Bethany Stead is an artist based in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. Their work explores materials and techniques associated with traditional craft and folk art, some of which have a long history of being laborious to manipulate, and assigned to humans of a particular class, gender and sex. Working between clay, wood, textile and paper, Bethany is deeply intrigued in using these materials to incite conversations about the societal barriers they, and others face, due to these classifications.
Drawing inspiration from surrealism, sculptures and drawings become animistic characters residing within imagined and disturbing domestic spaces. Subtly sensual and often playfully mischievous, the hand-sculpted vessels and objects dissect the uncomfortability and awkwardness of inhabiting a body, hinting towards aspects of folk dress and haute couture. Simultaneously symbolism, semiotics and folklore are themes which thread throughout their work, alluding to the influence of intergenerational storytelling and writing as a form of therapy.
An ongoing facet of Bethany’s practice is social engagement and mutual aid, contributing towards opportunities, voices and space for underrepresented individuals. They have facilitated various community projects working alongside organisations such as Axisweb, AKT Charity, Curious Arts and The Thought Foundation.