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.

Project Calm - - Contents -

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.

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