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Meet The Makers: Lydia Kasumi Shirreff

Next up in our meet the makers series is London based paper artist, Lydia Shirreff. Looking for minimalistic style with a big impact? She’s the one.


What is a paper artist and what do you create?

A paper artist makes art with paper. For nearly ten years now I’ve worked exclusively with paper; I get commissioned for magazine editorials, shop window displays, advertising and events. These commissions cover a whole range of subjects and sizes but recently I’ve got back into pattern making and geometric design.

How did you first become a ‘paper priestess’?

This title was bestowed on me by one of my friends and I absolutely love it. I try not to take this ever-so-serious job so seriously.

What is the best project you’ve worked on?

I’m not sure what the best would be.. I think my most fulfilling jobs are ones that take me the longest because it’s quite rare for me to get enough time to commit to a long project. I’ve just finished a deck of playing cards and that involved 54 individual designs, I haven’t got them printed yet but they have the potential for being pretty good.

What inspires your work?

I draw a lot of inspiration from colour combinations, brutalist and modernist architecture, paintings, photographs.. At the moment I’ve found myself going back over old sketchbooks and revisiting old ideas that I never had time to explore properly.

Who are your favorite artists?

I’ve always loved installation artists and sculptors, anything with strong lines or a bright colour - Olafur Eliasson has always been a favourite, Rachel Whiteread, Cornelia Parker, Donald Judd, Mary Martin, and for colour and pattern you can’t beat Victor Vasarely, I was a fan of him from a very young age. When I was in Uni we went on a trip to London to see Roger Hiorns’ council flat filled with copper sulphate crystals. I think about that at least once a month - I love an artwork that becomes an experience. 

How have you found lockdown & what have you learnt about yourself during this time?

I’ve got a lot less work on so I’ve found the break from deadlines and expectations quite a relief, although that comes with the worry of never getting another job again.. I think I’ve become a bit more forgiving with myself, I’m trying not to give myself a hard time if I don’t get much done in a day, trying to learn to just chill out. But I’m also full of frustration for not being able to do what I’d like to. I guess that’s lockdown life, ups and downs.

What do you love about your craft?

I’m still very intrigued by paper. Even though you’d think I’d worked it to death, I still find new techniques, new ways of working that surprise me. It’s a very versatile, forgiving material.

What’s the most intricate sculpture you’ve created?

The trainer I made a couple of years ago was probably my most intricate piece. It took months in between jobs to finish and needed a lot of tricky 3D planning to get the form right. The original is made from corduroy fabric and I replicated that with hundreds of thin strips of paper stuck on the outside. 

What exciting projects have you got coming up?

At the moment not a whole lot… I’m excited to get the first sample printed of my set of playing cards, and I’m in the process of organising an exhibition in Tokyo.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you travel?

I would probably go back to Japan, I’ve been a lot over the past few years but that just means I miss it more now.. I miss the food in particular. And onsens (hot spring baths). Maybe I’d travel down south to some of the more tropical islands and get some beach time too.

What is your favourite travel memory?

On our honeymoon in Bali we stayed in an incredible old stone house in the forest, it had open walls and we were surrounded by huge trees, orchids, running water and noisy frogs. It was magical. You could lie on the deck and listen to the people below on their way to the temple playing instruments.

Best item you’ve picked on your travels?

I have a collection of beautiful old silk kimonos from my trips to Japan. I go to a lot of flea markets and sometime you can pick them up for as little as 500 yen (about £3.50). I tend to get the ones with woven patterns, not printed and they have the most incredible geometric patterns and colours. They’re just so cheap, and pure silk! It’s impossible to say no.

What’s your favourite piece from the ARTISAN collection?

I’ve been wearing the chunky basket weave hoops a lot, I love a pair of hoops and these are perfect for every day.


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