An interview with designer maker Jennifer CollierAn interview with designer maker Jennifer CollierAn interview with designer maker Jennifer CollierAn interview with designer maker Jennifer CollierAn interview with designer maker Jennifer Collier

An interview with designer maker Jennifer Collier

Jennifer creates a fantastical world, where every exquisite detail is made and manipulated from paper. Once books, maps, envelops or scrap, the paper is transformed into textural forms. Like cloth it is stitched to construct three dimensional household objects. The origin of the papers provides a starting point: the narrative of the books and papers suggesting idea and form. Design-Nation asked her a few questions about her practice, inspiration and future.

Design-Nation asked: Can you tell us about your practice and how your business began?

Jennifer Collier: I create exquisite sculptures from vintage recycled materials in conjunction with stitch; a contemporary twist on traditional textiles. The papers serve as both the inspiration and the media for the work, with the narrative suggesting the forms. Through this marriage of unlikely materials old papers are transformed into something truly unique, delicate and complex.
Most recently I have been collecting rarely used, heritage stitches and discovering how to translate the art of lost stitches onto paper, as these techniques are an important part of our creative heritage and I want to continue to invest time in them to keep them in the present, offering them onto future generations; giving new life to things that would otherwise go unused, unloved or be thrown away…
I originally trained in textiles completing a BA (hons) Textiles, at Manchester Metropolitan University, in 1999. This was a traditional textiles course specialising in Print, Knit and Weave. Toward the end of the course I started experimenting with different materials, weaving with orange peel, melting fruit bags; all manner of things my tutors did not approve of. I honestly believe the best way to learn is by not being afraid to make mistakes, this way you allow yourself to have happy accidents. All of the techniques I use in my work now are things I have taught myself since graduating by experimenting with different media and techniques.

My course was geared towards preparing it students for industry, but I realised fairly early on this wasn’t what I wanted to do, and that I wanted to make every piece with my own hands. So when I graduated I applied for residencies and my first one was at a gallery in Northwich. This threw me into making and selling my own work and undertaking art workshops, which was perfect at this transitional stage in my career. The next residency I did was at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester (where my work is STILL on display 13 years after finishing!), as part of the North West Arts Boards 'Setting Up Scheme'. This gave me a free studio, as well as a maintenance and equipment grants, so I had money and time to set up by business when I was starting out.

DN: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?

JC: Renowned textile artist Amanda Clayton was my tutor on my foundation course; I honestly believe that if it were not for her I would never have developed a love for stitch (or be brave enough to ‘drive’ a sewing machine). Until that point I had assumed I would be a fine artist, as all my A-level course had offered was drawing and painting, but luckily I met Mandy and she showed me the many facets of what textiles could be and she was always very patient, no matter how many needles I snapped!

DN: What inspires you and your work?

JC: The papers themselves are my main inspiration; for years I was always trying to emulate the qualities of papers, and it got to the point where it just made sense for them to become the material for my work as well as the inspiration for it. The papers determine what they will be transformed into, such as a paper sewing machine out of dress making patterns, or a camera out of vintage photographs. My practice focuses on creating work from paper; I produce unusual paper ‘fabrics’, which are used to explore the ‘remaking’ of household objects. I enjoy nothing more than finding a cook book splattered with food stains or a water damaged paperback that I can save from land fill and transform into something beautiful.

DN: Can you tell us a bit about your design process?

JC: I will find the papers then find a way in which they can be transformed and given new life. Sometimes I may have the papers for years before I am brave enough to use them, or have decided their function. The papers are treated as if cloth, with the main technique employed being stitch; a contemporary twist on traditional textiles. My way of working is essentially still based on the processes of my past work and my textiles training- making a pattern, producing a toile to check the pattern or template ‘works’ and then creating the ‘real’ piece of work from beautiful found and recycled papers. In layman’s terms it is a bit like then you draw the net of a box from scratch, cut it out, fold and construct it; but mine are just much more complicated shapes….

DN: What is your workspace like?

JC: I work from my own gallery and workshop space, Unit Twelve (www.unittwelve.co.uk), which I set up in 2010. Unit Twelve hosts a regularly changing programme of themed, high quality contemporary craft exhibitions. We also have a rolling programme of art workshops run by myself, and once a month we host a visiting artist’s workshop, from one of the exhibiting artists to tie into the exhibition. We are also offer group bookings, private parties and host about one school artwork per week. The space also has 6 artists studio spaces, which is where I work from, along with 5 other craft makers. The gallery is open Thurs-Sat, 10-4pm, but I tend to be their everyday.

DN: Do you work hard on your PR or do you work with others on marketing?

JC: I do work hard on publicity, and have to do this for my own practice and Unit Twelve, so am currently managing 6 different social media accounts! I chose to this myself as this is an aspect I enjoy and have found I am good at. I have been fortunate with my PR over the years and have had my work in over 60 periodicals and 15 books to date!

DN: What are the main challenges in your practice?

JC: Time! As I have a ‘portfolio career’, juggling commissions, art workshops, residencies exhibitions and craft fairs, as well as scheduling and curating exhibitions at my gallery, Unit Twelve, managing the workshop programme, and contracting artists, being both the land lord and staff at the gallery is a lot for one person to do. I would love to have more time to create new work, but I have so many constraints on my time I have to focus on which is most pressing at the time, and obviously what generates income!

DN: Where would you like your practice to be in 10 years?

JC: That is an extremely hard question, as on paper I am actually doing everything I have ever dreamed of- I have a sustainable, viable business, creating bespoke, one off pieces, I am able to be choosy as to what projects I take on, and I have my own gallery and art workshop space where people can come to me to undertake art workshops, as well as created a vibrate artists community to base my studio at …

I would love to continue to work on bigger and more adventurous National Trust projects, and many more site specific commissions. I love working with paper archives, so hope to continue with this line of work.

