I am a cut paper artist and I live in Arlesey, Bedfordshire. I'm originally from a small village outside Salisbury - Winterslow - in Wiltshire. I use a scalpel (and scissors too) to cut into single sheets of paper that I then layer from behind to create bold and striking images of buildings and places, expressing my love of the English landscape and the natural world about me.
I was reading today on a vid on Youtube, that of the 200,000,000 blogs about the world, many are posted on daily. Hmmmnnnn... I dont seem to be keeping up with the Jones'!! Somehow I dont sems to grab enough time to get some posts done - I am too busy juggling different heads I reckon, so that the days roll on by. Mind you just lately I have been working like a mad thing - getting new St. Alban's cuts done and the paper poems for Letchworth Art Centre and now I have got a few new pieces for Byard Art for the "Christmas Cracker" exhibition thats due to start on November 27th. One of these - the Cambridge window has grown from being a pure black and white to including the coloured papers underneath the cut. It never felt finished before, looked too stark and too much like just a pattern, a collection of lines. It just seemed attractive and that was that. Adding the colour makes a difference though. I want to know about the window... want to know what goes on in that house... who peeks from beind those curtains? Whats the life that going on beyond the pane of glass.......
Where on earth does time go? I have absolutely no idea. The last few weeks have merged into one, seemingly with one deadline after another. The Letchworth Art Centre show "Of my head and of my heart" is up and about to finish on the 29th October. And the St. Alban's Cathedral one too that's about to end. I have been chasing my tail and visiting old, lost friends in my beloved Salisbury. New opportunities have opened up, unexpected ones and I have faced up to some demons too just lately. Sometimes you have to face them full square on and shrink them to a manageable size to fight.
The "of my head and of my heart show" has been a big deal for me. Not commercially, as many of the pieces are not for sale but being much more vulnerable and showing just who the real Vanessa is. They are very personal pieces. With the architecture, I delight in the beauty around me, but its hard to take risks, hard to step off that metaphorical cliff. With the Letchworth pieces, there is plenty of stepping out.
I am due to deliver fifteen brand new pieces for an exhibition at St. Alban's Cathedral tomorrow in an exhibition from 24th September until 26th October at the Cafe Gallery. Alongside my work will be the work of Hertfordshire based artist Stephanie Littlechild.
I am really excited to be showing this work - its the first time I have attempted a cathedral and I feel like the biggest kid keeping everything crossed that people will like them! They are complex pieces and very difficult to make. I have had to keep my concentration levels very high to get them finished. They are immensely satisfying though to see emerge from the paper.
I have other work too alongside - small text pieces of "Swing Low,Sweet chariot" as well as paper cuts of St. Alban's buildings like the Clock Tower and the Town Hall.
Here is one example of the "chariot" cuts...
Please do come along and have a look at this very newest work. The cathedral is a gorgeous building and its just marvellous to have my work there. One day I would love to see my work hanging free in the body of the cathedral...one day...
The Cafe Gallery is open from:
Mon - Friday 8.0am- 4.30pm Sat 10 - 4.30pm Sun 1pm - 4.00pm
For more information about the Cathedral and how to get there click on the link here.
I have been doing some new work, of which this is only a miniscule little taster. I will be posting more at the beginning of October, in time for my exhibition at Letchworth Art Centre. I am not sure why these are coming out of my head at the moment. The subconscious is a wonderful place of unfathomability! They have been very unhurried and undirected... we shall see where they take me.
The “People, Paper, Prayers – the Thank You Project” at Central Methodist Church in Letchworth in 2009, grew out of the architectural cut exhibition at First Garden City Heritage Museum. David and Anita Latter (senior members of Central Methodist church) came to see the exhibition on one of the days I was demonstrating. We got chatting animatedly - I had always liked Anita very much, and David too, but it was Anita that I knew from years ago when I took my son and daughter as babies to the Central Methodist Church Tea and Toddlers group. Anita was so friendly there and I was in awe of her commitment to the group by weekly preparing arty/crafty activities for the toddlers and mums to do. It took her a lot of time to prepare the components, to come up with new ideas etc and she did that every week. I admired her faith and generosity of spirit.
Anyway, we got talking. Laughed over times past and children now in teenagerdom (me) and hers in new homes and babies eras. I said that I had always wanted to make some paper pieces for a church. I had made textiles for churches before, but never had my cuts hung in that kind of space. I had tried at St. Hugh’s but they had bought a large icon for the refurbishment and my quirky paper cuts were just too much of a jump I think. It was interesting what I learnt then, let’s just say it lead me to really ask what I believe and who I am.
