This week we nervously caught up with knife-wielding paper artist Laura Miles to talk sequins, Elvis-obessions, brachiosaurus and other such inspirations.
Who are you?
By day, I am the chief reporter at the Observer newspaper series and a feature writer for etc Magazine, by night I am a papercutter, but you can call me Laura.
What type of artist are you?
To be honest I’m still working that out. I’ve always been a craft magpie and my day job has meant I have been fortunate enough to meet, interview and learn from the likes of bra makers, clay pig crafters and calligraphy artists.
However paper, at work and play, seems to be the obsession I can’t shake and my current collection of handcut creations and screenprints reflect that.
Do you have a background in art/design – when did you first start your creative journey?
I find making things a bit compulsive. If I’m put in charge of Secret Santa the chances are I’ll make the gift-box into a cardboard reindeer and it will be me, not my young cousins, who will insist on building a fort.
Having always been encouraged to follow my passions, I studied fine art up to degree level undertaking a combined honours course with English literature in Liverpool.
I’ve spent the last eight years with more of a focus on the words side. On a good day the two come together and I get to write about artists, on a bad day it might be a three hour meeting on council tax, but I can’t complain on the variety front.
My current creative path started when I wasn’t able to find the perfect present for a glitter-loving, Elvis-obsessed, dog-mum friend of mine – so I made one. It was a portrait of her beloved pet pooch Rocky created from layers including gold sequins and a sheet of the Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog music score (obviously).
A year or so later I took a papercutting class, I guess I was curious to see what else was possible, but life – and getting engaged – meant I was soon swept up in other things. Then, the following summer, I was struggling to work out how to decorate the tables for our wedding so dusted off my scalpel set again. With our theme being ‘favourite things’ this saw me papercut little signs for each; dinosaur, Marmite, Harry Potter, Portsmouth Football Club, Lego and tea. I don’t know how many brides have been upstaged on their big day by a T-Rex but I think I came close, as that papercut proved really popular with friends putting in requests before I’d even got my dress dry-cleaned. I suppose I knew then that I might be on to something.
That feeling, coupled with turning the big 3-0 and a long-held promise to myself that I would take part in the trail one day is how I find myself here.
Can you describe your creative process?
With my scenic pieces I mostly work from my own photographs or ones taken by my lovely and supportive mum. I use these to create line drawing sketches which I then flip to create a template as I cut the paper from the back using my surgical scalpel.
My jars and dinosaur ranges started life as the table signs for my wedding.
I’ve added ‘pump up the jam’ and ‘honey I’m home’ along side the Marmite (the writer in me does love a good pun) while my dinosaur consultant – aka Evie my friend’s three-year-old daughter – asked for a brachiosaurus and pterodactyl to join the t-rex, who am I to disagree?
What do you enjoy most about the process?
The possibilities. To be able to start with something as everyday as a sheet of paper and turn it into a sailing club or prehistoric beast using just a blade feels a bit like wizardry each time I do it.
Seeing as my journey started with needing a gift, I feel really honoured to have now helped other people find the perfect presents by turning their ideas into bespoke artworks. New baby announcements have proved popular and so far range from safari animals hitching a lift in a hot air balloon to a walk through the Gruffalo forest.
I love the challenges papercutting poses, translating the solid and three-dimensional into something so delicate, and how it manages to somehow be both simple and complex at the same time.
But most of all I adore the shadows the finished pieces make, if the knife is my paint brush and the paper is my canvas the shadows are all the paint I have – they animate the page and hopefully make people look at sheets of A4 in a new way.
Can you describe your studio/workspace?
Imagine there was an explosion at Hobbycraft and then someone hastried to neatly file the aftermath into a box bedroom.
What keeps you going whilst you work – soundtrack? Snacks? A fluffy assistant?
Tea and Beyonce.
What can we expect to see from you on this years’ art trail?
It will be a tale of two very different styles – with the fun, pop-art and technicolour cuts and prints on one side and the scenic, sensible and sedate landscapes on the other.
And, somewhere in the middle, I’ll be papercutting so you can see how it is done.