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This Gem is Unstoppable


Debra Frances

Artist – Artbag

Debra started her formal training in sculpture with an honours degree from Central Saint Martins School of Art and studied with many successful art contemporaries. She is highly motivated and passionate about influencing the next generation of young artists and has run her own an art school for the last 10 years.

Using the creative process in an inventive and highly objectified manner; her Artbag sculptures are slick modern and colourful balancing beauty, fashion and social media within a perfectly polished hard resin handbag, personalised for her unique clients.

Debra’s Artbags are for the modern woman looking for a unique work of art and make a stunning special gift.

Visit her gallery in Amersham, Buckinghamshire or check it out at www.artbagstudio.com


Your artwork is so unique, were you classically trained in art or are you self taught?

I consider myself to be both. I was educated in art at some prestigious London Art Institutions, City and Guilds and Central Saint Martins. I loved reading about art philosophy especially concepts such as relational aesthetics by Nicolas Bouriard, Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes and Gilles Deleuze, a French philosopher, and Félix Guattari, a French psychoanalyst and political activist.

My artbags alow me to explore the many facets of my own life experience and push the boundries of visual language. From travel, desire, loss, illness, fear, beauty , consumerism, wealth, nostalgia. Its my life project. Ive always been facinated with psychology, philosophy and anthropology.

Art school enabled me to test my ideas and challenge my aesthetic sensibilities. My first degree was in Economics and Politics which opened my eyes to the troubles of the world at large. At art school I wrote a thesis called The Aesthetics of intimacy which continues to stimulate me.

The heavy critiques and wide variety of nationalities, languages spoken helped me to develop my own visual coding. My fascination is to develop a non-verbal universal form of visual communication that could transcend cultures and economies.

I studied Economics and politics at Manchester university in the late 80’s. this was a real eye opener for me and I became aware and moved by both by global conflict, the breakdown of my own family and the exposure to dance and club scene.The education gave me an understanding of the world which helped me to formulate my ideas and priorities, understand consumerism and political turmoil with a backdrop of rave and club culture in IBIZA in my own unique way. All of this, together with a year working in Advertising give me a view of the world that my art finally helped me find a way to communicate.

Tell us about your artwork and what made you gravitate towards handbags as a concept. 

The handbag as an item is both deeply personal, private and intimate. The contents tell a story of Where you‘ve been, where you‘re going and your anticipated needs. Whether these are aesthetic, practical, nostalgic or supersticious. Often this can be a pair of glasses, money, lipstick, a key, a fragrance there are connections between the objects which tells a story or suggests an identity.

At art school we were asked to bring in a significant object to cast and I chose oneof my old impractical small designer handbags much to the surprise of my tutor and peer group.

Your most recent artwork is a bag made of barbed wire containing a beautiful white taxidermy bird. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind this piece and what you feel it embodies?

This work is inspired by the very first bag I created which was not made out of resin. It was a plaster cast with drawing pins covering the handle. The weight of which when you picked it up caused a lot of pain in the palm of your hand.I called the work

To have and to hold

This takes that theme of pain and adds pleasure to it. 22 carat gold barbed wire bag contains a delicate white bird. Protected and trapped unable to fly, kept, restricted, yet gilded. Its a Catch 22.

Your works are conceptual, modern and abstract and yet evoke an aura of the classical, most notably through their adoption of the feminine. What is it about the handbag, its connection with the feminine and its role as a ‘container’ that is so significant to you as a creator?

A bounderied space, like a canvas only 3 dimensional and from an early age my father was in the handbag industry and my sister and I would be given beautiful handbags and would long to be sophisticated ladies. We would take our mothers makeup and experiment with dress up. The handbag was always my favourite accessory. I have so many bags and have an infinite fascination for their beauty, inside and out.

Your artworks have certainly changed over time, can you tell us a bit about this journey and also how you envision your work evolving over the next 5 years? 

I grow and change and learn so does my art…

How do you see art’s role and impact in Society?

Art is a place of wonderment, and challenge. It helps us to focus onthings that are important or beautiful to artists. Without art the world would be too practical!

You’re a member of the ‘Beautalist’ art movement. Can you tell us a bit about ‘Beautalism’?