Back to the Anita/David talk. They were really interested in the idea of hanging the cuts in the church. It needed to be discussed with the main members of the church of course and happily the go ahead was given. I think it helped that the paper cuts are so light. They only need hanging with fishing wire and are very light, needing a drawing pin at most to hang from. We thought the Heritage Open Days Weekend would be a good focus for the event. It was very exciting for me... to see at last my cuts hanging free in a church. I couldn’t wait. I then spent a very large part of August cutting text in the studio in the early morning and the quiet times after the evening meal when the kids were happy to have some telly time.
The Thanksgiving theme...leading to a bit of a crisis of faith....
We needed a theme to work to too. I know I couldn’t make thirty unique prayers and besides I wanted to involve the parish. I wanted to be able to serve the parish, using my hands and skills to make their thoughts and prayers real and valued. David’s idea was to have thank you prayers and that fitted perfectly. I emailed friends for prayers, prayers came anonymously too from the congregation as well as very personal ones that moved me hugely. It was much harder than I thought. Look at most prayers and the content is plea based, asking God for something: help, guidance, company, healing or words that allowed inner individual pain to be expressed. This was different, this was saying thank you for what we have been given in our lives. I wanted to say thank you for my children and my family, for the elements – but it set me on a whole struggle that I am in now. Do I believe that God made me? Made the world? Made the trees and the birds of the air? I am not sure. I don’t know. Evolution makes a lot more sense and I know that Adam and Eve are essentially allegorical. I think perhaps that there is an ultimate creative force in the world from which all good comes. I know directly from experience that more good makes more good, whilst evilness and selfishness will always seek to destroy in many small and large ways. I find it terribly hard too grasp that that ultimate creative force became a man and lived on earth. For me it’s a human way of explaining the mysteries that our brains are just too small to understand.
I think you can say I am having a fundamental think about things, a crisis of faith in part. I certainly know that I am not a tow-the-line Catholic. I know there is something/someone calling me. It keeps happening. I walk away and I get called back and back again. This beatles song makes me think of being called again and again and its always when I feel lost.
I will shortly post the prayers I cut and hung in the church. It was a fantastic weekend and I got the chance to meet some really lovely people too. I will always be grateful top the church for showing my work, inviting me into a place that is so precious to them. It was a lovely, lovely experience.
This exhibition of architectural paper cuts marks a turning point in my work. I had been cutting paper since early 2007 after at least six months or so of experimenting with stencils and just making paintings. The first paper cuts I did were essentially white line cuts, very similar in feel to Eric Gill’s nudes. His are sublimely elegant of course and I wanted to capture a similar line, a sparseness and perfection. My nude back comes the closest in a way I think, but I bow to Gill – his are masterful! There is a darker side to his though, they aren’t as simple as they appear, especially when you think about who the sitters are and when you take into account Gill’s nature – this is brilliantly explored in Fiona McCarthy's book about Eric Gill.Back in 2007 I had cut bodies and poems and very slowly my own voice started to emerge. It was tentative. I hung onto making paintings too, trying to keep one foot in both camps of being a painter and a paper cutter. However, you can’t keep a foot in two floating boats! Something had to give; I needed to commit to one thing only and not try to be all things to all men. So I waved a sort of goodbye to painting and textiles. I don’t think its forever, maybe just an au revoir.
A breakthrough came with making a great big paper cut of the Town Hall in Letchworth. It’s a great building, set on its own. It’s the epitome of toy town in its shape, like the wooden blocks you have as a kid to make a wooden town. Look across at the Town Hall from The Grammar School and Letchworth looks exactly like Toy Town. People scaled, modest, not overly decorative or puffed up, that’s Letchworth architecturally all over.
With the Town Hall cut finished and a photo emailed to Josh Tidy, Curator at First Garden City Heritage Museum He loved it, hadn’t seen anything like it before and so we started to talk about the possibility of an exhibition of architectural paper cuts. A few meetings later and the ball was rolling nicely, an exhibition was planned for Sept/Oct 2008. This was a fair leap of faith for the museum. It isn’t a commercial gallery or a large museum and they hadn’t had a show like this before, so taking a chance on an artist that cuts into paper was a bold step. I will be eternally grateful. When the work was all done and up it was fantastic to see – so many of my cuts together and not just framed but hanging free too.
And so there it was a tangible big step forward into the unknown and falling in love all over again with architecture.
I should be starting some cuts of St. Albans Cathedral this week, but I have been distracted by having a tiny play with cyanotypes. Cyanotypes come from the earliest beginnings of photography and are made by coating paper in a solution thats light sensitive. Lay something on the top of the paper and that which is exposed to the light goes white and under the object goes an amazingly deep cyan blue. They are sometimes called sunprints. The line you get is so beautiful, clean and crisp beyond measure almost. I have a very stronge feeling that this will simply be the start of something.... an exciting journey to go on...and thats something I love,love,love doing...
