- TextTed Stansfield
As the first project supporting Trust Judy Blame launches, two people from the charitable foundation discuss the Trust and what they’re hoping to accomplish
Art director, jewellery designer, illustrator and stylist Judy Blame was, by his own admission, a troublemaker. A unique and relentlessly creative force, he was a polymath and a punk, pioneering a new and instantly recognisable aesthetic and peddling treasure out of trash – such as objects he ‘mudlarked’ from the Thames.
It’s been just over 18 months since Blame died, leaving a gaping hole not only in London’s creative scene, but in the lives of his family, friends and those familiar with his cackling, infectious laugh.
Following his death, a group of his friends set up a charitable foundation in his name – the cleverly named Trust Judy Blame – in order to keep his legacy alive. The group includes Karlie Shelley (who worked with Judy), Stephanie Nash (who collaborated with him for 35 years), Isaac Murai-Rolfe (his godson), Flora Starkey (who shared a studio with him), Dave Baby and Scarlett Cannon (two of his best friends).
Today and tomorrow (Monday, 16 and Tuesday, 17 September), artist and ‘King of Customisation’ JJ Hudson aka Dr NOKI-NHS will be Hoi Polloi’s ‘Artist in Residence’ (the latest in their ongoing Artist Commission Series), customising archive Katharine Hamnett T-shirts, which will then be auctioned off. All proceeds will be donated to the Trust, in what is the very first project supporting the charity.
“The Trust came about because Judy didn’t leave a will,” says Stephanie Nash, speaking several days before the event. So, we had all his things and, because he lived in a rented flat, it needed to be saved. Cameron [McVey] came up with the name Trust Judy Blame. It was just a group of his friends and family that joined together to protect what was left and then to make it available in the future for students to rent and access from an archive.”
That archive – which predominantly resides at the Michael Nash Associates office in Fitzrovia – contains an astonishing collection of Blame’s work: nearly 120 pieces of jewellery, crafted from badges, bones and buttons; numerous scrapbooks or “idea books” as he’d call them, where he’d cut and paste images from magazines, putting them together in different ways; collages which featured in his 2016 ICA exhibition; and some of his most special items of clothing – including a Comme des Garçons suit, which he apparently nagged for, before dousing in pink spray paint when he finally got it.
“I think we’d love to archive everything,” says Nash. “Make everything easily searchable and accessible, and also putting that online.”
“Also, I see the book project as something for the Trust, in a sense,” adds Murai-Rolfe. “The archive is also part of the book-making process in terms of getting familiar with what it is we already have.”
Nash says that the book was one of Blame’s final wishes, and has herself been working on the project for about ten or 15 years. Unlike the ‘fanzine’ that Blame created in line with his ICA exhibition, which had a grungy, DIY, unpolished finish, this publication will be coffee table book.
Another key objective of the Trust is to support young people; something Blame himself was passionate about. “Going through the material without him, I can’t help but think how much he wanted to give back,” says Nash. “He would take any opportunity passed his way to talk at art schools, and he was exceptionally good at inspiring people.” He was also good at connecting people and the Trust would like to replicate that system; putting young people in touch with mentors, for example.
“It’s quite easy for people who’ve passed to be forgotten, so for us to keep it going is really quite special,” continues Nash. “We have lots of staff and materials, but no funds. People have been very receptive though and we’ve raised some money by selling T-shirts.”
Which brings us to back NOKI, who was a great friend of Blame’s, and Katharine Hamnett, who works in a similar way to Blame. Money raised over the next two days will be sent directly to the Trust, helping them build what they’ve started, and keep Blame’s memory – and legacy – alive.
“It’s just so hard to sum Judy up,” says Nash, fondly. “Hopefully, the Trust will just make people aware of his essence, and the sheer boundlessness of it.”
DrNOKI-NHS’ will be Hoi Polloi’s Artist in Residence during London Fashion Week, when 12-8pm daily from Monday, 16 September to Tuesday, 17 September, 2019.
Head here to find out more about Trust Judy Blame and to donate.