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Tits Talk with Claire Tennant

Claire Tennant is a prolific Australian moulder, model maker and sculptor who has worked within the creative industry for over 15 years. Tennant’s practice has seen her work overseas in London and Manchester on feature films with Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mister Fox to Adam Elliot’s Australian masterpiece Mary and Max.


On Tennant’s return back to Australian shores, she has found a deeper calling within collaborating with independent artists and sculptors to realise their visions. Tennant’s passion and commitment to her craft is a homage to the grit, technical skills and experience essential to her incredibly authentic and personal bodies of work.

We are so excited to represent Claire Tennant as part of the Tits and Co. community and loved getting the opportunity to connect deeper with her and share her story with the world.


Claire Tennant posing besides one of her sculptures

How long have you been practicing as a full-time artist and how did it all start for you? We would love to know about the moment you realized you knew that sculpture was more than just a passion for you?

Making things has always been my passion. When I was a little kid, I used to tell mum or dad that I was ''feeling makive" or ask them "what can I maaaaaakkkkkeee??"

Dad was always good for ideas that I never followed through with! Kids are so bloody fickle; I now know firsthand!

I was never 100% sold on any one particular job or career path, but I knew I just wanted to make things with my hands. And so, it has been!

I have been lucky to be able to make a living making art and creating things for other people. It has allowed me many years of 'enough' creative outlet for it to not feel like a job most of the time; but perhaps most importantly, it has allowed me to explore the length and breadth of a vast array of materials and processes on someone else's dollar. To be able to test materials to their limits in such a way would be hard to do if one had to pay for it all themselves.



Claire Tennant Sculpture


Was there a person that impacted your life or has inspired you and your arts practice in a significant way? Who was it and what is it about them that you aspire or feel inspired by?

My Dad would have to be my first and biggest artistic inspiration. Both my parents are and have always been incredibly supportive of my creativity and achievements with my life and career paths.

Dad taught art and design for all his teaching life, and Mum was a French and English teacher. This meant that we were all home together in the school holidays; which in retrospect was quite unusual compared with most families.

My enduring memory of the Christmas holidays from my childhood was dad being 'really excited about some particular theme (a new one every year) and us doing a lot of that for 6 weeks solid. It was lovely.

I remember one year he was making super complex geometric box-kites from drinking straws and coloured paper. We'd make some design, then jump in the car and drive down the road to the beach to try it out. Then come back and make some adjustments and do it all over again the next day.

One year it was building chairs that appear in famous paintings. Another was casting plaster sculptures into sand moulds in situ at low tide. Or designing and building low-cost shelters for the homeless from cardboard boxes from the local supermarket.

Now I fully relate to that creative energy. I get really excited about a process or application. I make dozens/hundreds of something. Everyone gets one for Christmas, and then I never want to see it or do it again. NEXT!


I want to know what has influenced or pulled you to the medium and style of work you produce? Why life casting? Why kink casting? Tell us why you love your practice.


Regarding the current themes of my work, there was definitely a gradual increase in the private commissions I was being asked to do. I do a lot of life casting work for people in difficult circumstances.

Or very significant transformative moments in their lives.

I do casting for women about to undergo mastectomies due to breast cancer, recently passed loved ones and more and more frequently trans folk. I love being able to offer something unique and commemorative for people who aren't sure what the future will look like for them but they don’t want to get there and regret not having had a memento from their past.

It feels like important work for me and I do it because it feels like I'm needed.

There have been a few people that were influential in my forming of ideas and themes which have become my signature practice; but looking back, it really all started with the meeting of one woman. She, who as a stranger cold-called me to ask about making a full body cast of her… to mount on the front of her building ‘to piss off the neighbours'.

Who could turn down such an offer!?

Having never attempted such a large-scale mould, it was an opportunity to see what was possible both from the model's perspective and from a mould making view.

Getting nude and being covered in goo has a way of bonding people (it seems) so as our friendship grew- in perfect synchronicity with my own evolving ideas; She said, “I’m going to invite you and your husband to a party. You should come. Not too many people get invited to these particular parties….'' And thus was my introduction to the kink community.

Mind blown.

Immediately after starting down this rabbit hole, I realised that the most exquisite part of life casting people in bondage was the juxtaposition of soft and delicate skin textures against the bite of the rope or the barbed wire etcetera.

People often ask me if I add the additional elements later. I don’t! It is all cast in place. There's no faking it with life casting. I hardly even clean the casts because the tools leave a more noticeable mark than a tiny anomaly on the surface. I often say that the art makes its self. It is all there. I just capture it. I love love LOVE the level of detail that people have written into their bodies. Every wrinkle, mole, tattoo, scar. It is all there. I'm just as surprised as anyone when it come out of the mould.


Claire Tennant Sculpture hands on body

What would you say are the main themes and subject matters you explore within your work?

I have been moving around the central ideas of what our bodies mean to us as individuals. Some people never question who they are. Some know for a fact that they are a different person in public than behind closed doors, and some see no relationship to their appearance from inside looking out.

This juxtaposition, conflict and sometimes dysmorphia (although I don’t like to use that word due to its negative connotations) seems to find me, or call me. I’m not sure which one...

