Ssōne visits May Hands

An ongoing series of conversations with the artists, craftspeople, makers and thinkers who form our community. We visit their workspace, document their daily rituals, and find out more about the people, places and objects that inspire their practice.


May Hands

May Hands in her studio, wearing Ssōne Ritual All-In-One.



That May Hands’ lineage can be traced back through a rich tradition of making is no surprise. Her father is a painter and her mother works with textiles, while her grandmother and great-great-grandfather have been a weaver and a stonemason respectively. May, for her part, studied painting, though she often draws on craft, from embroidery and weaving to collage and ceramics, to create intricate, otherworldly objects and environments in her own practice.




Left to right  Buy Me and Become Me (Bleed), 2019; Best before end (Embrace), 2019; Buy Me and Become Me (Lavender Mud), 2019.


Based between Brighton, where she lives, and London, where she works, May’s commute offers her hours for making, even before she reaches the south London studio we visited her in for this story. “Because I travel to London every day, I'll knit, I'll embroider, I'll do something crafts-based on the train. How you're feeling can feed into the movements you're making, so that an object becomes a patchwork or a record.” Once she has arrived there, it continues, the artist creating a delicate web of sensory experiences from found and made objects. All of which amalgamates in the cuttings swept up from the floor – detritus, she explains, that has a beauty all of its own.



Left to right Buy Me and Become Me (Rust), 2019; Buy Me and Become Me (Mini Chanel), 2019; Buy Me and Become Me (Louis Blue), 2019.


When was the first time you felt called to do what you do? 

It's all I've ever known, to be creative. My dad is a painter, and my mum is an artist as well, though she wouldn't ever call herself that. I've been very lucky to be brought up in such a creative household. I have sketchbooks from the age of two years old – it was always what I wanted to do in my spare time. I have a compulsion to be making with my hands, collecting things. It's very natural within me.





May mixing rose, marigold, lavender, barley straw, sand, clay and soil aggregate and water.


Who, or what, has been your greatest influence?


The world. My surroundings, my environment, whatever my environment is – it could be nature, but it’s also the manmade. It comes from living, experiencing different materials in the everyday. There are people as well who inspire me – artists, and my family – but my practice is very much about me making my way through this life, and considering the way that I exist in and understand the world around me.



Several processes May works with the clay that she digs from her Grandma's garden. A series of transitions from wet clay and soil aggregate to hardened cob and fired and glazed ceramic.


Do you have any daily rituals?


My studio is in London, so my ritual is getting on the train and thinking about the day ahead. There's a point on the train journey from Brighton to London when you go over Balcombe Viaduct, and I always stop whatever I'm doing then. I love that view. I can watch the seasons passing from there. Not long ago the leaves were a luminous green, and now that it’s autumn, everything is beginning to decay. The bridge is surrounded by fields, where farmers grow their crops: I watched them growing from when they were planted, and now they've been ploughed and taken away, so there are wonderful muddy tracks in the ground.


I always like to do a sweep-up in my studio, as well – either when I've finished working, or during. I find the action of sweeping clears the space. It’s good in terms of keeping it flowing – and whatever I sweep up often ends up becoming an artwork too.


What clothing do you wear to work in? 


I wear comfy clothes. Mostly jeans and boots – it can be quite cold in the studio – a T-shirt and a jumper. Something quite simple. There's no point dressing up, it ends up getting ruined.


 May Hands in her studio

May Hands in her studio, wearing Ssōne Ritual All-In-One.



What’s your view from your workplace? What does it smell like? What can you hear? 


My studio is on a creek, so you can see the tide come in and out. It currently smells of lavender because I have been using a lot of lavender in my work recently. The sound depends on the space. If it's just me, it's quiet, but I'll listen to music, while if others are in it can be different voices laughing, talking. When it rains, oh my goodness, it’s very loud. The roof is made of corrugated iron.







When you aren’t making art, what else do you make?


I like to have a crocheted or knitted blanket project on the go, I make them usually with leftover yarns from other projects.


What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired? 

I like going into the sea. I find that always brings me answers.




Follow @may_hands


Words: Maisie Skidmore
Pictures: Andy Malone