Who better to introduce our new colourway than Pey Chi? Her work is whimsical, fun and colourful. We popped over to her space at Schoolhouse Studios to have a chat about dogs and art.
For those of us who don’t know who you are – tell us about who you are, and what you do.
Hiiiiii! I’m Pey Chi 佩绮 (she/her) and I’m a multi-displinary “bad bitch” (also a shy / boring bitch) who makes ceramics and also draws and does hand-poke tattoos! I’m a Leo and I was born in the year of the dog. I come from Hokkien and Hakka descent, with parents who are Malaysian Chinese immigrants, migrating here in the early 90’s.
How did you get started as a creative?
My sister would sew and draw, so I think seeing her do that inspired me to also sew and draw and stuff! I’ve always sort of had my creativity affirmed - like I was always told that I was good at drawing, but TBH my art was pretty bad in high school. I enrolled in Communication Design at Monash. Hated it, dropped out. Unintentional bad ‘n’ sad gap year. Got into Textile Design at RMIT. Wham Bam thank you mam! An institutionalized creative was born!
You’ve been very public about your struggles with chronic illness, could you tell us about it?
I have been chronically ill with Topical Steroid Withdrawal since 2014. It is a preventable illness which is caused by the supervised overprescription of topical steroids, as a treatment for atopic eczema. I was administered a steroid shot, and prescribed oral steroids (prednisolone) by a doctor. A dermatologist prescribed nine tubes of Advantan Fatty Ointment and told me to slather it all over, so I did what my doctor told me, and slathered. Soon, what was mild eczema turned into a reliance of topical steroid creams. They were no longer working, and the strength of the creams became stronger and stronger.
I stopped using topical steroids and the onset of symptoms was debilitating and I was bed/couch ridden. Intense fatigue, weight loss, absence of menstrual cycle, hair loss, red skin, insomnia / irregular sleeping hours, raw skin, bad eyesight, a neverending thirst for hydration, temperature dysregulation, nerve pain, easily stressed and frightened (due to weird things happening with my adrenal glands / cortisol levels I think).
And still to this day, eight years later, I deal with flare ups which make my skin pretty uncomfortable. Never as bad as it was originally - I did have a debilitating flare up in 2020, where I couldn’t work and was again home-bound and that was pretty tough. But I’m okay now! Flarin’ up currently but it is what it is and I’m just used to riding the wave now.
Please don’t mistake it for eczema. It’s not eczema. It is a preventable illness, stemming from big pharma. It is topical steroid withdrawal. You can check out some more info about TSW on ITSAN.org
And how did this shape you as an artist?
It makes me appreciate the times when I am actually able enough to make things. I feel like I am more forceful with rest and taking days off - which possibly maybe in theory makes me less prone to burn out (big theory though lol). For me personally, I feel like it has changed the way I perceive the world. It has made me want to make colourful, silly work - because the times that I’ve been really sick have been pretty dark, and sometimes it feels as if the colour and characters help me climb out of that.
What brings you joy in your work?
Being able to just like, make art for a job in itself is pretty sick. Like I just make things out of clay and then people buy them and drink out of them??? I draw silly things like frogs and dogs and you’re telling me people want them on their skin?? Coooooool!
Your art is very colourful and features lots of animals, plants and faces. What inspired that? Was that always your art style?
My art used to be really emo lol, lots of black and lots of dark colours. Embracing the colour and the silly came from being chronically ill - I like making silly and happy things that make me happy! And if that makes other people happy too, then yay! I’m often inspired by tv shows, especially cartoons. Kids cartoons too. And also the wealth of artists that are around me also making art!!
What do you want to see more of in the spaces you work?
Everything but white cis men basically. Long term leases specifically for artists, so we are given an opportunity to really foster community and relationships.
What did you want to be ‘when you grew up’?
A taxi driver. Tbh still could be an alternate career if this all ends badly.
Who or what inspired you growing up?
When I was in primary school, in the library, I used to always reach for the small section in the bottom right corner which contained the magic that was Spot the Dog by Eric Hill.
If you had a DJ name, what would it be?
DJ Doggystyle. Because I love dogs. Sorry.
Pey Chi works from their studio on unceded land of the Boon Wurrung and Woiwurrung (Wurundjeri) peoples of the Kulin Nation.
Shot by On Jackson Street.