Skip to content

Visual artist Estelle Woolley has created a series of self-portraits, featuring masks made from delicate natural materials, including flowers and plants.

At the beginning of lockdown, Estelle decided to return to the family farm, near Nantwich in Cheshire, and found nature therapeutic – and also inspiring - in such a challenging time. Her inspiration for such masks began, and Chester Virtual Bandstand commissioned her to create a series of them, as part of their virtual programme in the Spring. Since then, her work has been highly commended in The Sustainability First Art Prize; selected as Axisweb as art highlight of the week and published in Wales Arts Review; The New York magazine; Artists Responding To online zine; the Danish newspaper Politiken; and The Mass Collection magazine.

The materials for the masks were all collected from Estelle’s daily walks. Inspired by our relationship with nature, and how the planet appeared to be thriving from lockdown, she found herself wondering whether the pandemic was nature’s way of retaliating and showing us to slow down and pay attention to the environment.

She says that she was driven by the meaning of the materials to create each piece. In Sneeze, Estelle portrays a selection of delicate, ephemeral dandelion clocks – to represent the hidden virus as something that is drifting through the air. In Buttercup, the flowers represent childhood nostalgia (‘Do you like butter?’) as something held next to the face. Rainbow Meadow features a variety of multicoloured wildflowers picked in the early Spring when, every Thursday evening, the country would go outside to clap for the NHS. The rainbow mixed colour palette was a representation of this new pandemic symbol.

Other masks in the series have been made from nettles; thistles; lavender; oil of evening primrose; wild chamomile; honeysuckle; chive flowers; oak leaves; robin’s pincushions; forget-me-nots; clover leaves; moss; sycamore leaves; foxgloves; poppies; snowberries; bees; butterflies; and even a wasp nest!

Estelle said: “I have enjoyed the challenge of working with the natural materials I have to hand in my immediate environment, paying attention to everything I see as having potential, as I go on my walks. Producing work for a largely virtual audience this year has opened up a lot of opportunities for me internationally. Many of these have come through sharing my work on Instagram, which is a relatively new platform for me.

“I was really touched when an illustrator in Peru ( on Instagram) saw one of my images and asked to draw my portrait, saying that she connected with my work. I now have her drawing in a frame on my wall! Another highlight featured my series of images as a solo show inside a miniature cardboard gallery, curated by @acardboardmonkey, which was packed with miniature figurine visitors!”

Deputy Head of the Department of Art and Design, and Programme Leader for the BA (Hons) Fine Art Degree at the University of Chester, Dr Jeremy Turner, said: “As a student, Estelle always produced innovative, thoughtful and visually interesting pieces of art work often informed by the natural world and our relationship to it. Gaining a First-Class Degree in Fine Art at undergraduate level and a distinction in Fine Art at Master’s level was indicative of her commitment and engagement to her studies. The fact that she continues to produce significant, relevant and thought-provoking works, engaging with audiences, collaborators, other artists and the wider community, is testament to her valid contribution to the arts at local, regional and international level. She is a role model to our current students.”

The self-portraits have recently been showing at Pandemic Self Portraits, Denver Colerado; and at The Art of Isolation, Curator's Voice Art ProjectsMiami, Florida.

Her work ‘Rainbow Meadow’ has been selected as the poster image for the Ty Pawb Open Exhibition in Wrexham, which is an exhibition celebrating lockdown creativity. It runs until December 23. Estelle is also showing a selection of prints for the Sustainability First Art Prize exhibition, for which her work ‘Breathe’ is the cover image, at Bermondsey Project Space in central London (November 29 to December 12).

More about Estelle’s work can be found at:

Images copyright Estelle Woolley.


Share this content