Wednesday, 28 April 2010

MEET: Claire Brewster

Claire Brewster is a paper artist, specializing in intricately cut, delicate three dimensional pictures.  UK Handmade asked a few questions ...

What kind of formal education,training or experience do you have that applies to what you do?
I studied constructed textiles at Middlesex University (polytechnic as it was then), specialising in tapestry weaving, and since then have been working on my own.

You’re creations are very intricate and detailed – how do you do them?
I stick a tracing of the image I want to cut out a on the back of the map, so I have a template to cut too, though I often change them as I go along, if I think it will look better, I use Olfa blades after much experiment I find they are the best for me.  I have just invested in a large magnifying light, which helps with all the details and hopefully saves my eyes.  I draw the images I want to cut out many times before I actually cut them, so I get them just right, and also so I really feel the shapes and know them very well before I start cutting.

I have to ask, do you ever mess them up right when they are almost complete!? 
I don't think I have ever totally messed up a piece beyond repair, I often cut bits off or bits break, I always have a roll of scotch tape to hand as that will fix most mistakes. Things usually go wrong when I am cutting with a blunt blade, and the paper rips, the I may have to rethink the design to get round the problem.  The main problems I have had are with the paper buckling and crinkling or warping due to either using the wrong glue or dampness or both.  Then pieces can get ruined as that can't be fixed by scotch tape.  I have found that the glue, tracing paper and maps should all be kept in the same place before use, to minimise the risk of warping.

What did you do and how did you start?
I used to make collages, often working with maps, painting and sticking things on them and then one day I decided to cut out the pattern I was going to paint on the map and then I did some more and showed them in an exhibition and everyone loved them and they just sort of blossomed from their.  The first pieces were all over patterns I then moved on to flowers and then other things.

What jobs did you have before this?

I have done many things, I think they call it a portfolio career, teaching English as a foreign language, retail, making sandwiches, and secretarial work. The latter is what I have done most of an am still working 3 days a week as an office manager for an architects practice, until the art makes enough to pay all the bills.

 What steps did you take to create your own business?
I was a bit haphazard about it really, but am now trying to be a bit more focus
sed on the business aspect of things. There is a lot of help on line and some really excellent books, though they are mostly American, but the basics are the same.

Describe your work setting. 
I work from home in my spare bedroom, I used to have an external studio but have learnt that working with paper means I need heating, dampness is my biggest enemy, so i find it easiest to work from home, I also like having my work around all the time (see issues about work/life balance below) so I can be doing stuff whilst watching TV or when I have an odd moment.  I like my studio messy, I like to have piles of stuff everywhere and bits of paper around.  I find hunting for things and going through piles of old papers is a good source of inspiration and can lead me down a path I may never thought of, and I often see new things in pictures I have previously discarded. I enjoy the hunt for things, so if all my stuff was neatly filed it wouldn't be so much fun.

How do you maintain balance in your life between work and play? 
I'm not sure I always do, its hard to separate my work from the rest of me.  I can often be found watching TV of an evening drawing away.  I do find it hard to take a day off, even to go to galleries, which is technically work, and do need to get better at that.  I think my boyfriend worries about me working full time as an artist, as for 3 days a week I have some structure to my day where I do something else, I think he thinks that when I'm doing my art full time I'll disappear into my own paper world.  I exercise regularly, which gets me out the house.  Doing what I do involves being alone a lot so its important to strike a balance between that and communicating with people. But essentially I am my work so its hard to separate from that, and I'm not sure I want to.

How do you work through those creative slumps we all have from time to time?
I think they are unavoidable, and necessary as they usually lead to some kind of break through.  They are still annoying though, I try to relax and not worry too much and get on with admin stuff, do exhibition submissions, search through flikr for interesting images, go looking on ebay for maps, go to galleries or to meet friends and also tidying up my studio and looking at previous work, and images that I have collected and usually something comes up that gets me back to work.

What has been inspiring you lately?
Spring is a very inspiring time, I walk through a park every morning when I go to work and the the new life is so exciting to see. I've also been getting in to reading a lot of blogs and its so inspiring to see all the amazing things that people make and do out there.  The V&A is always a place I go for inspiration, just love wandering around their galleries

How do you get the word out about your work?
I have built up quite a big mailing list and try to send emails out at least once a month with info about shows. Having my website is also vital, its a great too to advertise yourself.  I've been lucky to be in several magazines, which came about by just sending information to them.  I have just set up an Etsy shop and think I'm going to set up a blog, just getting in to the whole online thing, and want to do more with my online presence, though am not very good with facebook or twittering, but think a blog will be good way to show a different side of my work and other inspirations.

What's your definition of the perfect day?
The day that Tate call me up to invite me to show there!  or a day in the studio, where ideas are flowing and much progress is made, followed by dinner with friends would probably do, oh and some sales would be nice too.

You can see more of Claire's work on her website


Grace & Favour Home said...

I saw Claire's work at the Paper Works exhibition at the Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey and it is some of the most beautiful work I've ever seen, even better in person!! Lovely to see some more information on her background and ways of working!

Heather Leavers said...

fantastic - I'm going off to lookat more of Claire's work.