Profile: collage artist Laura Redburn
Collage artist and illustrator, Laura Red burn, aka Cardboard Cities, shares the creative process of playing with pre-printed paper.
How did you get into collage?
It was something I originally had a go at at college. We were studying German Dada artist Kurt Schwitters and I was really inspired by him. He developed a collage style he called Merz Pictures. Merz is a nonsense word he invented and the work was all based on scavenged scrap materials.
I studied graphic design at college, and one of our projects was developing brand packaging for a made-up cereal company. I was in my element photocopying wheat field images and layering them together to create a background for logos and typography. I just fell in love with the process of gathering and combining images.
What is it about the medium that most appeals to you?
For me it’s all about creating something brand new out of something else. Reappropriating other materials, finding things and giving them a different meaning. I love the recycling and reusing element. A lot of magazines and newspapers get thrown away and I’d much rather make something from them before they go out in the bin or the recycling. I love discovering things that might otherwise be ignored. Sometimes it’s even just a section of an image that others probably wouldn’t notice the beauty in.
Is your technique very structured or is the nature of collage a bit looser in style?
Pretty much from the beginning I’ve always worked very organically. Other artists may be different but I try not to ever force an idea. I let it come out as it wants to. It’s hard to describe the process but I guess that’s the nature with art – it’s often hard to put creative whims into words!
Do you ever use found objects in your work?
I do sometimes – I like the idea of using more unusual objects – something I really like the idea of is using dried flowers. It’s something I want to experiment with more. But generally, I have loads of folders and boxes of cuttings from magazines, greetings cards and other papery stuff. On my computer I’ve got folders within folders with the bulk of what’s useful to me – so for instance, I’ve got a ‘nature’ folder with subfolders of ‘skies’, ‘landscapes’, ‘animals’… Lots of typography
images – that’s mainly just for inspiration though. Something to refer to in order to make something else.
Do you have any creative rituals?
I wouldn’t describe the rituals themselves as creative but they get me in a creative place. When I’m getting ready to work, I clear the floor so I can spread everything out. This is important if I don’t have a set idea of what I want to do. I look through the images from my folders and make piles of inspiring ones on the floor. I always have the TV or radio on in the background but it has to be something I’m not that interested in so I don’t get distracted! Having background noise and the feel of someone else being there gets me in a meditative state.
What’s been your favourite project to work on so far?
Definitely working with hairdressing brand, Toni & Guy. They asked me to join them on the campaign shoot with the hair models in London so I could help with the art direction, seeing as I was going to be collaging with the images they shot. It helped me feel really involved in the project and the challenge of it was exciting. Generally when I’m commissioned, companies will already have imagery for me to use, or they’re happy for me to use my own, but I felt like I was an integral part of the project from the start and that was a nice change!
What do you do to stay inspired?
My main method of relaxation is going for a long walk, and I always take my camera. Even if there’s no real purpose to it, it helps me get away from my thoughts, what I’m working on or not working on! I’m inspired by lots of things. When I go out I’m not trying to find anything in particular, I’m just keeping an eye out for anything interesting.
Over the years I’ve trained my eye to pick out and record the things I like – a pleasing colour combination for instance, or interesting shapes. Being more mindful in this way really helps with my work. Colour really is one of the most inspiring parts of my life, though. You can leap to other ideas just from looking at beautiful colours sitting together.
What books or podcasts are you enjoying at the moment?
I like Sara Tasker’s Me and Orla podcast and The Fringe Of It by Liv Purvis and Charlotte Jacklin. Generally, I prefer looking at photography and art books rather than reading. I’m much more of a visual person. Having said that, there have been times in my life where all I’ve done is read! I go through phases and I think it’s important to allow yourself to dip into things or let them go for a while and not force anything.
Where do you have your best ideas?
Definitely when I’m out and about taking a long walk and when I’m looking through the camera lens. I try my best to switch off – solutions often just pop into your head when you park your problems to one side. It’s very healthy to let your brain wander now and again.