Prior to TFT
Growing up, Stella was known as ‘The tomboy’ and I was known as ‘the girly one’. I remember feeling very negative about being known as the girly one, because I wasn’t girly compared to some girls my age! I was just a normal girl and I hated this label I’d been given by people! So I decided to change who I was and copy Stella, by dressing like a tomboy. I stopped wearing my long towel that I draped over the back of my head to make it look like I had lovely long hair. I stopped wearing dresses. I pretended I hated the colour pink and I started playing football, like Stella.
I wanted to be like Stella. I preferred the way she was labeled, to the way I was labeled.
Throughout the years to follow I remember thinking 'I wish I could wear a dress', but I couldn’t stand to be judged as ‘the girly one’.
We both went to the same school and were in the same classes. I wore glasses and Stella didn’t (because she wanted to make sure we looked different) even though she needed them!
When I was 15, I decided I wanted to get contact lenses. There was a boy I liked and I wanted to impress him. However, Stella was so angry at even the thought of me getting contact lenses. She specifically asked me to only wear them in front of the boy I liked, and pleaded with me not to wear them to school because she didn’t want people getting us mixed up even more so. But I did it anyway, and that’s when the mixing up really started!
I remember visiting our extended family for the first time without wearing my glasses, and most of them couldn’t tell us apart. They’d all just avoid saying our names, and we knew it was because they didn’t know who we were. I hate to say it, but from then on we didn’t enjoy family gatherings and we became very detached from them, when we used to be extremely close to them. The whole thing made us both feel uncomfortable, awkward and we felt like outsiders.
Being identical twins comes with many ups and downs. I guess as Stella always had a strong urge to be different and be independent, I didn’t have that urge so much. I was quite happy to have the same friends, to hang around together at school and to be quite similar. But Stella was desperate to be different.
I was always ‘The one with glasses’. Once I got contact lenses Stella got a fringe, so I was then labeled ‘The one without the fringe’
I remember being labeled ‘The clever one’ at one point (God knows why), while Stella was ‘The sporty one’. Again, this was an irritation to me because I was very sporty, but it almost felt like I wasn't allowed to be. Brothers and sisters often get compared, but being identical twins... it's a whole new level.
Neither of us are particularly good in social situations. We’re both very awkward. I think it stems from feeling very awkward growing up when people didn’t know which one of us they were talking to.
If we hear ourselves on a recording, we can’t even tell which one of us is talking!
We know for a fact our voices are practically exactly the same! There’s no denying it! So we are accepting of that and don’t feel annoyed now when people bring it up.
However, we genuinely feel like we look totally different to each other in our everyday lives, that’s why we get frustrated when people mix us up, because we feel like they’re not even trying to treat us as individuals. It’s blatantly obvious who’s who.
The Twin Project started with the idea that we wanted to work together. We always wanted to start some sort of project together, we just didn’t know what! We have always been very creative, but our artwork has always been so different that we never even considered trying to create a piece of artwork together.
We both have very different hobbies. Stella is a keen juggler, and I have a weird obsession with notebooks. We’re both sporty and competitive, but we could never think of how to bring any of our hobbies together.
Until one day, we considered starting a YouTube channel together. I had already started a YouTube channel while we were traveling together in New Zealand the previous year. I wanted to document our adventure. Stella was in a lot of my videos and we really enjoyed filming together, until my camera broke. We couldn’t be asked to sort out that problem, so the channel ended.
On our return home we started discussing what our YouTube videos could be about. We considered dressing up exactly the same and playing pranks on our family and friends. We never would have considered this in the past! However, these days we are a lot more relaxed about being identical and realise there are so many good things about being a twin!
After coming up with a few different ideas, we still weren’t feeling inspired by the content of our videos. They just weren’t creative enough for us.
One evening, we sat on my bed and talked, and talked, and talked. We knew we wanted to work together and we knew we wanted to do something creative. Finally, we realised that it had been staring us in the face for so long. We wanted to become twin artists.
TWIN ARTWORK TO SHOW THE STRUGGLES
We feel we have so much to say about being twins, we want to convey this in our artwork. We want our art to have meaning and to create discussion. We realise that although being twins comes with many struggles, it also comes with so many good things, and we feel so lucky and wouldn’t want to change being twins! We understand that our artwork may come across as being bitter but we’re really not, we just want to convey the message of some of the difficulties that twins often go through. We spent time thinking about how it makes us feel when society treats twins as one person, rather than individuals. After some discussion, we then used our frustrations to create quite a lively, busy selection of artwork.
Our first ever series of artwork is all about the desperation of trying to look different from one another. We did this by smudging our make up, pulling our faces, painting each other, squashing our faces against glass. It's a bit weird, but it conveyed a message.
