everyday we encounter paper and it's products. it can be an easy thing to overlook. su blackwell turns what can originally be something flat and banal into something gorgeous and defined. often working w/ her favorite stories, su transforms books into beautiful, incredibly intricate 3-d stories for her viewers to witness.
su was gracious enough to set aside some time and answer some questions i had for her. i have to say this was a really exciting interview not just because i was delighted to ask an artist who's work i admire questions but also because i learned much more about her work. su's work is impressive enough just by looking at her pieces, so it was even more exciting to hear some of her explanations behind them. so put on the kettle, make yourself a nice cup of tea and enjoy su's answers...i certainly did.
you mainly work w/ paper, can you tell us a little bit more about this medium? how did you find your way to it? have you always worked w/ paper?
my background is in textiles, and embroidery was my medium. i tried to push the boundaries of embroidery, electroplating it to make it sculptural and using fine wire. i began to develop more sculptural work, and to encompass other medium in my work, that i felt communicated my messages. i began to incorporate paper. which has both a fragility and strength that drew me in and still fascinates me to this day. it is a readily available, cheap material that has gone through a cyclical process from wood to paper.
what is it that draws you to paper? you also work a great deal w/ books as a medium, what inspires you to create from books?
i am interested in transforming non-art everyday objects into works of art. all the books i use i discover trawling through second-hand bookshops. some of these books i think have been sitting on the book-shelves for years.
when working on a project, do you only use the one book that appears in the end project or do you use multiple books?
when making my book-cut sculptures, i only use the book that appears in the end project.
are you constantly on the look out for books? where do you find your medium? is your house littered w/ loads and loads of rare paper or do you use just plain white paper?
i cannot walk past a second-hand bookshop without taking a peek inside. i have a lot of old books in my studio, some of which i may use, and some of which are there to inspire me.
what are some of your favorite books? are you an avid reader? have you used all or any of these w/in projects of yours?
when i was a child i loved reading alice in wonderland and the lion, the witch and the wardrobe. i re-read these books recently, and it was a very different experience. nowadays, i like to read modern day fairy tales, such as angela carter and a.s. byatt.
one of your pieces on your website that is not book specific is while you were sleeping. it's so beautiful. can you tell me a little more about that piece?
i made that piece after finishing my studies at the royal college of art prior to any of my book-works. it was made specifically for an exhibition in australia. i read in a book a burmese legend about the soul butterfly or win-laik-pya...it is believed that a sleeping person's soul takes the shape of a butterfly and flies abroad while it's owner is asleep, searching for the souls of other persons and animals and returning when the owner awakes. burmese children are still taught never to wake a sleeping person for fear they may die, or worse, live on, without a soul.
your pieces have a very ethereal quality to them, are you inspired by fairy tales at all?
yes, especially by hans christian anderson, there is a very dark under current to his stories.
you worked on a commercial for beringer vineyard, had you worked w/ stop motion animation before? do you have plans in the future to do more animation?
yes, it was great to work on the commercial, and to see all the processes of the stop-frame animation take place. it was inspiring to see all my models come to life, and with music, it added another dimension. i had dabbled with stop-frame animation before, i would love to do it again, and intend to experiment some more in the future.
how was it working on the commercial? it's a really incredible piece, especially for only 45 seconds. how long did it take to create and film?
the filming was very slow and mundane, they had to film it in 7 days. prior to that i had spent 3-4 weeks making the models, and a week prior to filming, a team of artists made replica vines on set. it was strange at first, seeing other artists create replicas of my work.
what is up for you in 2008? can you tell us about any shows you have coming up? any new yrs resolutions?
i am moving to a new studio in holborn, london and will be exhibiting work at the hosfelt galleries in san francisco and new york in their summer shows.
i am currently working on designing the stage sets and props for a circus/theatre production, which will open in berlin in 2009. i am feeling excited about this year!