This interview with Jess is probably the longest interview ever on Notpaper, or at least one of the longest. Luckily for me, it was a pleasure to read! I love the kind of randomness in her work, some pieces are geometric, some are intricate, some are xeroxed photographs. She says she's fickle, and always trying new things, and maybe that's why each piece has a new style--but hopefully she'll stick with collage!
Describe your work in 10 words or less.
Mostly quite immediate, fairly personal and never quite enough.
What do you like to work with (magazines, photographs, vintage)? Be specific!
Mostly I work with found images; plain coloured paper or patterns and photocopies. I reckon I own more charity shop books with nice, grainy photographs and attractive covers than books that I'd actually read or use for anything other than photocopying/cutting up from. I've got this really incredible atlas that I often think about but haven't properly used yet, all the titles and headings sit in really nice coloured shapes and are in really nice fonts and look like they've been hand drawn, It's pretty amazing! I also got this set of Jacques Cousteau books about a year ago that are INSANE, the photographs and illustrations are so so so incredibly nice, might be a bit too precious to actually use them for anything, they just need a serious trip to the photocopier.
My all-time favourite book is probably this Laura Ashley book of Home Furnishings, my mum gave it to me & said I was only allowed to photocopy from it, but since then I've left home, she's forgotten about it, and I've started to cut straight out of it, sometimes I feel a little too precious about it though, her voice is in the back of my head, my dad's is too, he hates the idea of books being damaged. I used to use old National Geographics alot, but I might've grown out of that now. Oh and I've got this one about Natural Disasters that's pretty good! Reading that back, it looks like I prefer to collect these types of books than actually use them in my work. One day they'll come in handy though! I know it!
How long have you been creating collages and what made you start?
I guess I started thinking about collage seriously about three years ago and for a while I thought it would be the only thing I wanted to do! Drawing and painting seemed to stop being attractive to me for a while, but that's me being pretty fickle, it was the same with photography, film-making, embroidery, patchwork quilting, knitting, sculpture, violin, piano, poetry, swimming, baking, growing plants etc. Luckily, I do continue to use collage as part of my practise and really enjoy indulging in it whenever I can, for example, Matthew Walkerdine and I were asked to submit some work for Glasgow based group Victor & Hester and we both decided, without telling each other, that we were going to make collages for the project, which was really nice!
What first drew me to collage was the assemblage based work of Richard Hamilton and those kind of things, as well as Mail Art and this really incredible Folk Artist whose name I can't remember or find for the life of me! But as my work has grown, it's mostly it's immediacy, not to say that a collage can't be complex or intricate, but when most of your work is very simple and straightforward, using paper to create it just makes the effect really achievable, one thing I really believe in when it comes to making work is that the outcome should always justify what you hope for it, and even though certain processes may be more "on trend" than others (being super analogue, for example) there is no shame in any of the processes that you use (I've taken to editing images that have been pre-drawn and flattening colours/shapes in photoshop, which was difficult to accept at first, but the final result has improved a lot, which has, in turn, helped my work to be more confident). I've been reading "Interaction of Colour" by Josef Albers recently, in one chapter it encourages you to work with paper, as opposed to paint (it pretty much disowns paint) and always be taking clippings from magazines and found paper objects as samples and materials to use in your work, his point being that the colours of accessible, dyed paper are more consistent. I often think about a programme I saw on TV about Matisse and they talked about the paper cuttings he made in later life, I think he might've been bedridden, in my opinion they're some of the best things I've ever seen!
Are you solely an artist, or do you work in another profession?
I'm a waitress 3/4 days of the week, and split my free time between making work and running Museums Press, it's been a BIG part of my life for the past year and a half, we began by publishing these really laborious box-set style publications, the first one took me nine months to hand make 40 books (I crudely printed, trimmed and perfect bound them every night with a boisterous kitten running around, which was a nightmare! Kittens like string! and rotary cutters!), screenprint posters at my friends house, and loads of other stuff. It's matured a little now, we bought a laser printer and outsource the printing a bit more, but still try to maintain a DIY ethic and "touch" wherever we can, without distracting from the zines themselves. We get to work with some really incredible artists and the whole thing definitely has a positive knock-on effect on my own work. We are exposed to a lot of new work from artists we respect greatly, and take more time to look at their work, appreciating it is a big part of what we do.
Do you have any formal art training?
Yes and No. I studied art and design at A level a couple of years ago, but since then I have been taking some serious "ME TIME". I'm going to be starting a degree in Sculpture & Environmental Art at Glasgow School of Art in September, which'll be really great! And who knows where my work will be at the end of that! It's definitely a big change from what I've been doing at home!
Explain your favourite techniques.
I don't really use that many techniques or processes these days. It all depends on the task at hand, when I was at school I would always be trying about a million things, printing onto different materials to then cut up and create different images, or using drawings on tracing paper when creating photographic prints or sleeping at my desk a lot. But things change, I guess the only thing I could think of would be photocopying! When you photocopy an image from a book, clipping, magazine, photograph etc, it kind of becomes something else entirely. It could either be for the point of reproducing it (if you're making a zine or poster, in which case it is the best, cheapest and most accessible form of print!) or to distort the image and take it out of context, which is when it would come into collage, enlarging an image really big is one of the most exciting ways to spend an afternoon!
Describe your favourite piece ever created.
Jeeeez! This is a tricky one! gosh! Today it's the piece that I did for my brother's new project, yesterday it was the work I did for the Victor & Hester Journal, before that it was a poster I did for my friend's gig. This is difficult!
I'd have to say... this one! It was made for a zine we did which is almost entirely collage based called Newfoundland, we haven't finished printing it yet, but I think about it most days and the whole set of work means a lot to me for very personal reasons!
What other artists do you admire?
O.K! Here's a list! Clare Rojas, Sister Corita Kent, Harrell Fletcher, Miranda July, Sean Cassidy, Chris Johanson, Mike Mills, Sabine Finkenauer, Brion Nuda Rosch, Lucy Jones, Aaron Anderson & Eric Carlson (Hardland/Heartland), Andy Rementer, Charles & Ray Eames, David Hockney. Loads more probably! I've not got the best memory for this kind of thing!