Verso caught up with Sarah Tickle and Seiri Kitchener at their studio at The Boiler Room, to learn more about their fledgling business Tickle & Kitch. The business gives the pair an avenue to market and sell rigorous textile work as a branch of their own independent visual arts practice.
Verso: Tell us about the beginnings of Tickle & Kitch?
Sarah: In the beginning ….
Seiri: I think we found this year, and towards the end of last year, that we both making things that were technically unrelated to our art practice. It was like a craft/art procrastination.
… and then …
it took control.
Sometimes, something you do as a hobby can get really bad connotations - I like to call it crart.
Sarah: Yeah, craft-art.
Seiri: I do think that it [craft art] has got a proper standing though and there is extensive literature and theory to support it. There’s a large feminist agenda in there too, I mean look at Lizzy Emery as an example.
Sarah: I just don’t consider it my art practice. I don't want that to be confused. It’s just a branch of it, but it’s not what I do.
Seiri: Whereas I think I got sick of trying to jam it into my art practice and felt like Tickle & Kitch could be an avenue.
Sarah: Art Avenue
Seiri: Craft Lane
Sarah: It’s at the junction of Art Avenue and Craft Lane.
Seiri: So we’ve been creating these textile pieces a little bit more as opposed to other work from our art practice. We found we needed a word - we needed a platform for it - instead of trying to cram it into our practice. Then it went on Instagram. I bullied Sarah into giving me photos and we were brainstorming one night and combined our surnames into Tickle & Kitch, and its gone on from there.
Verso: Is Tickle & Kitch just on social media platforms at the moment?
Seiri: At the moment. I think we’re trying to build up trust at the moment. Eventually we want to have some sort of website and even an online shop as they [the works] are quite saleable they are like keepsakes so people will want to take them home … and that will be good. But at the moment we’re focused on first building up our story and narrative …
Sarah: It seems to be going quite well.
Seiri: … Yeah, rather than shoving BUY MY STUFF into Instagram space…
It’s more: lets create a story and we’ll go from there … so when we want to try to give these works homes (either physically or online), then we’ve got a bigger reach. We’re being cheeky, and trying to shove our craft art into to the door of visual arts, whilst saying take us seriously but no too seriously.
With our textile works, there is also a bit of: we just have an odd sense of humour and this is what we enjoy doing at the moment
Sarah: I often want to put the tagline ‘made with love not with skill.’
Seiri: But the things we make are quite skilful and it does take time to make them.
Sarah: But if an actual sewer saw my work they’d be like: mmmm no dear, no thats not a stitch.
It’s certainly filled my creation frustration though.
I was burnt out after honours  and didn’t know what to do. But it has been good to fill that gap between applying for stuff, creating ‘actual art’ and procrastination art - it's good to get your hands working and your brain working! And the response has been good from Instagram.
Verso: For you, is Tickle & Kitch like a prototype for actual making, or is there tenuous link to your respective art practices, or is it completely separate?
Seiri: No, there are links.
My practice has always revolved around home identity and these works for Tickle & Kitch were inspired by ‘home sweet home’ cross stitches and textiles. I did want to branch out into textiles but didn't quite know how to do it. This [Tickle & Kitch] is a way of doing it without taking myself too seriously and getting scared that I wont be part of the cool crowd anymore.
Sarah: That art crowd that’s gonna kick us to the curb.
Seiri: I branch out a little into a feminist critique by contemplating home identity, which is where it curtails and intersects with Sarah’s practice and her investigation into tomboy-ism.
Sarah: Well my Sockems have no gender, you can make up whatever they are … when you get them, if you get them. No matter what you create, your ‘stuff’ is going to be in it - your fingerprints will be all over it.
Seiri: You can’t force yourself to be interested in something just in order to create it.
Also, I’ve had a lot of interest from people who have no background in art what so ever. What we’re doing with Tickle & Kitch it’s really accessible. A personal trainer- who doesn't follow art at all - perked his ears up and he began asking things like, ‘how do you market this?’. He has been really lovely and now offering suggestions as to how we can better use Instagram as a medium. One recent suggestion was to post works in progress, for people who might want to see behind the scenes. But, Sarah was very worried about putting this out there as it could take the life out of the story of the things we’re making.
Sarah: It’s like they [the Sockems] are dead before they're stuffed - I don’t want their little dead Sockem bodies all over Instagram.
Seiri: Sockem carcasses!
Sarah: Even just before I put the eyes on, they still don't seem like real things. I know it’s weird! I didn't want Sockem parts everywhere though …
Verso: That’s private to you …..
Sarah: Yeah, it’s their little identities we’re dealing with.
Seiri: I totally understand that, and I probably wouldn't have a problem with showing works in progress if I was painting. But with the textiles …. I don't want to … it looks kinda crap.
