How I Started Making Paper Flora and Fauna
I feel like I’ve lived in the countryside my whole life but talking to a friend at the weekend I realised it’s only been 8 years. The other 30 I spent living in Bristol, starting in the suburbs when I was a child and moving into the centre when I started University and moved in with friends. I have always been curious about nature which probably has something to do with it. Even when I lived in a flat with no garden, surrounded by concrete and cars I was trying to grow things in planters on the front door step, trying hard not to lose that connection with the natural world.
I grew up along the Portway, a dual carriageway that follows the river Avon and takes you from Avonmouth straight to the city centre. You could cross under the Portway and follow the river pathways that led to woodland, reed beds and fields full of wild life which I walked with my mum and brother a lot. My Mum gave us both old ice cream tubs which she would encourage us to collect things in and take them home to look at and draw or write about. We would spread our collections out on the table and see what each other had found. My collections would often be of tiny things and my brother would usually have found something that had died recently. I really enjoyed lining things up and categorising them and making lists of the things I’d collected. This isn't all we did, we also played computer games and argued over whether we should watch CBBC or kids ITV, but it was this that started my fascination with nature and is something I still do now when I'm looking for some creative inspiration.
In 2014 my husband and I moved to Radnorshire in Wales with our two children. We moved back to the area where he had grown up and found a house with a small patch of land in the middle of nowhere. It is quite idyllic and I really do appreciate how lucky we were to find such a place, particularly as it was moving here that really inspired me to start creating sculptures of the things I collected.
As an adult I now found these items often had important memories of people and places attached to them and I wanted to be able to capture this somehow. I started trying to make 3D versions of the things I’d found, studying the collections carefully and working out shapes and templates with old scraps of paper. I chose paper as it was a medium I had used a lot when I was at university studying Graphic Design, so already had some experience of. As I experimented I realised it lent itself well to the shapes and textures of plants and insects so stuck with it. I branched out into more exotic plants and insects that I’d discovered in books or on wildlife documentaries working from photographs and descriptions in texts. It was like being a child again, discovering new things, lining them up and creating lists! It was also fascinating to see what my children would gather and how all our collections from the same walks would be completely unique.
My work has steadily grown from there, exploring different aspects of the natural world and our connections to them. I love all the colours, shapes, patterns and textures of different species, but the thing that most inspires me is their background; where they live, how they grow and how they are connected to all the other plants and insects around them. It’s these connections that inspire the collections and dioramas I create. Each piece has a story behind it, whether its about the connections between the species displayed or the memories of the people who found them.