I love the stories behind the battle scars, the transformative moments in people's lives. Their lived experiences.

I love how fucking weird people are. I say that with nothing but love. I’m weird. People are weird. Without weird, what's the point?!

The heartbreaking, the uplifting, the kinky, the perverse, the debauched, the depraved, the outrageous and shocking; I am here for it all!


I love the 'anti'-norm. I am yet to be truly shocked by anything I’ve been witness to... and I have seen some shit...man… (if you'll pardon the expression.)

It was never my intention to set out to shock people let alone myself, but when the passion is ignited and the chemistry is right with the muse, there is a tendency to push the limits as far as possible before the flame goes out; or more often, life gets in the way.

LIFE! UGH!

That was what happened when building the body of work for my first solo show ‘Tension and Alloy’, anyway...

But this new body of work is less about the shocking and more a deep dive into the psyche of a few very interesting individuals.

You just click with some people, when it happens, its magic.





Can you share with us some career highlights, jobs, clients, shows that you are proud of?

I feel incredibly lucky to love my work, all of it! I’d have to


say that working on Adam Elliot's feature film ‘Mary and Max’ was wonderful and formative moment in time. I then went on to London and Manchester to work on Wes Anderson's ‘Fantastic Mister Fox’ and Tim Burton's ‘Frankenweenie’.

It was peak career high point at the time but it’s a hard way to make a living in Australia. I had been looking for a steadier career ''side step'' for a good 3-5 year period in the lead up to moving to Sydney.

I moved to Sydney 2010, to work as a mould maker at a bronze sculpture-foundry. Then another, bigger foundry after that.

I loved the hard yakka of the 'big boy tools' and 'The Pour' days. I loved t


he feeling of having worked really fucking hard for a day’s pay. I loved being dirty and sweaty and the sense of achievement that comes from pouring liquid metal at 1000 degrees. But it is stressful, hard, hot, loud and requires a lot more shovelling than you'd think too...

I got to install a couple of pieces in public and private residences too.

Meeting lots of high-profile artists and working on their art was awesome. It was also critical to my success in running my own business as time went by.

Since then, I have only been self-employed. For about 15 years or so and have garnered a pretty decent reputation as the ''go-to'' girl for the creative industries.

I love the variety of work that I get.

My favourite job-conversation opener is "This might sound a bit weird, but..."

Through my workshop I have seen and worked on some incredible projects and made some enduring relationships with other makers clients and artists alike.

Joining forces with Boss Babe and sculptor extraordinaire Hayley Egan, was another career highlight. We had been moving in the same circles for a number of years but never met. As soon as we did, we were besties for life.

To work towards a common goal with different but complimentary skills is a rare pleasure. It’s quite uncommon I have found, to be able to communicate easily with someone knowing that they have understood your intent fully. It was a thing of beauty. Numerous times over a 2-year period we were in different locations but through markups over photos and phone chats we nutted out some pretty impressive technical challenges. High Fives All Round!

Every new life casting I do now is a career highlight too. I feel so much satisfaction in this process coming to fruition. The latest piece had been rain checked and postponed a few times over the last 12 months.



It was worth the wait!

It took my assistant Luna and I 1.5 hours to demould the first casting but holy moley it is goooooood! I can’t wait to work on It some more!!


If you could pass on any advice to someone who is wanting to take their art to a full-time basis, what would you tell them?


Be prepared to say yes to big moves. I think that was the biggest single factor i


n my career success.

I lived in Melbourne but was offered a job in Adelaide. I’d never been to Adelaide and didn’t know anyone but I said yes and went. I did the same thing 2 years later for Mary and Max and moved back to Melbourne. Then it was London, then Manchester, London again but somewhere new to me.

I moved to Sydney after not being able to get any interesting work in Melbourne after returning from this amazing career peak overseas.

You just have to say to yourself " If its shit, I can just leave".*

No-one ever stumbled over their 'lucky break ' being comfortable. You make your own luck.

*NB that never happened to me. I’ve been here 13 years now! I’m just as surprised as anyone.


Starting Smaller though:

Start getting your ducks in a row with a job related to your practice.

If you are working in a book shop but want to be a pro surfer, you aren’t likely to be 'in the right place at the right time' or creating any opportunities for yourself.

I worked the foundry jobs for a few years Monday to Friday, but I was taking freelance work after-hours, working from home and on weekends at other artists' studios.

Eventually the freelance work demand outweighed the hot, loud, back- breaking foundry work and I got my own workshop space to work out of.

Eventually you have to take the leap and commit fully to yourself and your practice.

Once you commit to paying for a decent size studio, you have no alternative but to succeed!




Can you please tell us about some of the projects or pieces that you have in the works? Any upcoming shows or events we should look out for?

Yes! I have just agreed to be a major contributor to Tortuga Studio's immersive public event " Carnival of Curiosities'' in August. I am pretty excited! They always put on epic shows - whether it be in a public realm or at Tortuga HQ in Sydney's Inner West. I am quite chuffed to have impressed them with my work.


I’m equally excited to have been invited to show my work at the Affordable Art Fair in Melbourne by Tits and Co.! I have had a pretty good reception from the general public for my work to date but this will be by far the largest audience that I’ve shown to. Better get busy!





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