Self worth

My self esteem plummeted when I was bullied at school. I felt worthless and defective. I had always been good at art so I clung to this and it was a great source of self worth and confidence that helped me to survive.

Tessa Farmer

Tessa Farmer

A retreat

I was diagnosed with depression at university around the same time I began to make the fairies. I found the repetitive process of making to be therapeutic; allowing my mind to access imaginary worlds like those I retreated to during childhood and the story of the fairies began to take shape. This proved welcome escapism from an often constant barrage of negative thoughts.


A determination to perfect the technique and discover as much as possible about the fairies, to see the project through, kept me going through university, even when my mental health deteriorated.


Having always been socially awkward, I felt more able to talk to people about my work by explaining the narrative behind the fairies, the stories of each piece, rather than as 'art'. This helped me to engage with people and cope with social anxiety.

Overcoming fears

I have to hang my installations myself, as they're very complex so over the years I have travelled a lot on my own, which was terrifying at first. I also overcame a fear of flying. My art has always given me a sense of empowerment that allows me to face and overcome such hurdles.

Expressing emotions

I've learnt to appear calm despite the inner turmoil caused by depression and anxiety. I find it hard to express anger and these feelings internalized led in the past to self harm.

I realise my work is is often rather violent and angry, and is a means of expressing these emotions as well as lighter ones such as frivolity and humour.


Depression numbs the senses, at times I feel nothing. Making art can be invigorating. The moment when you fall in love with what you are making is truly exhilarating.

Outward focus

Aside the fairies, a concurrent obsession is insects. I began collecting insects soon after I began making the fairies and researching their life histories informs the behavioural development of the fairies. Insects are endlessly fascinating, I'll never stop learning about them. I've been lucky to work with entomologists who have such infectious enthusiasm for their subject.

Problem solving

My art throws up bizarre and varied problems. Depression can make even simple tasks impossible, leaving you feeling useless and stupid. Having to figure out how to hang 1000 bees when the ceiling is too high or how to make a life size model of a flea help to sharpen my mind.

My dog

Being self employed has allowed me to get a dog small white dog 'Zetti' who comes to the studio with me and is of great help battling 'the black dog'. He's partial to chewing a crab claw, but thankfully he doesn't have a taste for fairies or insects!

Tessa Farmer is exhibiting her work in PERFECTIONISM (Part III) at Griffin Gallery, London, 4th October - 18th November.