An interview with ‘unskilledworker’

Dear Shaded Viewers,

I had the great pleasure of meeting 'unskilledworker' when we were both invited to the first collection of Creative Director, Alessandro Michele for Gucci. It was actually 'unskilledworker's' first fashion show so that made the encounter even a little more special. We had great fun together and I love the poetry of her work. Obviously I am not alone as she went from zero followers to 180K in a very short time. You can follow her on The interview is in response to my questions but entirely in her own words. She was on the road to Italy, sleepless but…took the time to respond:

"I have been busy creatively most of my life and fell into painting not so long ago. Much like the rest of my life, there was no plan. I was going to a remote part of Italy for six weeks, I go every summer, now for longer as it allows me the peace to work.  I took some pens and ink and started to paint. Once I had started I couldn't stop! I try to paint everyday, it is quite obsessional and a little like the story of The Red Shoes! 

I had never really been into social media, my son showed me how Instagram works. I was immediately sucked in and so it was, the beginning of a life changing adventure.

When I started Unskilledworker, I was aiming for few hundred followers,  it seemed a good number. 

At 6 months I had 1k and six months later the numbers had risen to 18. I was then listed in I-d's top ten instagramers, which I had no idea about until friends were texting me with congratulations. Shortly after that Nick Knight found me and Instagram followed me all in the same 24 hours. 3 weeks later, I had reach 180k. It was a little overwhelming and totally unexpected. My Instagram account is primarily for me, it is my record of the change in my work, my own little world where I can put my paintings with Picasso's and @Heyreilys amazing animations. I love to share other accounts that are inspiring, I like my feed to be full of delicious images. I am delighted and surprised that people enjoy it but I know that I get the most pleasure from it. 

When I got to 180k the biggest difference was that my son decided I was cool enough to hang out with him at his favourite club night in Brixton! And my email pinged every five minutes. 

During my residency at SHOWstudio I painted a Gucci Boy, from the utterly beautiful AW15 collection.  Gucci now have the painting and I found myself being invited to Gucci women's AW15 in Milan…with you, which was just as exciting! Diane, if I'm honest, I was a little bit terrified but after the car ride with you to the show, I felt totally at ease! I was so lucky to be with you! Didn't we have fun!  I put my phone away, I wanted to experience it in the way I would have as a child. It was magical, there is something so moving in seeing that level of work and creativity. I was introduced to Alessandro Michele, he was dressed in a scruffy t shirt and jeans yet if you had to pick the creator of that collection from a sea of people, it could only be him. He has a particular warmth and charm that is evident in his design. 

When I paint I become totally present in the process, if meditation is clearing the mind of all but the mantra then the painting is doing that for me. It is exactly the same feeling I had painting as a child. I'm not particularly romantic but I am nostalgic and I think that is where the sadness in my work comes from. It is hard for me to talk about the emotion in my work, it is deeply personal and about different kinds of loss. Better to paint it. 

If I am painting from a fashion collection, I will look from as many perspectives as I can, I use Instagram to look back stage and Now Fashion for catwalk. My paintings are an instinctive and an emotional response to an image.  I am looking for how the clothes make the wearer feel, what is the sentiment? once I have found it, I will paint very fast in lots of layers, using chalk, pen, ink and charcoal, a mixture of control and accidents.  I like the paper to curl, I like the painting to be warm, imperfect and familiar. Emotion seems to be held in the eyes and mouth and so they become exaggerated. It is interesting that you ask me about illustrating a fairy tale book, my work is influenced by the books I read as a child, particularly the work of Hilda Boswell, her illustrations took me into different world, I think a little part of me never left. 

I am inspired by so many artists and photographers and have found so many through Instagram. It was amazing for me when Nick Knight found me, I had always been looking at his incredible work for inspiration,  He has such a strong identity, people and flowers become deity like. 

The first paintings were inspired by the fashion illustrator Tanya Ling, she is the only artist I have ever seen work and I have had lots of her artwork in my home. I love the dark humour in Stella Vines work and the flippancy in Elizabeth Peyton's. Alex Katz for the simplicity and lack of detail. Redion, for the ethereal  quality.  Marlene Dumas for a beautiful nastiness,  I am drawn to work that could almost look rubbish! And is not so obviously clever in its execution but somehow has an intense emotional quality.  Gradually I have found my own creative identity, I would like my work to be nastier but it's not, it comes out as it is, maybe one day it will be. 

I think because I am self taught, sometimes I don't know what I can do, until I'm asked. 

I would be fascinated to see one of my paintings come alive! And as for a fairytale book, it would be like coming Full circle."




Diane Pernet

A LEGENDARY FIGURE IN FASHION and a pioneer of blogging, Diane is a respected journalist, critic, curator and talent-hunter based in Paris. During her prolific career, she designed her own successful brand in New York, costume designer, photographer, and filmmaker.