I joined Travers as a trainee in 1995 and qualified into the Tax Department, eventually specialising in funds and venture capital work.
I am now an artist living and working in the heart of the wild and beautiful Northumberland National Park, having returned to what was my parents’ home, in a landscape which is a constant source of inspiration. I am grounded here, and much of my work and the imagery I use is linked to it - to my memories of it, as well as my daily experience of it.
After nine years at Travers I decided I needed a change – and not just a small change. I left the firm, left the law, left London and went back to school! Spending a year on an Art Foundation course was brilliant. I had done art as an A Level but it had been very narrowly focused on drawing and painting.
At Art College I got the chance to explore ceramics, graphic design and textiles, and in the end it was textiles and particularly stitched textiles that I found I wanted to pursue. I carried on to do a degree in embroidery at Manchester, with my final degree show work being a series of sculptural books – some stitched and some with cut pages. These then took me into bookbinding and I now describe myself as a maker of artist’s books and work in cut paper.
I also use half-remembered lines of songs and poems, so that text forms an integral part of my books and cut paper pieces, shaping their form in the process. In all my work I am seeking to find that perfect marriage of form and content and I use a wide range of processes, including stitching, traditional bookbinding, hand painting, printing, and hand and machine cutting. I use and embrace technology, but whatever I am working on starts life as a drawing or a hand cut (for which I use a scalpel), or both. I try to keep a sketchbook on the go all the time, to record the world around me, as much of my work incorporates so much of the hedgerow flora and fauna to be found in the glorious National Park where I now live.
As someone who has always loved books and reading, I have always been captivated by the physical presence of books, and now being able to make them myself I can express that sense of the way a book can contain whole worlds of imagination.
My working life is very varied. I undertake residencies and gallery work, making large-scale pieces and installations. The largest papercut I have done so far was three metres long and took a month to plan and complete, being entirely cut by hand. I also work to commission, incorporating my clients’ favourite pieces of text in hand cut and painted pieces, often commissioned to commemorate special occasions. I run workshops and courses on papercutting and artist’s books as well as occasionally working as a tutor at colleges and other venues. I also design and make smaller more commercial work for sale, via www.madebyhandonline.com and through galleries and gallery shops.
Being an artist may seem a long way from being a lawyer, but the ability to think creatively and flexibly to spot what might not be obvious, and to be able to see not just the detail but the bigger picture are skills that I developed as a lawyer and have been tremendously useful as an artist. Not to mention the ability to work to deadlines and be organised! My time at Travers gave me the skills and confidence to change direction and do something I had always wanted to do – and it also gave me some wonderful enduring friendships.