interview with squarms for 

international women's day 2022

In celebration of International Women's Day 2022, we sit down with legendary Shoreditch street artist, Squarms, to discuss her work. From whimsical skeletons to cartoon-like style, immaculate detail and usage of colours. 

We got to see her amazing talent when we collaborated with her on the legendary bar The Redchurch's shutter, located on Redchurch street in the heart of Shoreditch. 

Hey Squarms,

Thank you so much for this opportunity to make such a beautiful piece of work on a shutter, at one of London’s most prominent, creative streets in the heart of Shoreditch. When did you start street art?

Thank you for inviting me, a few years ago I was working in a pub on this road so it’s a nice milestone to be painting my work for the public here now. I started doing street art in Summer 2019 when friends invited me to paint with them, it had never occurred to me that I would be doing it professionally but I’m so grateful for what’s come about. 

Your signature style includes whimsical skeletons. What’s the story behind the skeletons?

As a child I loved drawing, skeletons and watching cartoons; this character has been a prominent figure since then. Generally I am more interested in the feelings and situations that remain relevant in my mind over our aesthetic differences, I’ve always loved skeletons because I believe under our clothes and skin we are inherently the same - at least our capacity to feel. 

We see your skeletons doing a number of activities and displaying a number of faces. Is there a deeper meaning behind these or do you spray them according to your current mood?

I enjoy thinking about facial expressions and body language, especially for storytelling. I think when I was younger I felt seeming anything other than happy was automatically bad. I’ve grown to feel that there are no bad emotions, everything is valid and part of the human experience so I like exploring that when drawing faces.

Throughout your career, what have you learned about working in the creative industries? You mention being local in the East End. What inspired you about Shoreditch in particular?

When I first stepped away from my degree several years ago, I found sanctuary in art. I starting making posters and had a radio show with some friends, through these experiences I met many full-time creatives. Up until that point I was only taught that there would never be a job in art, so that was really challenged. I began to realise a burning passion to do something cannot compare to a formal education but can allow you to provide a different insight and therefore a valid seat at creative tables. I grew up in NW London but Shoreditch has always been an inspiration to me, it made sense to settle near here when I moved back as there were drawing events and exhibitions that interested me in the area. It’s been a blessing to have felt the support of the community and to have this massive outdoor studio space. 

As you’ve been the area in the while, do you feel the vibe here has changed in terms of making art? Has it become more commercialised?

I think that is an interesting question that I don’t have a solid answer for. When art is public even without a corporate element, it is commercial - if we’re not advertising a company we are advertising ideas or ourselves. As a teenager I was interested in ghost signs on the sides of buildings, street art in my opinion is deeply commercial. Having said that, whilst art doesn’t need to be commercial, commercials by definition need art. 

Speaking with people I’ve come to realise part of our responsibility as street artists is to create something the community of the space in which we paint is proud to have. We paint for ourselves but our paintings are for others.

As much as this was a co-branded project, you have managed to showcase your trademark skeletons. How are you finding it working with brands?

It’s cool that my work has began to transgress into co-branded collaborations, but it’s definitely a step I’ve mulled over and over the years had to really dissect my beliefs on. I do consider it a privilege that people have reached out and offered me a platform to share my work. Making the decision to take becoming an artist seriously comes with the understanding that you will work with companies and brands, that is how we grow and learn. You can achieve more when you’re working in a team. 

If you had a message to the entire community of Shoreditch and surrounding areas, what would it be?

I would just encourage people to find a creative outlet, and to encourage creativity in those around them. It's never too late to try something new.