Soft Tools 1 & 2

Ashlee Hick

See it On Campus: Level 1

Visitor Info

Soft Tools , can be found on the first floor in the sculpture studios. Directly to the right of the first floor entrance.

Award Recipient

Landon Mackenzie Graduation Award for Visual Arts

Soft Tools is an ongoing sculptural project dedicated to conversations between the body and the medical world.

Presented in the Emily Carr University Grad Show are the first two iterations of the Soft Tools series; an Inhaler and Epi Pen. Both medical devices have been scaled up and constructed of soft recycled materials. All text and detail work has been hand embroidered, constructed and finished. 


Recycled Fabrics ( Primarily Woven Cotton Varieties ), Thread, Embroidery Floss, Aplique, Poly-Fill

As a child growing up I was faced with many complications to my own health, as well as that of my close family and friends. Such instances vary from minor health conditions to major surgeries and diagnoses. The inspiration for this work stems from the confusion and frustration which accompanies health conversations and decisions especially around young children. The medical world often utilizes dense, cold materials, metals and plastics to deliver care to us, when nothing about those objects feel as though they care for us or are personal.

With devices such as hearing aids, insulin pumps, Epi-Pens, inhalers, etc. being so readily available and necessary to many of our survival, they can often impose a very fearful notion onto young and mature minds. Through the process of enlarging, softening, stuffing and hand detailing, I’ve begun creating more welcoming and tender versions of these everyday objects.

side view of large inhaler soft sculpture
front view of large stuffed inhaler and epi-pen soft sculptures, seated on white background. 
Epi-pen is bent into an "L" shape, while Inhaler is perched in its normal form.
front view of soft sculpture epi-pen, balanced against white background

By enlarging and altering the texture of such common iconographic objects, viewers are invited to interact with the tools in new ways. Visitors at the Grad Show are welcomed to touch, bend, squeeze, and twist the works to their own desire.

The objects themselves are able to be used and interacted with  in a variety of ways. Initially the project was designed to create learning tools for children, to aid them in adapting to carrying personal medical devices. The medical world is often very intimidating and frightening, especially for young minds. It was my intention to provide comfort and familiarity to kids as they learn about their bodies in a fun and engaging way. 

Once created however, the work took a more conceptual approach to connecting to viewers. People became inclined to hug and hold the Inhaler and Epi Pen, shifting the initiator of care from device to user, as though the viewers needed to support the sculptures.

Many older viewers often note after seeing these tools which they have been interacting with daily for their whole lives, in a soft – large format, brings them a sense of comfort and contentment. For many these devices bring up strong emotions and attachments. The immediacy of the objects demands that they be seen and acknowledged, giving them recognition and importance.

Woman leaning over to hold up stuffed inhaler sculpture, blank background.
Arm holding out large stuffed Epi-pen sculpture, blank background

What happens when a small everyday object becomes large? 

How do we handle objects differently depending on their materials?

Do we feel the same connection to things when they become absurd? 

Can we interact with common objects in new ways?

How much do we truly understand about our body’s relationship with medical tools?

Detail image of “Inhaler” sculpture – Detail image of “Epi-Pen” sculpture

Ashlee Hick

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Ashlee Hick is an interdisciplinary artist from Prince George B.C. whose work surrounds themes of bodies and how they are ever changing and adapting. Her current practice primarily deals with textile and drawing based mediums, often touching on self identity and insecurity. Ashlee uses personal experiences with eating disorders, body dysmorphia and body shaming to shape her work, and critique modern society’s views on adverse bodies.

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