Posted on August 24 2016
This week's Wednesday Woman is the incredible Wendy Fox an amazing Designer and Illustrator who is currently raising funds on Kickstarter to illustrate and celebrate all the women who have won Gold at Rio Olympics. Read her story here
Natalie Bardega: Can you tell us a bit about your background, what you were like as a kid and what did you want to be when you grew up?
Wendy Fox: My father is a doctor and my mother is a ballet teacher. I grew up moving between Sydney and Melbourne and went to five different schools, most of which were schools for girls. Activity wise, I did a lot of ballet and played the cello.
The magical year that stands out for me is the year I turned 14 and went to a high school for performing arts, it was all dance, drama and art. It was still quite academic but intimate and fun. We moved at the end of that year so that was that.
I am middle child - sensitive, stubborn and determined yet with a pretty strong need to please. As a little girl, I had a powerful affinity to clothes and changed my attire about 4 times a day. These outfits were odd and layered and my haircut was self-executed.
As a teenager I was pretty passionate about film to the point of being teased about my knowledge of movies. I remember wanting to be involved in making movies and for a brief moment I wanted to be an astronaut. Most of my education was quite formal and rigid. I didn’t feel like I was particularly artistic but I loved anything spatial, visual or story based.
Bardega: What first sparked your passion in illustration and how did you turn that dream into a reality?
Fox: I had a very circuitous path to illustration. I had a degree in Philosophy and had wanted to go to film school but found myself waitressing in New York and by some miraculous turn I ended up at Design school which was probably the perfect place for me.
My major was Interior Design but I found myself gravitating towards image making more than space making. I did work in architecture for a good while before switching to Graphic Design. I really discovered illustration by accident - through budget restraints that meant cilents couldn’t afford photography and lovely clients that trusted me.
Bardega:You have recently launched a Kickstarter campaign Women’s Gold Medalist for the Rio Olympics- can you tell us about it and what drove you start it in the first place ?
Fox: I had done the original Women’s Gold Medalists project for the 2012 London Olympics as a labour of love. I wanted to do it again for Rio but also to take it up a notch by creating a book as well as the poster. Given the work load, I really couldn’t justify doing it again without funding. Kickstarter seemed like the perfect match with their philosophy of supporting creative projects especially ones that have some social awareness.
The initial idea for the project came to me when I was watching the London games and flicking between gymnastics, rowing and judo. It struck me how vastly different physically elite athletes are and that the sport demands that they be. It seemed like a wonderfully positive thing to embrace. I was initially going to just chart the basic anthropometric data but showing the athletes seemed far more interesting and engaging. I then experimented a bit and came up with the infographic yet highly representational style.
Even though I had this idea while watching the London games, the idea had been brewing for a very long time. I grew up doing ballet but wasn't really the right body type to be ballerina so the seed was planted young. I've always loved watching the Olympics because I prefer to watch women play sports. The Olympics is really the only time you get to see this kind of coverage of women's sport. In non-Olympic times media coverage for women's sport is around 7%. There is also an incredible variety on offer during the Olympics.
I would love to be able to do this for all Olympics. There is very little documentation of female athletes and I think the continuation of the project enhances it as an archive.
Bardega: Why do you think its so important to celebrate such female achievements?
Fox: Women are still objectified and the most positive departure from this is to celebrate their achievements. Men are and have always been celebrated for their achievements and unfortunately there is a far greater tendency to celebrate female attractiveness first and achievement second.
It is inspiring and empowering to see women accomplish incredible feats and it creates space for positive role models. Celebrating appearance over achievement propagates a sense of inadequacy. Girls and women waste so much of their precious energy treating their bodies as projects in need of perfecting. Imagine what they can do if that energy is channeled into achievement over appearance?
Bardega: You celebrate the female athletes to inspire others young girls but what/ who inspires you?
Fox: I am increasingly drawn to and inspired by persistence. Sticking with something so it can manifest requires courage and tolerating uncertainty and the discomfort that comes with it. Originality and authenticity are some of my other favourite traits and combining them with persistence can lead to some pretty great results.
Bardega: Finally what advice would you give other young girls who want to follow their dreams?
Fox: Pay attention to what you find interesting, meaningful or magnetic, no matter how weird, it is a great indicator of what you have to offer. Learn to filter out unhelpful noise.
Trust that what resonates for you on a personal level is of greater value than following what everyone else is doing or what you think you should be doing. Aquire some JOMO (joy of missing out) so you can give time and energy to whatever it is you want to nurture. Practice persistence!