Very occasionally I get an unusual commission to do and the Apache helicopter paper cut commission was one of those. It's only a small piece - a little under A4. I have only seen an Apache fly once and that was when I was down to see my father in Winterslow near Salisbury. I was driving back home, past Wallop and there it was, silhouetted against the blue sky. It must have been on a training flight - it was very low and just hovering! An amazing sight. I was so excited to see it so close. My inner 13 year old tomboy came straight to the surface in the same way it does when I see the super snazzy cars on Top Gear.
But it made me face a moral dilemma...... Making the paper cut was more complex than I expected. Not the design - I had a fairly clear idea of the composition and the feel of the piece - a dominant black silhouette shape with an intimation only of the landscape and the sky. That wasn't the difficulty. As I was cutting one fiddly shapes it struck me hard that these were the missile/bomb holders. I had turned them into decorative shapes. It made me think - what am I doing here? Why am I making this cut - glorifying an object of war? Did cutting the piece and NOT thinking about what is an essentially emotive image make me negate any moral question of whether I should make the piece or not? I thought about it for days. Asked friends and family about what they thought and thought about where the commission had come from -a friend whose husband is an Apache helicopter pilot instructor.
After much pondering I did manage to partially resolve the issue. The Apache is used defensively as well. It's an object that serves this country and its flown by people that I hold in deep respect for their ability, intelligence and professionalism and without these people in the armed forces - where would we be? They actually signed on the dotted line to serve... and that's brave.
So the conclusion? the Apache helicopter cut is a celebration, a symbol for the armed services and not a celebration of the machine for its military hard wear and capabilities for conflict and killing. It's my way of saying I respect you and thank you for doing the job that you do. My way of serving in a tiny, tiny way.
Last Monday was a wonderful night out to see Manon at the Royal Opera House in London. Its only my fifth opera, so I am no seasoned ROH visitor! I had always grown up with thinking that opera was elitist and inaccessible. That isn't the case. Certainly the best tickets in the house cost a small fortune, but many seats are affordable than you would think. Even the seats in the Gods where the music is amazing as it travels up can only cost £10. There is a often a restricted view and the seats aren't as posh but still completely worth it to see and hear music of such quality. And there is the great blessing of subtitles too so you can easily read what's going on in the story!
I have been aware of the story of Manon only in my peripheral mind, mainly of it being the name of Jean de Florette's daughter. Seeing the opera completely expanded that knowledge - like all good opera it's a story of love, passion, loss and death. It plugs straight into our shared experiences of humanity and being alive. Anna Netrebko was the soprano with Vittorio Grigolo as the tenor. I simply can't describe how sublimely beautiful they sounded. Netrebko at full belt made my heart swell and there were such tender moments in Grigolo's singing that it felt as though the whole auditorium was hanging on every note, we were all caught in a collective moment and experience of beauty, purity and truth.
I went to see Manon with James Mayhew, the children's illustrator and author. James is a fantastic artist and his company is always lovely. Largely down to his love of art and his broad knowledge about opera. He has lent me many works and very slowly I am beginning to build a knowledge of the greats. I have always loved classical music - along with a bit of rock, acoustic, folk and some heavy metal... I have eclectic tastes! - especially Schubert, Sibelius, Elgar and Beethoven. It's wonderful at last to begin to listen to Puccini, Verdi and now Massenet.
Here are a couple of pictures to give you a taste of the evening...
I can't believe how busy it has been lately. Family stuff is always a juggle - with children aged 10 and 14 they seem to need me more and not less. I like them being older very much - their tastes and personalities are really growing and forming and it feels like nothing is standing still. I like that. I like change in a way, in that there is the tantalising thought of what is just around the corner. Its that same thrill of getting a letter that you have no idea of what it says inside. Some visual clues can make your heart sink of course, but if there are none - then it can be so exciting. A letter is a rare thing these days. I love the immediacy of emails, but brain to hand to paper just blows everything else out of the water. So to you people out there in cyberland - write me a letter and I will be as chuffed as punch. I might even send you a print back!!! and that would be cool to think of something arriving out of the blue to someone else.......
Mini Cambridge cuts in Perspex blocks
I have been very busy doing some new pieces and commissions. It's been brilliant to see the new Cambridge cuts on show at Byard. I can put the work on walls here at home, but it doesn't compare to seeing them all in the spotlights of the gallery. It's been exciting too to put my cuts in glass and see the reaction of people. Its prompted some mini limited edition paper cuts that I have framed in Perspex blocks. They are only small - about A5, so really only the size of your hand really. They are very fiddly to do and I have had to have regular breaks as they are more intense to cut. I can cut for an hour or so and then need a walk about and a stretch and then back to the cutting. I love the size of them though, they are intimate little things, though I have had to make them limited editions. This is a step away from all my other cuts. It's been rare that I have done more than one of the larger pieces. Each paper cut is unique anyway, I will often tweak things that I feel haven't worked well. And some cuts just don't work at all, so I start again from scratch and fill the recycling bin.
These new mini cuts are available to buy straight away from my website - www.vanessastone.net