We’ve always wanted to be individuals and for people to be able to tell us apart. But eventually we decided to go completely against what we have always strived to be. We decided we wanted to appear… exactly the same.
After talking to lots of people about their views on twins, we discovered that many people like the mystery behind twin identities. Are they the same person? We decided to play up to this image that people have.
We feel that many people like to think that twins are exactly the same and are practically one person. We want to play up to this view that people have, by giving them want they want and appearing exactly the same, and then smacking the viewer in the face with our artwork, showing how different we really are.
Handwriting – I honestly think Stella’s handwriting would be different to what it is now if she wasn’t a twin. I’ve always felt she tried (even if subconsciously) to create a handwriting that was completely different to mine. Well she did a good job, because it’s pretty much the opposite! I have very swirly, curly writing and she has very spiky, messy writing.
‘The one with the glasses’
‘She’s the sporty one/she’s the girly one’
‘Do you have a secret language?’
To mum - ‘Can you tell them apart?’ Are they identical?
‘Look! It’s Stella with a wig on!’
‘I like you better than your twin’
‘If I pinch you, does your twin feel it?’
‘Which one is older?’
‘Can you read each others mind?’
‘Which one are you?’
‘’This is an offensive question to twins. It diminishes them as individuals. They're not simply one of a pair. Most twins genuinely understand if you mix up their identities, as long as you make an attempt to recognize their individuality. Rather than saying, "Which one are you?", a preferable alternative would be to say, "Forgive my ignorance. I get confused because you look so much alike. Are you (insert name here) or (insert name here)?"
‘What’s it like to be a twin?’
I would feel like a part of me was missing if Stel wasn’t here anymore. I definitely feel like I am a part of one person, I really do.
We‘ve never really had best friends. We’ve had very close friends, but never best. I think it’s because we could never be as close to someone as we are to each other.
Research books on twins:
Twins, Burlingham – Read page and 8, 10 - ‘twins are made to feel different, unique, and the fact their twinship is continually forced apon them in the form of comparisons.’
When adults who haven’t met twins before make lots of comments and keep looking from one twin child to the other, it gets tiresome. Twins have a great fascination with adults who have been around twins before, because the adults treat them more like normal people, rather than a kind of show.
Guy is probably the only person who has never had any problem telling us apart. It was funny when we first dressed up to try and look exactly the same, his face looked so shocked! He said he kind of forgot we were twins, he doesn’t even notice it normally!
Guy – How have you felt about having identical twin sisters? Have you ever felt like you wished you had a twin? Do you feel like it effected you growing up, as me and Stella got lots of attention for it?
We seem to say each others names at the start of every question we ask each other. Even if we’ve been in conversation, we say each other’s names a lot. We noticed it until our friend mentioned it about a year ago! Maybe it’s a comfort thing?
Two children of different ages, even close in age, don’t experience the same identity issues that twins encounter. It’s not uncommon to compare children (Oh, your brother did the same thing at your age. She looks just like her sister did when she was that age.) But when the children are twins, the comparisons are instant and constant.
People have no idea what it is like to be a twin, and if they did, they wouldn't make the ‘I wish I was a twin’ statement. People are fascinated with the idea of twins, but the reality of being a twin is often much more complicated than you'd imagine. By Pamela Prindle Fierro.
Mum: No not at all. I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t look at my babies face and gaze at my baby when my baby was having its feed. I kept having to look back and fourth at both of them to check they were both ok and check when they needed burping. You don’t feel you’re bonding so well because you can’t give each one your full attention.
Even the very closest would be 9 months so still going to be at very different stages. That other one will have still had 9 months of individual attention. Twins don’t get individual attention, ever. To start with each baby will have individual attention – with the feeding attention.
Comparisons all the time.
Gems got her first tooth. When will Stel get her first tooth?
Gem’s sat up for the first time, when will Stel sit up?
People asking Who’s more outgoing? Who’s the shy one?
Mum: I never answered those questions. I’d just say I don’t know. They’re stupid questions.
Mum: You were ‘Circus novelties’.
Conflicting emotions when you have twins that you don’t have when you have one child.
You’re popular because of it.
Dad: I’ve never spoken to Jess and Lucy because I didn’t know which one was which, so we just didn’t talk to them.
Mum: We’ve always been terrified to speak to them incase we got their names mixed up.
‘Twins in the world’ book –
‘Adult twins often claim that their bond is stronger and more long-lasting than any other tie, including that of marriage. We all yearn for a perfect match with another person, and in the initial stages of falling in love we often deceive ourselves into believing that we have found the ideal. Yet, once the illusion of the honeymoon period is over and the partners confront a real, as opposed to an ideal person, unions can break. Twins are the closest one can ever get to the ideal of a permanent soul mate. Though their bond can be fraught with many more conflicting feelings than is generally thought, it is always lifelong and is always experienced as having primary importance.’