When reflecting on aesthetics, philosopher Immanuel Kant famously connects beauty to the human imagination, nature and to the sublime. Kant explains that the sublime is a sensation only accessible in the mind, and is induced by encountering things we find overwhelmingly beautiful and powerful. It can also be related to feelings of awe, and Kant argues that we experience the sublime through looking at beauty in nature and in art.

The artwork of the Beautalists confront the viewer with beauty. But beauty comes in multiple forms and has many faces. It is classical, complicated, weird and shocking. It is abstract, gentle and aggressive. Some of the artists of Beautalism produce beauty in its pure and sublime form, whereas others aim to expose the dangerous or even ugly side of beauty. Through their artwork however, you will see the power of beauty. It may be sexual beauty, silly beauty or capitalism’s despicable yet seductive use of beauty. Beauty is the unreachable ideal, a myth that we are always chasing and yet it is undoubtedly always a thrill to look at. The Beautalist art movement is about the visual allure of beauty as well as its potency. To put it bluntly (or brutally), the Beautalists are brutal about beauty.

What does the concept of Beauty mean to you and how does the concept inspire your art?

Beauty is the intimate journey I strive for to an imagined destination.

How would you describe the relationship your artwork has with fashion?

Fashion is creating indentity, belonging, individuality and protection. We are both striving for beauty and originality.Good art like good fashion is timeless. If I use all mediums in one – music, fashion, and art. I’m hittingITfrom all angles.

Would you describe fashion as art and how important is art to fashion?

Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment. (Alexander Mcqueen)Art explains and uncovers the depth behind the visual carnival of fashion.

What have been your greatest successes so far and which personalities do you wear with your art bags?

Creating some iconic americana museum peices for the coca cola collection celebrating 100 years of the coca cola classic bottle shape. My work was hung with my art heros, Andy Warhol and Ai Wei Wei at the last world Expo in Milan in 2015.

My artbags alow me to explore the many facets of my own life experience and push the boundries of visual language. From travel, desire, loss, illness, fear, beauty , consumerism, wealth, nostalgia. Its my life project. Ive always been facinated with psychology, philosophy and anthropology.

What next big projects are you planning for 2020 and what can Debra Franses Bean fans expect in the future?

I am launching a diamond covered Artbag in Dubai in  October in collaboration with Debbie Wingham (who is renowned for creating the world’s most expensive and the children’s fashion futures dressmaking classes)…using gold and diamonds and semi precious stones. It will be launched in a showcase at the world fashion and art awards in the Sofitel Hotel on the Palm. The bag will be worth over £10,000,000. There are also some items from Shakara Jewellery in the worlds most expensive handbag. I’m looking for gallery representation there and this will give me that opportunity to show people what I can do with this idea. 

I have borrowed one of the commissions that I made a Dali themed Bag for displayed at the SWMB museum in Basel Switzerland as the centrepiece of an exhibition called Handbags , Icons and Investments.

I have several important collaborations going on this year with other artists GRAZIE a graffiti artist form New Zealand, Himwhatshisname from Europe, Gary McQueen (yes, Alexander’s nephew) and Shakara Jewellery as we design a unique peice of jewellery which should be ready towards the latter part of the year.

In February and September there is London Fashion Scout where the Beautilist artists will create a fashion art extravaganza and a runway takeover show. Im working with fellow beautilist Sandro Haynes on a fashion shoot in the HOXTON hotel suite with models to intigrate the artbags into the female body and the Luxury environment. We will be curating large scale images which will transport the artbags from objects of desire into high class glossy images.

To celebrate my love of music and some of my most treasured performers I‘m launching a new shape of the Artbag which will contain  symbolic contents from iconic male and femail performers. In a collaboration with Dennis O‘Reagan who was the personal photographer for Queen, David Bowie and the Rolling stones.

My personal art school Mini Monets is celebrating its tenth year and a lovely new venue. I will continue to inspire the many children who come for weekend art classes.


Ive also just launched my first Artbag Gallery at 120, High Street Amersham, Buckinghamshire. This is a unique outlet for my smaller works and commissions and is open by appointment. For further enquiries please email debra@artbagstudio.com

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