An interview with Toothache

As part of our series of artist interviews, taking a closer look at the work of some of the artists in The Letchworth Open, curator Kris Day talked to photographer and film maker Rosie Smith and artist and illustrator Kiera Chojecki about their work, creativity, culture and their collaborative zine Toothache.

You’ve been doing great things bringing together young creatives in and around the town, could you tell us how the idea to start Toothache came about?


Rosie: When I finished uni, I felt like I was in a bit of a rut. I still wanted to be creative and missed surrounding myself with fellow like-minded individuals. I’ve always had an interest in print media and decided just to give it a go! I played around with different ideas but I knew I wanted to make a space where any creative, from anywhere, of any background - even if they don’t think of themselves as a creative, can submit work to the zine. I wanted to give opportunity to anybody interested in art, even if they haven’t felt like they’ve dabbled before. It started as a one man band but I quickly brought Kiera, Gabriel and Katie on board, as our own little Toothache family.


You put out an open call for submissions to the zine, are there any criteria for applying? Or is there anything you’re looking for in particular?

Rosie: The only thing we ask is that the work submitted follows our theme - that way, all the pieces in their own way, work together. Any medium can be submitted and we are keen to get a good variety! 


Kiera: We are particularly excited by creatives who are keen to experiment and push the boundaries - this year we’d like to encourage creatives to collaborate and put whatever they make out into the world. We look for work that when curated together, it collectively depicts the mood of our theme. Following on from what Rosie said, I’d like to add that although Toothache is a print based platform, we’re eager to find a way of including 3D and moving image submissions. 


At the moment you produce a zine but do you have any ambitions to take Toothache into other formats? Film? A podcast maybe? Exhibitions??


Rosie: We’d absolutely love to have our own exhibition at some point, hopefully this year! We have a few ideas up our sleeves that we’re very excited about and are very keen to see up and running. We’d love to include work that not only is print based, but animation, film, sculpture - a real range!


Kiera: We’d also really like to revamp our website and build an online shop for our creatives to sell some funky bits and pieces. 


What are your hopes for the future of the Letchworth art scene?


Rosie: I’d personally love to see a wider range of mediums, perhaps some more daring pieces. I’m excited to see what the future holds post Covid-19!


Kiera: It would be great to see Letchworth’s art scene emit the sort of energy and excitement felt in big cities. I hope that Toothache will create a stir and help to diversify the local arts by leading workshops and working closely alongside The Broadway Gallery.


Does Toothache have anything exciting in the pipeline?


Rosie: We have just released our second issue, which has been a real whirlwind, with Covid trying to stop us at every turn. So glad it’s finally out in the open! The theme of that was ‘A Rough Night’ and we are so pleased with how it has been received! We also just opened submissions for our third issue, under the theme ‘Leftovers’. Very much looking forward to seeing a wide range of pieces being submitted and seeing how everyone interprets the theme! Submissions are open until the end of March and there are more details on that over on our instagram page (@toothachezine).

Despite being a difficult time for creatives, the last year has seen people rely on culture of all kinds for their entertainment. Could you tell us about some of the creative and cultural things that have helped get you through the lockdowns?


Rosie: This year I really stuck my nose into the books. I threw myself into any other universe than the Covid-19 reality. It was really nice to be able to find my love of reading again, whilst inspiring me to write a little myself. I also watch an insane amount of films (slightly too embarrassing of a number to admit, haha!). Music has always been a comfort - I made a point of getting my old records out, particularly in the summertime. That really lifted my spirits.


Kiera: Music has been a huge part of my lockdown lows and highs. I also rediscovered my love of interior and homeware while upcycling and redecorating.