It doesn't have the soul yet.
Verso: Do you think it’s a strength having the two of you working and marketing yourselves together?
Sarah: Oh my god, totally!
Seiri: I’d be too scared if I was doing this by myself.
I also think it would feel a little bit lacking or insincere if I was doing it on my own. But together, while what we make individually doesn't seem like it will meld, it does. I’m concerned with embroidery and text in my work here …
Sarah: … I don’t do text …
I couldn’t have ever dreamt up the Sockems.
Verso: Do you know of any other artists doing similar things?
Sarah: Um … not together. There is plenty of cross stitch art and plenty of plush toy art.
Seiri: Tiff Rysdale perhaps, but she paints hers … I think we have something that is a different flavour from what is around at the moment. Certainly on Instagram. There is a lot of stuff that’s similar but not quite what we’re doing.
Verso: I think we were wondering about that, because when the two of you put a name to what you were doing, it pricked our ears. It made us think - these artists are taking this seriously and professionally.
Seiri: For want of a better word, it’s almost like branding ourselves. We still have our own identities; our own practices and the credits are to each visual artist.
Sarah: And we’re now creating work, which is nice.
Seiri: It’s given us ideas to collaborate further into our respective art practices and it has just snowballed from there. It’s good to do something productive to fund our art, but also to step up and not get lost in the saturation of things and wares.
… I love that stuff …
… you know that Frankie-style/ kitsch-esque stuff that you see everywhere … well we’re putting some backbone into it! Rather than just creating ‘stuff’ and seeing it flow back into our art practice. We just needed to do something tangible for a change. And we’re better together.
Sarah: It has been good. What Seiri doesn’t have - I have, and what I don’t have - Seiri has.
I don’t know jack about computer stuff and Seiri’s got all that in the bag … then its up on Instagram and I’m like: how did you do that?
Seiri: Whereas I continually forget how to photoshop anything …
Sarah: But it was the same with our logo - I did it / she did it. It was a combined effort.
I couldn’t ask for a better partner.
Verso: Do we dare mention the word collaboration? Is that something we can talk about?
Seiri: Yeah it is!
Sarah: It’s kind of a symbiotic relationship.
You do your thing / I do mine and it just works.
Seiri: No one is taking over control of this enterprise.
Sarah: I personally feel like its very 50 / 50.
It’s working so far!
Verso: A number of emerging artists probably feel like they’re lost after art school. Do you have any advice or was there a moment of realisation that helped you get to this point of regular and satisfying making?
Sarah: We still meet artists who've just left art school and don’t know what to do and we can say: well we’ve done this [Tickle & Kitch]. It occupies our time and keeps our hands and minds busy, so we don’t lose it. And when the wild calls again, we’re ready to just jump back in there! It took a little while to work it out that’s all. I don’t think we’re alone in that.
Seiri: I think it depends on what happens towards the end of year with your grad. show. Sometimes opportunities - you fall into them and they snowball. You can’t expect those things to come to you. And if you don’t feel like a real adult yet (I don’t think anybody ever feels like they are), just make little goals. Make sure you're around other artists who you can springboard off, who you can go to and say: is this crap?
Find people who can put their egos aside and find people who are honest with you, because that’s the only way you'll get back into a similar setting as you had in art school.
Go to as much stuff as you can. Don’t get stuck into the little cliques that can happen in a small community.
Try and do practical things with your time even if they're just little, because you never know when that is going to lead into something that is actually workable
Sarah: And if you can’t do it yourself, find somebody who will do it with you.
… it takes two [breaks into song]
Verso: What about The Suburban Version - The Sockems were such a great success for Sarah, and we wondered if that had given you any confidence or if it had made a market for them?
Sarah: Hells yes!
I used to make them for friends … and then it took off from one friend getting theirs, and saying: these are great you should sell some of them! Then at The Suburban Version I was one of the top sellers. It did give me confidence in them and that people did really like them. The fact that they're willing to cough up cash for them is even better. It definitely made me realise there was a market out there for them, so why not do what you love … and make money to create art with. It was a great jumping off point.
Verso: And whats next? Either for Tickle & Kitch or for yourselves. Whats the goal here?
Seiri: I think our next goal is to build Tickle & Kitch a strong presence, both locally and online. We’re also going to approach markets. I have the small seed of an idea where we could set up some sort of pop-up event, which isn't just craft and food but mini art market - like ‘serious art’ market - not just art with a commercial flavour. A mini Adelaide Art Fair you could say, which would combine a lot more of the Adelaide scene than just us. Keep watch! Exciting things will be on the horizon.
 Seiri and Sarah both completed the BVA(Hons) at Adelaide Central School of Art in 2015
Instagram & Facebook - @tickleandkitch
Website coming soon….