Gloves as second skin
Gloves have had many phases – from serving as emblems of royalty and opulence, to exemplifying Audrey Hepburn’s chic, to defining the Covid era in the unsexiest blue latex imaginable, to name a few. Still, the wardrobe staple have not been receiving the attention it deserves – and Blu Selby is here to change that. Treating gloves as a second skin, Selby explores mediums such as photo transfer, faux fur, and hearty doses of rhinestones to create standalone art pieces translating personal or societal narratives. In a perfect balance of humour and commentary, customs and innovation, Selby proves that the five finger covering is way more than it seems. Enchanted by her eclectic designs, we spoke to the glove wizard reintroducing us to the familiar accessory under a whole new approach.
Hi Blu, great to be in touch! To begin with, what draws you to gloves as a medium?
The way gloves reproduce the hand within them is fascinating to me; they are like a second skin, retaining some of its owner’s characteristics. In a theatrical way, gloves represent a person and their external projection of themselves onto the world. Whilst my gloves are more about display than practicality, I want them to reflect a type of lifestyle. Gloves’ ability to project status seems to have been recognised from early times – the earliest known gloves were found in Tutankhamun’s grave. This idea often inspires my work, adorning vintage gloves with gems and imagery to reflect the inner workings of my brain.
How does this journey of translating your mind into a physical piece look like?
I often start with a fixation of my mind – a piece of ribbon I found, something I want to research, or simply a chair. I have a very impulsive personality, so I often allow my impulse to lead me. The result is typically garish, over-the-top designs, but the downtime during the making process allows me to reel it back in.
Sounds like a healthy balance! What is the part of your creative process you enjoy the most?
My favourite part of creating a piece is the beginning – I get so excited over what will become. The rest of the time I often find myself in a meditative state, allowing my body to do the work.
A strong sense of symbolism permeates your work – from religious pendants to bejewelled dollar signs. What is the significance of symbols in our practice?
As an artist, I am always reflecting on society’s facets, whether they are trends, social issues, or subcultures – it’s inevitable that these will affect my work. They often materialise into symbols.
Within all the research you’ve put into your craft, what is the most fascinating fact about gloves that you’ve learnt?
Recently, I have been researching the ‘glove flirting language’ of the 1800s, where the way women wore and carried gloves implied a certain message. Women couldn’t be overt with their intentions, so the glove flirting language was developed to subtly show how they felt. As one example, turning the gloves inside out meant ‘I hate you’ and my personal favourite – twirling them around the fingers meant ‘be careful, we are being watched’.
The most special design you’ve made so far, if there is one?
I made a pair of gloves in 2021 called the Talking Gloves, based on gloves given to men who had lost their sight, or hearing, in WWI. They allowed them to help communicate with the use of the touch alphabet. In gems, these historical gloves take on a new meaning of homage.
What are you working on now?
At the moment I’m exploring this idea that gloves reproduce the hand within them, effectively becoming a second skin. This idea of ‘second skin’ led me to experiment with body jewellery on gloves, as they are transformed into a canvas for jewellery – akin to human skin.
What is the future vision for Blu Selby?
In my unyielding pursuit to challenge the line between fashion and art, I want to embark on an exploration of different artistic realms such as nail art, photography, jewellery design, seeking new canvases to channel my creativity. But I definitely won’t be hanging up my gloves anytime soon!