Last week, during the 10-day PhD writing lock down period (I got feedback today that I’ll write about tomorrow…in a word “solid”), I took an interlude to facilitate an ‘Introduction to Papercutting’ workshop at Civic Arts Centre in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire (apparently and very randomly home to the world’s largest pear drop that I tried to hunt for but couldn’t find. I want to know what it looks like!).
Workshops give me needed break from PhD land where I get the chance to return to my creative practice (to some basic degree anyway) and back to teaching…things I’ll definitely be doing more of once I become Dr. Marsden. I’m already 14,025 words closer. I was told the session was to be with a group of approximately 15 people, but on the day more and more people flooded through the door making it up to 22 in total. I’d never worked with a group of this size before (in a workshop sense, I have in teaching)…and I was not prepared at all but embraced the slight chaos. I’d come with enough resources and materials for 15…there weren’t enough knives or cutting mats but somehow we worked through it together. Also the paper knives I’d bought back from China kept on breaking…so frustrating and a little embarrassing. You get what you pay for that’s all I’ll say.
Papercutting is a skill that I picked up during my China days, specifically from artist and good friend Chen Hangfeng. It’s a pretty simplistic process, actually quite satisfying, producing visually articulate results. It’s quite a cathartic process too, as with many traditional Chinese crafts…endurance-based, engaged, precise, isolated, intricate, and a little from the soul, well quite a lot really as you work so closely with your tools. Most of the participants that day had never done papercutting before. As always, it’s great to be able to pass on new skills to people and they really were a great group of ladies (and one gent!) to work with. I’ll be keeping in touch with a few of them.
So here’s what they got up to…beautiful right? The first photo is my favourite image from the day created by Kerris. It kind of epitomizes China for me right now, in a pure, fragile, semi-opaque memory state of mind. I’ve missed China the past week or so as its been Chinese New Year. More so missing the firework bonanza that is this time of year, the celebrations with my Chinese family. Wishing them and all of you 新年快乐! Happy New Year! Here’s to the year of the snake…
I assume you’ve been to see the exhibition at Manchester Museum which people have been raving about?
Yes I have, its ended now, one of the best paper shows I’ve seen. A few of the participants in the workshop had been too and were inspired to start working with paper. Happy New Year to you Jennifer, I hope all is well with you. R
You must have seen some contemporary Chinese papercut work (as well as all the traditional type). I saw an exhibition in Beijing of work by Qiao Xiaoguang, which was stunning – and actually made me sign up for some papercutting lessons while I was in China. So I’m finding it interesting to see it now being accepted and developed in the west as one more interesting medium. Here, I recently saw some of Tom Gallant’s work – and loved it. A while back (in the Bilston gallery), I saw very big papercut work by Berdien Nieuwenhuizen. Or is it just that concepts of ways of working are so much more open and that artists are pushing the boundaries of every possible medium?
I’ve been following your blog since going to one of your bookmaking workshops in Wolverhampton. A year ago I actually turned into a part-time art student – and am using the book I made then as a sketchbook at the moment. It’s a first to be using one of your own books as a sketchbook. Your influence through these classes you teach carries on in ways you probably never expect.
Yes I did see so much in the way of paper arts as a whole when I was in China, an artist friend Chen Hangfeng taught me a lot. I haven’t actually heard of the artists you mentioned so its great to come across them. Bilston is actually having another paper show soon and commissioning a papercutting artist to create a new piece. I’ll be doing some workshops with them there in July.
It’s really special to hear how my creativity gets passed on and lives on in the future and I am so pleased that you take the time to read my often whimsical words and to leave comments. Thank you Jennifer!