There's a strange welcoming comfort to Selby Hurst Inglefield's mixture of quirky knitted furniture and wall hangings, some shaped like giant cats that function as chairs. Playful and kitsch, it's easy to see why the emerging textile artist is fast becoming a leading name in the field.
The Brighton-based artist's latest series of works will go on show in her first London solo show this September. Titled Cradle, the exhibition at Reem Gallery in Ham Yard, Soho, will bring the Central Saint Martins fine art graduate's unique body of work to the masses, all centring around the recurring theme of cats in nursery rhymes and folk stories. Each of the brightly coloured knitted pieces has been created to capture the "physical and emotional states of security, safety and comfort", yet there's an underlying charm that hints at the artist's sense of humour.
With wide eyes, huge whiskers and pointy ears standing to attention, her feline-themed stools and chairs are almost cartoon-like in their vivid colours. They're not like anything we've ever seen. And so, as you can imagine, Selby has built quite a loyal following on Instagram and attracted many international collectors with one of her recent works created especially for Hollywood actress Amanda Seyfried. The A-lister commissioned Selby to create a one-off textiles cat chair titled Mr Bitterman as a gift for her sister in 2021.
Trained as a fine artist, Selby couldn't quite move away from her roots in textiles, having enjoyed being taught her skills by her mother, a textile artist and teacher growing up. Her technique of tufting (or rug punching, as it's also known) could be done easily using a machine; however, the artist chooses to create her works by hand. In doing so, she achieves a soft texture to her works – one that's deliberate in creating a physical sense of comfort. Tufting by hand, meanwhile, helps her to "connect fully with the piece bringing together thoughts and memories that she wrestles with in the creative process," so she explains.
On average, her works take three weeks to complete but have been known to take up to three months. "I've always wanted to take everyday used furniture and find a way of giving it a new life in animal form," Selby tells Creative Boom. "Cats came to me immediately as they evoke a real sense of comfort, warmth and domesticity, which are themes I explore a lot through my work."
Selby's crafted creatures are timely and offer comfort during these dark times. It's no surprise that in recent years the theme of domesticity has become even more prominent in Selby's practice due to the shared experience of lockdowns. This period, enforced inside, gave her time to consider at length the interplay between objects and art and the joyful fantasies which can come from the mundane home.
This thought around how objects can transform a home's atmosphere resulted in her creating her series of cat chairs, benches, stools and a dining table. Unique and playful, this feline-themed body of work was also inspired by the comfort, warmth and domesticity cats evoke, paralleling the artist's key themes.
Phoebe Minson, creative director at Reem Gallery, adds: "Despite being at such an early stage in her career, the artist demonstrates an exceptional technical and conceptual ability. Her work encapsulates physically the emotional experience of being held, of being home, and of feeling safe. Her work invites the viewer to reconsider the place of craft, the domestic labour of women, and children's fairy tales in the gallery space."
Cradle by Selby Hurst Inglefield launches at Reem Gallery in Soho, London, on 2 September and runs until 17 September. To find out more about Selby, visit the artist's website at selbyhi.com or follow her on Instagram @selby_hi.