Psychologists from the website World of twins associations presents ‘essential commandments’ for bringing up healthy twins, such as;
Provide separate sleeping arrangements and if possible, separate rooms.
Organise different programmes for each twin.
Have different desk for doing their homework.
Never dress them alike.
Never call them twins or allow anyone else to.
Choose separate classes starting from the crèche.
My twin’s desperation to be different from me.
You know when you’re walking down the street with a friend or a family member and your feet sync up sometimes, causing you to walk at the same pace with similar length strides. Well, when my sister and I walk along the street together and our feet sync up, she immediately tries to change it. She’ll make larger strides or smaller steps.
As identical twins, this is just one of the many ways we sync up naturally, but she always tries to change it.
I remember she went through a phase of not wanting to touch me. If we were in the car together and I had to sit in the middle seat, her body would be squashed up against the door, desperately trying not to touch me. This went on for years.
I’m making it sound like she hated me. She didn’t. Neither of us hated each other. We were best friends and always have been. But when little twin things arise, she doesn’t want to accept them.
I Imagine you’re probably thinking, ‘why aren’t you hurt or offended?’ I guess it’s because I have always known she’s not doing it out of hatred, she’s doing it because she wants to be an individual, and I can understand that. She doesn’t want a clone of herself that does the same things as her and acts just like her… Well I’m afraid she’s got one!
I’m probably making it sound like she is the messed up one and I am the normal one (which is true). I’ll tell you a little story about our childhood. It’s a bit sad really.
My desperation to be the same as my twin.
Growing up, Stella was known as ‘The tomboy’ and I was known as ‘The girly one’. I remember feeling very negative about being known as ‘the girly one’, because I wasn’t girly compared to some of the girls my age! I was just a normal little girl. I hated the label I had been given by people to distinguish us.
So, one day, when I was five years old, I decided to changewho I was. I started copying Stella, by dressing like a tomboy. I stopped wearing my long towel that I draped over the back of my head to make it look like I had long hair. I stopped wearing dresses. I pretended I hated the colour pink and I started playing football, like Stella.
I wanted to be like Stella. I preferred the way she was labelled, to the way I was labelled.
I remember thinking, ‘I wish I could wear a dress’, but I couldn’t stand to be judged as ‘the girly one’ again, so I didn’t.
I never wore a dress again…
Until at age 16 when I decided ‘F*** it!’ I’m wearing one. So I did.
• The day I got contact lenses. I was so happy.
My twin was so angry.
• Stel: It felt like I had one thing left to hold onto, your glasses.
• A letter from me to you.
• What if we were born as one? It’s hard to think of what we would have turned out like if we were born as one....
I still think about this regularly and wonder what parts of me are actually authentic, and what parts I just developed to be different from you?
• I couldn’t touch my sister.
• I know this probably sounds like a petty thing that lots of siblings go through; they don’t want to touch their brother or sister or they will get ‘lurgies’, as we used to call it! But my reason wasn’t because I was scared of catching ‘lurgies’ or germs. It wasn’t a harmless school game, unfortunately.
• I hated being called ‘the girls’ I hated being called ‘the twins’ I hated being ‘the boyish one’
‘The Tomboy’ and ‘The Girly One’
I wonder if I were never a twin, would I have been so overly adamant about not wearing girl’s clothes? I was always so moody towards Mum for putting me in dresses, faffing around with my hair or buying me anything with the colour pink onit! I just wanted to chuck on a t-shirt, a pair of jeans and some boots and go and play football.
You were the one that liked to wear dresses and act as Barbie when we played with our dolls. I wanted to be Action Man or Hercules. It was always the strong male character that I craved to be like.
You wore your towel on your head as long flowing hair. I wore mine over my back, as a soldier’s cape.
We seemed to be completely the opposite in terms of what we liked. I remember feeling like I had my identity, and you had yours. We were separate. Different. Not the same.
That’s where the labels came from. I was ‘the tomboy’ and you were ‘the girly one’. We must have felt very confined to that role in order for people to tell us apart. I knew you felt angry about being seen as the girly one. I think it made you feel sweet and annoyingly innocent!
So, your solution was to become exactly like me. You dressed like me, you joined the same clubs as me and you played the same sports as me. Anything I did, you would follow.
The Teenage Years
Before we started Two Faced Twins, our personal experiences throughout our lives had been very different from one another. Stella studied Art at Northbrook University in 2010, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Illustration. She would spend hours in her local cafe, sneakily drawing people queuing for their coffee's.
I attended Northbrook college that same year as Stella, and studied Fashion and Textiles, achieving straight distinctions. My main inspirations have always been fashion of the decades, colourful scenery and exploring different cultures. In 2014, I moved to China to teach English. While in China, I took countless photographs, admired the Chinese traditional dress-sense, and painted their bright coloured buildings and temples.