough, greased a muffin tray with a rancid butter wrapper I’d put in my fridge when pretending to be domestic, squashed the dough on to the tray and smacked it absentmindedly until the edges started to squidge off. Then I put it in my oven, which burns one half of any given circular object and leaves the other half raw (i’m thinking particularly of pizzas) and left it in there for 15 minutes while I ate most of the strawberries I was supposed to fill the shortcake with. I couldn’t be bothered to get the hand-blender out just to whip some cream, which does make me wonder what I think it’s meant to be for, so I just shook the tub until I got bored. Don’t try this – it doesn’t work. Then it was time for the shortcake to emerge, looking gloriously golden on one side and pallidly similar to this week’s make-up look on the other. I broke it in half, shoved it on a plate, put the strawberries on, poured over the double cream and hurriedly took a photo before squirrelling the plate away to my room like a Freaky Eater. It was mostly raw inside, I admit, but if you made sure each mouthful had enough cooked bit and plenty of cream, it was pretty nice.”

Catch our latest gallery here. Or see more of Jody’s work here.