The end of a grim year calls from a Joy Bomb, which is exactly what Broch has created to make people happy via her pop up in London …
After Broch’s husband, Sean, was diagnosed with ALS in 2018, the couple began exploring every treatment available in order to slow the progression of the disease. Learning that happiness was linked to better treatment outcomes and longevity for ALS patients meant that suddenly, the colourful, multi-sensory installations Broch had been creating and experimenting with for years had a greater significance. Drawing inspiration from childhood nostalgia, pop culture, and the irreverent contents of Broch’s shimmering candy-coated imagination, this JOY Bomb encourages the public to connect and enjoy a little silliness and laugh away their worries.
Tell us about the inspiration for your Joy Bomb pop up in London?
That’s easy – a break from reality! Personally and globally, it’s been a grim year, so this pop up was about putting all of that dark stuff aside and plugging into a megawatt source of joy, even just for a minute. I felt drawn to the colour purple – it’s not traditionally Christmassy, but it’s a strong colour – one of the most powerful in the rainbow. It’s said to be soothing, sensual, inspiring creativity. And who doesn’t want that right about now? So I started there and ended up in this blueberry wonderworld that feels light and happy and … unexpected.
Can you describe the elements of this installation …
My Joy Bombs are like layer cakes! I start with a base layer of unique wallpapers created from my collection of confection items and then some fur for the floor. Then I layer in larger images and balloons on the walls. Then props, which I collect from anywhere and everywhere. I might give an old trolley a new life, or get an old chair reupholstered and turn it into a throne.
Where and how do you work?
Collecting and hoarding is in my DNA so on some level I’m always working because I’m continuously on the lookout for anything that speaks to me. Things can’t make you happy, but I do believe that certain objects can elicit joy and a smile and can really make you feel lighter and more hopeful.
In terms of where I put my sets together; I mostly work from a studio on the fourth floor of a beautiful building near my home. There’s a great community there – everyone is very different but very supportive. I build three or four sets at a time and then spend a couple of hours modelling and being photographed usually with my brother. No two days are the same: one minute I’m posing on a loo in a dog mask, the next I’m hanging 45 limited edition Oreo packets onto a wall. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How did you discover your creative calling and who has been instrumental in your artistic journey?
I’ve always been a creative person especially around birthdays, Christmas and holidays. I’d build mini themed environments and worlds all the time. My husband, Sean, was extremely supportive of my creativity and proudly hung my first piece of “serious art” among other works that he’d collected over the years. One of the first things I created for Sean was for his birthday – I made a life-sized camping scene in our house complete with giant grizzly bears and a tent.
I found that my creativity really ramped up after I had my daughter, Minty, which was a surprising upside to becoming a mother. She was born just after Sean received his ALS diagnosis, so throughout his illness and then lockdown I was working more and more in our home. Watching me work and having my installations in the house brought my husband a lot of joy and really helped lift the mood in the house during that hard time. We used to joke that the soundtrack to our lockdown was the sound of my electric balloon pump.
Grayson Perry said that the people who get the most out of art are the ones who make it. I think that’s definitely true. I’m at my freest and most relaxed when I’m creating. And now, it’s a mini mental escape from the non-stop grief of losing someone you love. I don’t think about the fact that I’m a 38-year-old widow and mother when I’m knee-deep in balloons and fur.
Are you planning more Joy bombs in 2021?
For sure! The response from the public has been so, so delightful. My favourite thing has been hiding and watching people’s faces as they walk past. I create these JOY Bombs because the act of making them brings me happiness. Once they’re made, they make other people happy, and that makes me happy all over again. It’s the ultimate JOY loop.
Need to Know: Broch’s Joy Bomb installation is at 48 Brook Street, London, until January 3. All proceeds from the installations go to the Healey Center for ALS, in memory of Broch’s husband; @joybomblondon.
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