Workshop: Sarah Matthews
made in the UK
Nice to meet you Sarah. Who are you?
‘Paper Engineer’ would have been my dream job as a child, had I known of its existence.
Well, it would have been a close second after professional Ballerina anyway. I have been a maker for as long as I can remember, from my earliest memories folding origami penguins and cutting paper doll chains, to graduating from my Textile Surface Design Degree in 2011 with a graduate collection of paper jewellery, to now spending my days buried under paper in my studio in Nottingham, cutting, folding, gluing and interlocking to create innovative and playful paper designs.
“I am a design-enthusiast, sucker for good packaging design and self-proclaimed perfectionist, who loves to explore, wear stripes and nest when not in the studio.”
FROM 2D to 3D
How do you call what you do, as a professional?
When I’m asked what my job is, I say “Paper Engineer”. To me, this simply means a designer who transforms paper from 2D to 3D, by creating sculptures or pop-up mechanisms. Having said that, I would also describe myself as a papercut designer, as a significant amount of my work is also two dimensional, layered papercuts.
I design these papercuts on Illustrator, and send them to my plotter to cut (a machine similar to a laser cutter, but with a blade rather than a laser), before finishing the detailed cutting by hand with a scalpel as unfortunately my machine isn’t perfect and I always need to ‘tidy up’ the detail by hand.
PAPER TIPEE [Originals], Using IMPRESSION ORIGINALE wraps.
Tell us how is your typical day going by.
What are the extraordinary things happening?
I was born in Sheffield but lived in London for the majority of my adult life so far, before moving to Nottingham last year. When I lived in London I was working full time in the product development department of a jewellery company, and doing my own work on the side. I had always wanted to try and do my own work full time but completely lacked the self-belief to take the plunge and go for it. When I lost my job due to my employer’s financial issues, I decided to take it as the push I needed to try and turn my ‘side-hustle’ into a full time job. As London is a really expensive place to live, I decided to move to Nottingham, where my mum lives, to save some money while I was taking the first steps to build up my business, which is why I’m here at the moment.
To be honest, I am so busy with work at the moment, and earlier this year I managed to buy my first home, which is in Sheffield, and all of my spare time is being spent working on the new house as I am renovating it before I move in, which is so exciting, but the downside is that I haven’t been able to get out and make the most of what’s going on in Nottingham while I’m here.
I can’t wait to move to Sheffield – hopefully it will be very soon now! I love Sheffield, it is where I was born, and is so vibrant, with loads of lovely independent shops, cafes and restaurants, and so much gorgeous green space.
PAPER SCULPTURES “Rooster” and the “Lobster hat” [Originals]
IN SARAH'S STUDIO
What is it like to be in your studio?
I like to listen to music while I work, particularly anything I can sing along to, and which makes me want to dance… My musical (not so) guilty pleasure is late nineties/early noughties hip hop and R&B. Sometimes it can get a little lonely being self-employed, so if the loneliness is getting to me I like to have films/TV on in the background so I am listening to people talk… I think in a strange way this makes me feel less like I am on my own.
I like to have a scented candle or diffuser out to make my working space feel calm, but nothing too strong as they can give me a headache! My favourites are fresh, herbal scents and I find Anthropologie is great place to find them.
Sadly I don’t have a little companion of my own yet, but I always had pets growing up and can’t wait to get a dog in the future. I’m obsessed with maltipoos and chow chows and am a total sucker for fluff. I follow so many dogs on instagram!
Paper is central to your work, can you explain why you choose this medium.
I studied Textile Surface Design at Buckinghamshire New University, but decided during my degree that I didn’t really enjoy the fabric ‘end result’ of my projects as much as I enjoyed the ‘paper-based’ sketchbook and paper maquette stage of my projects. Fortunately we were quite free to do what we wanted, so I ended up making a collection of printed and folded paper jewellery for my final collection. After graduating, I continued to experiment with paper as a hobby, but it has since turned into my full time job!
“I love paper: it is the most readily available, affordable and versatile material, with limitless possibilities.”
Present us your “copyright” creation. The one you are most proud of.
He took a really long time to make, but I was really happy with how he turned out!
I think I am most proud of the paper flamingo I made for GF Smith. I was challenged to pick my favourite colour and make something in that colour using their lovely papers. I chose pink and used it as an opportunity to make a flamingo which was something I had wanted to do for a while.
MAKE A WISH
Now, close your eyes and tell us how an ideal world looks like to you.
Full of colour and happiness, and the perfect balance of nature and design.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Walk us through one of your artworks you developed in collaboration with us!
First, I designed the shapes on Illustrator, before sending them to my plotter to cut out. I cut the teepee shape out of both wrapping paper and normal paper, so I could back the wrapping paper with the normal paper to add strength. I then glued the wrapping paper to the normal paper, and scored where I would need to fold.
I then folded along all of the score lines. I then added some gold paper behind the door. I trimmed down the bamboo sticks to size and threaded them through the cuts in the paper, then lifted up each side of the tent to check they met perfectly at the top.
I then tied some beads and feathers to the top of the front face, and finally tied the four bamboo sticks together at the top.
SOFT BUT SYMMETRICAL
If shapes and curves were emotions, which one would you be?
That is such a hard question! Visually, I love angular, geometric shapes, but I think if my personality was a shape it would be much softer, but still symmetrical, so perhaps a circle… I would describe myself as soft, patient, compassionate and a bit of a perfectionist, so I think ‘soft but symmetrical’ sums me up pretty well.
Join the world of Sarah
“I have already picked out my future dog’s name – ‘Crayon’! People seem to either think it’s the cutest name or the most ridiculous name!”