DN: If you could collaborate with someone who would you like that to be?

JC: I have a few things in the pipeline, but it is too early to say anything about them other than watch this space…..

DN: If you weren't a designer what would you be?

JC: NO idea!

DN: Why did you join Design Nation? What do you enjoy and find helpful from being a member?

JC: To be part of a recognised organisation and to have a peer support network

DN: Are there any exhibitions, commissions or events coming up or that you are currently taking part in?

JC: I have a solo exhibition opening at Focus Gallery in Nottingham that I won in the Design Factory Awards, which runs 2nd March- 14th April 2018.

I have just installed a public art commission at Packwood House in Solihull, where I have created 30+ WW1 Observation Balloons from WW1 diary pages from this National Trust Properties owner. This will be on public display until Christmas.

I am also currently undertaking a public art commission for the Scribblers Children’s Literature and Arts Festival, in Western Australia, where I am making a paper typewriter from newspapers provided by the events sponsors.

Interview by Rhea Clements

Posted on
19.03.2018

An interview with Ann PoveyAn interview with Ann PoveyAn interview with Ann PoveyAn interview with Ann Povey

An interview with Ann Povey

Ann Povey  is a Lincoln-based designer maker who works mainly with a combination of metal, ceramics and found objects. Design-Nation asked her a few questions about her practice, inspiration and future.

Design-Nation asked: Can you tell us about your practice and how your business began?

Ann Povey: My business began in 1999 when I graduated with a BA Hons in Contemporary Craft.  It has been part time since then as I have worked full time at the University of Lincoln since 2000 as Senior Technician, however from June this year I shall be a full time designer maker.

I worked initially with fused and kiln formed glass and metal as a supporting material. Later I introduced ceramics and when I completed an MA in Design in 2005 I worked with metals and ceramics only. I then introduced found objects after discovering a small hoard of items that once belonged to my Great Uncle Lewis and that find changed the way I work.

My practice is inspired by my own personal childhood memories; I remember such wonderful adventures, days out, fun and antics, hard work, animals and lots of walking, running and playing, domestic simplicity and an outdoor farm life, no matter what the weather.

The items I found in the biscuit tin owned by Uncle Lewis evoked all those memories, brought back the idyllic times I remembered and I thought if they could do that for me perhaps it would work for others. I now use lost, unwanted and discarded items in my work, objects that inspire and influence.

DN: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?

AP: There hasn't been one particular person who has influenced my work and the way I work, other than those close to me. During my initial studies I was taught by a series of wonderful tutors who changed the way I saw the world. Since then (1994-96) I have never looked back, I have met some wonderful teachers, designer makers, students and technicians all of whom have had an effect on me and my work.

DN: What inspires you and your work?

AP: With regard to the spoons; it all starts with the object.....the handle, I then make a paper template of the proposed spoon/tool/utensil shape that works well with the handle. I work in batches of 10 to 30 at a time. When it is the perfect form I cut this from sheet metal, copper or sterling silver, using a piercing saw and blade, the cut out form is heated to annealing temperature then shaped, cleaned and polished. The bowls are then enamelled or textured and patinated. The spoons are then attached to the handles by various means.

The ceramics; these are coil-built using porcelain, fired to 1000 degrees centigrade, glazed and fired to 1220 degrees and then gold lustre is applied and the pots are re-fired to 810 degrees. Often they are given a found object to sit on or are fitted with a lost and lonely teapot lid.

DN: What is your workspace like?

AP: I have just moved out of my lovely little shed in the garden and into the reformed garage. I was lucky to have a brick built double garage down the bottom of the garden, it has taken five years in total to redo the roof, remove the garage doors and brick that up and replace the old windows with a new double glazed one, new electrics, panelling the walls and ceiling, insulating and decorating. Not to mention saving for the equipment I need to do this work. Finally it was finished and I moved in early in the New Year. I love it.

DN: Do you work hard on your PR or do you work with others on marketing?

AP: I do post images of work on social media but otherwise I am not proficient at PR. My website was redone a while ago and now needs updating again, my son in law helps me with this aspect.

DN: What are the main challenges in your practice?

AP: Keeping it fresh and alive, current and available.

DN: Where would you like your practice to be in 10 years?

AP: I would love my practice to have developed further and feel confident that my work can stand up for itself in an ever growing market of high standard craft.

DN: If you could collaborate with someone who would you like that to be?

AP: Oh gosh, I admire lots of other designer makers and have worked with some great people in the past. I do have a few craft heroes - Jo Pond and Samantha Bryan. But I love the work of Lauren Bell Brown and think that her jewellery is inspirational.

DN: If you weren't a designer what would you be?

AP: I always wanted to be a vet, but I was told at school that I wasn't clever enough!!! Different times. 

DN: Why did you join Design Nation? What do you enjoy and find helpful from being a member?

AP: I joined as a Design Factory member many years ago and now DF has merged with Design Nation. I joined initially because I felt the mentorship, advice and guidance would help me as a new designer maker. It was great being part of a group and this group has expanded and progressed. I enjoy the events, exhibitions and shared stands at trade fairs that Design Nation promotes and organises. It is a community of makers who all need and benefit from Design Nation's support.

DN: Are there any exhibitions, commissions or events coming up or that you are currently taking part in?

AP: I am presently in "Meraki" at Heart Gallery until 22April; BCTF Harrogate with Design Nation 8-10 April; "Collections" at Sunny Bank Mill 22April – 17 June and The Old Lock Up Gallery Derbyshire from March onwards. I sell my work through www.madebyhandonline.co.uk

 

Interview by Laura Jacometti

Posted on
26.02.2018