Surreal Woman: Cassie Beadle of Guts For Garters


Written by Betty Wood
29 Wednesday 29th June 2011

Cassie Beadle (left), Rachel Churley (right) and Dee Dee (centre)

I know both you and Rachel are Courtald Art History graduates , but could you tell us how you came up with the idea of opening a boutique concept store?

Rachel and I met at the Courtald where we were quite lucky because in terms of tradition and stuffiness, Courtald is pretty up there!  Rachel and I fell in love at Courtald, and after we graduated she moved to San Francisco. Whilst we were college we discussed the idea of working together and when she said she was coming back to England, she called me up and that's when I came up with the idea of curating something together. Originally it was going to be a clothing boutique where the collection went beyond the clothes themselves and looked at how they could interact with the space. Eventually it developed into this hybrid shop-come-gallery; we curate, we collect, we exhibit and we sell.

Why specifically did you choose Camden to play home to Guts for Garters, and what's special about the space the collection is in?

We wanted to take away the snobbishness of the white cube space and show people how they could live with their art and that it doesn’t just have to be a painting hanging on a wall. It can be an item of clothing that's lasted a hundred years. We're trying to put everything on the same platform.

I'm a Londoner; Rachel's not, but might as well be. I grew up here; areas come and go in terms of trends but Camden has got this amazing heritage. It's been systematically destroyed - the Market is atrocious - and Rachel and I want to provide something that is interesting and exciting for the area and stop this Shoreditch mania. We really enjoy being part of the Camden Renaissance; it's not just a tourist trap, it's not dead and buried.

We had this in the pipeline for three years; the building is important to the concept, and is owned by our friend. It was a complete dump when he bought it and it took three years to get the building into shape, so we held off as we really wanted to be involved with this project and we were still developing ideas. The local response we've had has been great; people are glad we're here and are really excited something independent has popped up.

Que me veux-tu? Claude Cahun 1929

It's the Surrealist movement's 75th anniversary, so it seems fitting your current collection is aptly titled Surreal Women;  you’re collaborating with The Cob Gallery who are running their exhibition The Pain of Desire. How much overlap can we expect?

A lot. We basically dictate to The Cob what they're going to show; they follow our lead if you will. They decided early on that a functional way of using us is that when we install a show, they put on a show that corresponds with our theme. At first we were a little uneasy with that, but it's worked in our favour, there's great cross-over between the exhibition space and the collection. It's a really nice juxtaposition.

Daschund with Moustache, Kelly McCallum

Claude Cahun is cited as your muse for this exhibition – she’s known just as much for her gender-bending and ambiguity as she is for her typically ‘Surrealist’ tablatures. What’s your favourite element of her work?

Rachel and I believe in alternative histories; the reason we love doing what we do is because each and every piece of art has its own back story. We approach artists and say "these are the three themes, these are our muses" and they respond to that. Cahun was an obvious choice for us because she was an outsider; she was never embraced by the surrealists. She was too considered low-brow and was on the periphery of the movement.

We love the way she subverted the idea of the surrealist woman - in the gender-bending sense and in the fact she wasn't actually a surrealist woman at all. She was cast out by them when she was actually more surreal than most... That's why we chose her. We love an outsider, and her photography is just astounding. Research is a massive part of the show - we'd always come back to her and be amazed by the quality of the photographs, and by how each image was almost a mini-instillation. She was definitely ahead of her time and is just generally "bang on" if you ask me!

Self-portrait (in cupboard), Claude Cahun 1932

How exactly have you used Cahun to influence your choices for this collection? Is there anything (or any pieces) you can directly attach her to in terms of style, or is it more of an over-arching influence that hints at rather than directly grabs?

Martha Todd's Babies to Love definitely reminds us of the image of Cahun dressed up like a toddler, sitting in a cabinet. We've used some of that. A lot of our fashion pieces definitely lean towards Cahun in their theatricality and design.

How exactly do you see Guts for Garters in terms of its retail credentials - is it an art project financed through sales or a retail project selling art?

We didn’t anticipate exactly quite the sort of hybrid we'd become! I guess we’d say that really we're a retail space because we are really enjoying the fact that people are buying genuine works of art without feeling pressured by a gallery to do it. We're a shop that functions like a gallery. Everything is curated, and is a real mixture of sourced and commissioned work but with affordable pieces - we call them collectables of the future – in there too.

You’re working with some of the best names in fashion and the art world including Grace Pailthorpe and Grayson Perry. How hard has it been to attract big names to contribute to the collection?

It was a bloody uphill struggle for the first theme, but we had some amazing artists from the Royal College of Art who really embraced what we're doing - they saw past the building site and it's snowballed from there. Rachel and I are completely obsessed with Grayson Perry, so when I got news that we were getting some Grayson Perry for this collection I had to ring Rachel right then and tell her. We're really proud to have his work. We’ve met some really wonderful people!

So you worked out your first theme, The Royal We, long before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced their engagement; did that work out to be a happy coincidence or an annoying one?

Completely beneficial from a press-perspective; we were this new thing in Camden and it coincided with the wedding and it was just complete serendipity. It was a bit awkward when we had the Queen's signature lit up in neon next to a cup saying "Fuck the Monarchy!", but we had no William & Kate sick bags or anything. It was basically a celebration of the monarchy. We had a few dodgy interviews where people thought we were anti-Royalists, old-school punk rockers from Camden... But we're keen to point out we're not doing that at all. In fact, we're channelling Victoriana aesthetic as well.

Cactus Chairs, Valentina Gonzales  Wohlers 2009

How far in advance do you plan the collections? Are you working on the next one (Anatomy) now, or are you enjoying the fruit of your labour with Surreal Women?

We planned three collections for this year, and will be starting again next year. I'm concentrating a lot on tailoring; I'm sourcing and exhibiting calicos, inside out clothing and construction as a theme throughout the clothing. There'll be corsetry, panelling... We don't want each show to outdo the last for ostentatiousness; we want to show we're versatile with our installations, not just our style. Next year we'll be starting with the theme Day of the Dead followed by a Soviet-themed collection and then another as yet to be decided...

Surreal Women is running until 21 July at the Guts for Garters boutique. For more info, click here.

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  • Guest: alice
    Mon 04 - Jul - 2011, 19:59
    Awesome, saw this a few days ago and it was amazing. Nice article.