Behind the Craft

Naomi Jones talks to paper artist Rebecca J Coles about her work, what inspires her and her favourite creations.

Rebecca in her studio; Large Blue by Rebecca J Coles
ABOVE (left-right): Rebecca enjoys working from the comfort of her home studio; Large Blue leads the eye to the lone central butterfly.

How would you sum up what you do?
My work focuses on recycling paper and reinventing insect cataloguing and display to create decorative pieces.

Have you always been interested in an artistic career?
Yes, I’m at my happiest when making things. My mother was an infant school teacher and from an early age she filled my imagination with creative projects.

Apart from your mother, who has been your greatest influence?
Fashion designer Jessica Ogden; her colour palettes are beautiful, and she’s known for reworking and recycling old fabrics with an element of handicraft.

Did you go to art school?
I did a BA (Hons) in Textiles at Winchester School of Art; then an MA in Constructed Textiles at The Royal College of Art.

How did you make the switch to paper?
I’ve always enjoyed cutting up paper, and in my sketchbooks I would have sections cut out to reveal other layers. When I graduated I created a look book for magazines to illustrate my textiles and I used paper art as the background design. After a few years spent renovating a house, I returned to that idea and I began to cut out butterfly silhouettes from magazine images that I found interesting; my work has stemmed from that.

Wallpaper01 ; Oberthur’s Grizzled Skipper ; the centre of Fiery Skipper, all by Rebecca J Coles
ABOVE (left-right): Wallpaper01 features clusters of butterflies; look carefully at Oberthur’s Grizzled Skipper and you’ll see the printed text and images from Rebecca’s source material; the centre of Fiery Skipper has vibrancy of colour.

What inspires your designs?
The paper I use; whether sourced from magazines, wallpaper or stamps. I start by developing a colour story, decide on a shape, and then let my work grow organically.

Which creations are you most proud of?
The wallpaper series, because you can paper a room with a piece of art and make the wall come to life. My stamps series is getting a very positive response, too; I tend to use neutral colour palettes, but the stamps are vibrant.

Do you have your own studio?
Yes, I have a room in my home in Somerset; my craft can spread throughout the house, but I can hide it out of sight if need be.

What are the benefits of working from home?
The company of my dog, music or television; and I can pop the kettle on whenever I want.

Have you had any unusual commissions?
Yes, I’ve been asked to come up with a gift for a first wedding anniversary – using the paper tissue the bride wiped her tears with.

What advice would you give others who want to be more creative?
You can gain inspiration from anything, so absorb what you enjoy, and then use just that.