I wanted to start this Paper Places blog so that I can share the fun I have in exploring the world of paper and all the creative things that people do with the material. It’s been my ‘thing’ for years. As a child I loved nothing better than making papier mache , folding paper or making drawings or paintings on paper. Clearly I never had enough paper when I was young because virtually every childhood book which has survived into my grownup life has drawings and scribbles all over the blank pages at the back.
Being an artist was something I always wanted to do but it’s hard when you’re young to power through with such dreams and then life gets in the way – having a career, earning money, bringing up a family, paying for stuff…. However, the passion for art came to the boil about 15 years ago when I finally made it to art school. Having spent years doing evening classes in art, two art A-levels and a Foundation Course,I was doing yet another course in portrait painting at Central St Martin’s when the tutor there said the magic words ‘you are very good, why don’t you go to art school?’ This was what I’d spent my life waiting to hear! She said, ‘go to City and Guilds of London Art School and tell them I sent you.’ By this time it was June and when I saw the Head of Painting there he said they were full but felt sure he could fit me in. Later on, once I’d enrolled and had my garret studio at the school, he confessed he couldn’t turn me down because my eyes burned so brightly with the need to come that he just had to find a place!
Well, it was the most fantastic experience. Being amongst fellow artists and finally having permission to describe myself as an artist was a glorious and heady time. I had gone there with the aim of learning how to paint in oils but the paper just kept creeping into my work. My tutors were intrigued by the way I stuck wallpaper onto my canvases and mingled it with oil paint. In the end I ditched the oils and found a way to create painterly pictures using torn paper, all kinds of paper, and haven’t looked back. I think I always knew that paper was my medium, my language, but it took a spell at art school to give me the confidence to really explore it and feel I could create works made entirely with paper.
Once I’d left art school I kept making art, having shows and selling work. I even created a range of greetings cards based on my work which were sold in shops all over the UK including John Lewis. Then I realised I could use my new medium to create portraits made entirely from paper. But not only could I create a good likeness in paper I discovered I could surround the subject with images, on paper, of their ‘favourite things’. This evolved into Paperface, which is still going strong. I love working with either the subject or the person who is commissioning the portrait, to plan the piece and make sure that all the right images of important people, places and things are incorporated into the picture.
My latest paper-led adventure has been Papershades. I’d made a collection of paper collages featuring wild flowers, poppies, daisies and a tangled colourful foliage which were popular and sold well. I started wondering how I could do rather more with them than just sell them on canvas. I wanted to find a way to use my art as a product or to make it more available. For years I’d been thinking that the lampshades in my home were really very dull – always the same, plain fabric things and wondered whether they could be made of paper. Of course they could!
So, I created loads of prototypes for paper lampshades printed with my own designs. The result is a flat packed lampshade which fits an A4 envelope which is easy to construct using two sizes of unique Papershades ‘wheel’s. The first range features six of my floral designs. There will be more coming later in the year.
Coming up with the idea for Papershades was quite a long haul and it took a while to get to the stage where I felt I had a viable product. And I’ve had to get a website with an online shop made as well as planning and creating all the visuals and getting the marketing side of things sorted.
So, the passion for paper goes on and keeps taking me in new directions. I look forward to expanding my enthusiasm for this wonderfully versatile material in loads of new directions by going to more exhibitions, finding fellow paper enthusiasts, makers and doers. I would be delighted if you would like to join me on this incredible journey!