Artist on File: Suzy Taylor
This month Clare Kendal Bate interviewed HVA Member Suzy Taylor, Paper Cutting Artist.
Suzy Taylor welcomed me into her home and studio in Bushey to investigate the skilful art of paper cutting. When arranging our meeting Suzy mentioned that the family had a new rescue kitten, but I had temporarily forgotten until the charming little Tinkerbell (Tink for short) came bouncing towards me. She kept us laughing with her antics and then finally curled up on the sofa next to us whilst Suzy and I talked.
Paper cutting is an ancient art that originated in China over 1500 years ago. The materials used to create this traditional folk art are few; a specialised black paper, which is white on the back, called silhouette paper, a pencil and a craft knife. Suzy draws her designs by hand on the back of the paper and meticulously cuts out the intricate patterns. The essential materials may be small in number but the results are phenomenal in the right hands.
I find Suzy’s work appealing and have considerable admiration for her patience and precision. When you examine a piece such as ‘The Sugar Skull’ and trace the intricate patterns, it dawns on you how complicated and exacting this art can be. ‘It took me about 50 hours to complete the skeleton face, it was physically and mentally demanding. I think I gave myself RSI making it!’ I read Suzy’s blog and noticed a telling comment on the making of this piece which asked, “did your hand fall off yet?” The result of this intensive work was worth every hour as the delicate and labyrinthine design is beautiful.
Suzy grew up in Stanmore and took an Art ‘A’ level at North London Collegiate School ‘It was an academic school and being an artist was not encouraged in those days.’ She read Comparative American History and Literature at Warwick University and afterwards signed up for an Art College foundation course at the Chelsea College of Art. ‘A 3 year art course didn’t appeal to me. I felt they would want me to be wild and whacky and that just wasn’t me.’ During this time she lived with her sister in Swiss Cottage. Suzy initially did some secretarial/PA work, but had a strong desire to work in a more creative environment and took a job as a graphic designer.
Married with three children, Suzy lived in Finchley for 15 years before moving to Bushey a year ago. I asked whether an artistic streak ran in their family: ‘My Mum is a good artist using acrylics and watercolours; one of my Sisters is an osteopath but she is also a gifted quilter. I was always encouraged to draw and can’t remember when I didn’t.’
A folksy theme runs through her artwork and Suzy has a special interest in North and South American crafts. She first came across Huichol art whilst visiting relatives in Arizona and developed a special interest in their Mexican masks.
The masks are made of papier mache and coated with beeswax. Coloured seed beads are then pressed into the wax to make intricate patterns. I thought this work of Suzy’s was especially gorgeous.
Suzy has been running her internet business from home for many years and began her online venture making bespoke holders for prayer scrolls, called Mezuzot, crafted in polymer clay.
The enterprise was very successful and she was busy supplying synagogues and schools in the UK, USA and Canada for about 10 years.
‘I found that working from my studio at home and trading online suited my family lifestyle’.
For a few years she concentrated on creating mosaics as well but after her third child was born she says, 'I wasn’t comfortable risking shards of glass flying everywhere so decided to take up papercutting. I became inspired by the art through a book I owned.
Although this newly acquired craft was supposed to be a side business to my original project, it turned out to be the other way around. It took me 3 years to perfect my work to a standard I was happy with and I now concentrate solely on the papercutting business.’
That was 5 and a half years ago and I can see that Suzy is certainly gifted with the artistry and precision this craft requires. I loved the works Horse in Woodland, Travellers Inn and Oak and Ivy Heart.
Earlier this year Suzy was asked to design the poster publicising the Lord Mayor’s Show in the City of London, which took place in November. She was approached by the Mayor’s office to take part in a selection process after they saw her work online and the incoming Mayor, Roger Gifford, was given a selection of artists to choose from. ‘In Finchley we were neighbours with a previous Lord Mayor, who invited us to a Mansion House tea. I would never imagine that I would be one day chosen to design a poster for another Lord Mayor.’
In consulting about the theme of the poster, there were various representations the incoming Lord Mayor wanted to be included, such as a Dick Whittington, animals including a pig, a snake and some chickens... there was even a haggis! Amongst a plethora of other images was an apothecary, rhino, a coats of arms and a wonderful horse drawn carriage. The work is ornate and Suzy said, ‘the stylised silhouettes were overlapped to give movement and took all summer to complete.’
Commissions, Exhibitions and Courses
Suzy is regularly commissioned to produce one-off pieces for clients such as designing the CD cover for a Birmingham-based jazz band called the TG Collective.
For the last three years Suzy has exhibited in the Art Fair at the Royal Windsor Racecourse and last month she sold her work in an event at the Wisley Royal Horticultural Society in Surrey. All her art can be bought on-line, see below, including Cards at £2.75 and Prints for around £20. Suzy original art work can range up to £1500.
Suzy teaches an all day workshop at her home studio in Bushey for up to 10 people at a time and it costs £65 including lunch. The next course will be in January 2013, so if you are interested in trying your hand at the art of papercutting or in taking any future classes, please join her mailing list via the email address below.
Tel: 01923 800095 / Mobile: 07932 774845
by CLARE KENDAL BATE