Fantastical fungi folk feature in fine art show

Staffordshire University is inviting art lovers onto campus for its annual Degree Show packed full of creative student work

Kite Myers pictured with some of her mushroom sculptures

Kite Myers has crafted 30 mushroom inspired figures for the exhibition

Mushrooms and fungi are a symbiotic and fundamental part of life, connecting everything within the animal and plant kingdoms. I wanted to take that connection and pair it to the human form. It’s meant to spark conversations about empathy and how we connect to things.

Kite Myers, BA (Hons) Fine Art

The free exhibition runs from Friday 2 June to Saturday 10 June and showcases the final year work of more than 300 students across Art, Design, Media and Performance courses.

Inspired by industry briefs, personal stories and fantastical ideas, the diverse projects on show offer something for everyone.

In the Fine Art gallery, guests will be greeted by a colony of mushroom creatures crafted by Kite Myers. The figures evolve as visitors make their way through the exhibition and grow from a few inches tall to human height. As they become more and more humanlike, we also see the development of language and technology.

Kite used raw wool to needle felt 30 sculptures in total, with the smallest taking a few hours to make and the largest taking seven weeks. A labour of love, each has its own personality and has been given a name.

The 26-year-old from Fenton, explained: “Mushrooms and fungi are a symbiotic and fundamental part of life, connecting everything within the animal and plant kingdoms. I wanted to take that connection and pair it to the human form. It’s meant to spark conversations about empathy and how we connect to things.

“All the materials are natural. If we were to bury the sculptures, they would decompose the same way that a human body would and I find that really interesting.”

A former dog groomer, Kite had to quit her job after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis which prompted her decision to come to Staffordshire University. She plans to stay on to do a Master’s degree and one day become an art lecturer herself.

She added: “Sometimes it just takes someone to believe in your talent and your spirit to change the whole trajectory of your life. I think it would be nice to pay that back and provide that encouragement for others.”

Fellow Fine Art student Laura Williams is displaying a series of large still life paintings and portraits which explore how collecting objects can be an act of self-soothing or escapism.

Laura, 22, from Cannock, said: “I’m a bit of a shopaholic and that’s where the idea initially came from. The paintings highlight the benefits of sometimes being materialistic to improve our mood and also reinforce our identity.”

One portrait shows a friend surrounded by their collection of magazines and vinyl records. Another painting features an American football, teddy bear, photographs and other items which belonged to Laura’s father who recently passed away.

“I realised that we kept a lot of my dad’s things and I wanted to explore the reason why we held on to certain objects. The items in this painting are a symbol of the kind of person he was and it’s soothing for me to look at them and remember who he was. I think a lot of people can relate to that.”

Alongside her studies, Laura has been actively engaged with the Kwanzaa Collective, an arts group championing the work of black creatives in Staffordshire.

She added: “Stoke is a great place to be for the arts. The Kwanzaa Collective is a really supportive community and ensures that underrepresented people get more opportunities. Through them, I’ve had jobs and it has been really encouraging to have those opportunities. It makes you feel reassured that you can have a job as a full-time artist.”

At a special event next Friday Andy Cooke, Creative Director & Head of Design at advertising agency BBH London, will officially open the Degree Show. After graduating with a degree in Graphic Design from Staffordshire University in 2010, Andy has spent more than a decade in the world of brands, business and baked goods. He been recognised by institutions such as the Art Director’s Club, Cannes and D&AD, worked with clients like Nike, Google and Coca-Cola, and has authored two internationally distributed publications.

The Degree Show is open to the public from Friday 2 June to Saturday 10 June at Staffordshire University’s College Road site in Stoke-on-Trent. See full opening times below:

  • Friday 2 June, Celebration Event at 6:30pm
  • Saturday 3 June, 10am - 5pm
  • Sunday 4 June, 10am - 5pm
  • Monday 5 June, 10am - 5pm
  • Tuesday 6 June, 10am - 5pm
  • Wednesday 7 June, 10am - 8pm
  • Thursday 8 June, 10am - 5pm
  • Friday 9 June 10am - 9pm
  • Saturday 10 June, 9am - 3pm

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