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Napier artist Billie Culy builds detailed dioramas of imagined scenes from scratch in her studio.

You were based in London up until the pandemic hit, can you share how that impacted your work?

My work has definitely stemmed from that process of finding my feet again. Once I had come back (to Napier), I didn’t want to take photos. Taking photos didn’t feel like a soothing thing, I just wanted to make things with my hands. That’s when I started to make the dioramas. They were spaces I could go and immerse myself in and just get out of my head. But then when it came to showing them in my first exhibition since returning home, I didn’t feel ready. They felt like quite a personal thing, and I was still in a strange place from everything, so I just sat on them and carried on taking photos. It’s been a real rollercoaster time. 


What do you enjoy about creating dioramas?

I like that you can kind of come in and out of them. You can have a different perspective on each one like you can put your head inside and experience each little thing. It’s like a three-dimensional way of looking at my work, which I really love. I wanted to be quite playful with them and use lots of ‘found’ objects, things that have been used and feel a bit worn – I think that gives them a spirit. I feel that translates to my photos too, the objects I use for those are the same. 

Want to keep reading? Find the full story in Womenclan: Journal Two, available now.

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