interview | nomad clan
British artist duo Nomad Clan (Joy 'Cbloxx' Gilead and Hayley ‘Aylo’ Garner) forged forces after crossing paths at paint jams, noting female artists were routinely siphoned to one end of the wall to craft their work. As a result, Cbloxx and Aylo formed TnT (or Tits & Tampons), an all girl graf crew, before undertaking commissions as a duo. Fast forward to present day: they’ve got a partnership with Amnesty International and own bragging rights to the largest mural in the UK entire. colabs interviewed the nomad clan to learn more about their destinies, their evolution to traveling muralists, and the stranger than fiction realities of lives in transit.
How did you two first unite?
We met at several paint jams, where the few girls that attended would be plonked down one end of the wall. After several awkward interactions we bonded over being two of the few northern birds painting on the scene up north, we decided to put together an all girl crew that comprised of a couple of letter painters from Yorkshire and Manchester which was super fun... it was a bit of a piss take thing we called TnT which stood for Tits & Tampons. It turned people inside out with disgust hahaha! After a month or so Hayley and myself started undertaking commissions together, painting bars for beer and taking on the odd mural job. Hayley had a graffiti supplies shop and people would frequently come in and ask for walls painting etc. One day, a representative from the Gay Village dropped in and asked if she would be interested in painting a lgbtq community designed mural—that was our first large wall together! Long story short, that was when we fell in love with giant mural painting and also when our relationship blossomed…spending time on a friggin 'scissor lift' - you cant get more queer than that!
We thought we better sort out our shit and change our collective name from Tits and Tamps to something a bit more tasteful ... hence Nomad Clan was born and we took things a little more seriously from that point forward.
How often are you traveling?
At present it’s every few weeks. When it’s at its most frantic we are only home for a few days—enough to unpack and repack! We would be screwed without google calendar alerts… that’s our manager at present!
How long does it take you to research the history of a place for a piece?
Sometimes we strike gold very quickly with research. You can stumble across something that resonates with you as soon as google it, which then leads to more digging around about that topic or story. Other times inspiration hits you when you are actually there, especially with the' lesser known' places—the ambiance and vibe of a place isn’t always clear until you are there experiencing it. We have become strong advocates of Residencies for that very reason.
Once you’ve done the research, how do you piece it together to create a concept?
More often than not its a gut feeling, we bounce ideas back and forth and tell each other quite frankly how crap the ideas are until we find an angle we both love.
Is there a favorite place you’ve painted? What was it and why?
I don’t think we have a favourite place anymore as we love them all for different reasons. Strong contenders are:
- Lodz in Poland (because it’s such an interesting city which pretty much pioneered giant murals, it’s spawned some of our favourite artists including Natalie Rak & Etam Cru and has hosted hundreds of artists such as Aryz, Os Gemeos, Bordalo!
- Obviously Berlin (it goes without saying, it’s probably the greatest city in Europe and we had the honour of working with the mighty Urban Nation)
- We just got back from Marseille (a rough diamond of a city on the south coast of France.... it is covered head to toe in graffiti and hip hop culture, it’s bursting at the seam with socially engaged artists and has a really strong sense of community... also has some of the most beautiful coast lines/ lagoons in Europe! The city struggles with financial division and is the poorest in France, with a pretty bad rep for organised drug related crime…on the plus side it might slow down the gentrification process which tends to spoil some of the genuine creative flare and beautiful diversity of such a city)
What’s the strangest story from life on the road?
This is really hard hahah, we have a lot of unique experiences! In no particular order and without too much information:
- Drinking tea in a caravan with a member of the Afghan mafia
- Sleeping rough in a derelict building for 2 weeks in winter painting a giant mural on the side of it
- Getting REALLY drunk with a certain tattoo artist reality tv star from America on a boat hotel in Amsterdam
- Staying in an old nuns convent and waking up looking like I'd been in a fight because we had been eaten alive by mosquitos (I still painted even though I could only see out of one eye)
What question do you get asked most often?
We always get asked about sexism... ALWAYS! In fact people request interviews with us based on that solely, which gets tiring because at some point it would be nice to talk more about the content of our art work than our experience as women. Turns out after awhile being asked about sexism is actually quite sexist ahah!
What are some of the challenges you face as muralists?
Being women HAHAH... jokes! Weather can be a nightmare, fatigue, spray paint affiliated issues, repetitive strain. Aside from this, finding time to get in the studio because we struggle to turn down traveling & painting murals. We love them but its not the most lucrative form of income, a lot of these opportunities are low paid or unpaid... which is fine, but because we are a couple and bills need to be paid we really need to set aside some time for sellable work. I would like to add that we are no way complaining because it’s an utter privilege to be doing what we love and to be fair if we made more money we would be spending it on traveling and painting.
Did you always have a sense that this was your destiny?
I think we both had relationships with street art and graffiti since we were teenagers, but at that time it was like a weird puzzle that didn't make any sense... we were both informed early on in school that it was impossible to make a living out of art and that graphic design might be a more viable option (although it was fierce competition, and unlikely that we would get there). A career advisor told Hayley to be a bin man. I always new I wasn't going to fit into a normal paradigm. Art and music were things that I would always daydream about, so in some respects I knew deep down that creativity was my calling, right from being tiny. It’s the same with Aylo. I don't think either of us ever thought we would get some of the opportunities we are getting now, in a way we both wish it could have happened just that bit earlier in life as it could have saved a lot of bad choices in our 20's, but hey, everything happens for a reason!
Do you have a passion project waiting in the wings?
Yep and I think you guys might know a bit about it ;)
Do you feel that you have spirit animals? If so, what are they?
Hayley says she is a blob fish HAHAHA! I think she's more a sri lankan frog mouth in visual appearance but a hyper puppy in spirit—JOKES. I am probably a feral cat.
If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only bring three types of paint supplies, what would you bring? What would you make?
Spray paint, Emulsion & Oil Paints.... we would make a mess.
If you had to hear one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Hayley: Warpigs - Sabbath (it’s worth noting I would probably lose my fucking mind).
Joy: Ramble On by Led Zep. Hayley often plays the same song for months so I feel like I have been in training for this moment.
interview by carter