Playlist 20 videos

27-year-old artist Mary Stephenson has 7 boyfriends. But before you start to judge her – none of them have a name and they’re all made out of clay!

Her unusual art project started back in 2015, after single Mary had a thought-provoking conversation with another guest at a wedding.

She explains, ‘there was one incident that kind of triggered it. I was at a wedding a couple of years ago and someone had asked how long I’d been single for and I’d said, ‘oh, two years or so’ and this person said ‘what a waste of time’.’


‘It just made me start thinking what are societies pressures for us to have. Do we have to be in a couple? If we’re single does that say a lot of things about us? So I started playing around with these ideas of these kind of scenarios and hypothetical goals for the future for relationships.’

‘I kind of thought well if society wants me to be in a relationship, I’ll put myself in a relationship!’

After creating her clay boyfriends in her London studio, Mary stages elaborate dates with them before taking photographs. So far, her and her dates have been to Paris, picnicked in the park and even met her friends at a party.

And although they might be her very own custom-made boyfriends, Mary doesn’t have an image of the kind of man she is hoping to create when she starts sculpting.


‘When I start making them they sort of come out of nowhere. I’ve got a lump of clay and you just have to kind of go with it. The clay really dictates actually how they end up looking.’

‘Sometimes you make them and they just look totally bizarre. They just look like weird creatures so I tend to throw those ones in the bin!’


Mary, who graduated from The Glasgow School of Art, says the project has been created to explore the modern day pressures placed on young people like herself to live a ‘perfect’ life.

She explains, ‘I think the scenarios and the portraits are more meant to be about my own projections of myself in the future and what I anticipate within relationships as opposed to what the men are like.’

‘Even though they’re clay boyfriends and it’s in a kind of bizarre scenario I think it’s making me realise that these hypothetical scenarios in my head are hypothetical and they’re idealised. They’re not necessarily relevant to me right now so playing them out is kind of like a weird therapy I guess.’


Mary is the first to admit that the concept of her project is a little odd, so she couldn’t be happier with the positive feedback that she’s received so far.

‘People have been really, really supportive actually. Lots of women have emailed me being like, ‘this really resonates with me’.’