Maker’s Choice with Jennifer Collier

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Paper artist Jennifer Collier has been a maker and advocate of makers for many years. Jennifer works with papers, transforming them into textural forms, often led by their original narratives, and making exquisite everyday objects from stitched vintage maps, books and envelopes. She’s seen, loved and bought craft at shows and in galleries all around the UK and overseas, and her own work has been featured in over 60 magazines and 15 books about craft. Her wealth of knowledge and experience is hugely respected by contemporary craft organisations, her customers, her fellow makers, and by us here at madebyhandonline. We’re really happy to have her relaunching our Maker’s Choice blog series, which takes a very privileged look at a maker’s personal craft collection, providing insight into their own work at the same time as enabling us to celebrate lots of makers in one go…

Can you remember the first piece of contemporary craft that you bought and what it was that attracted you to it? Having been in business for 18 years now I cannot remember the first piece I ever bought, but the piece that I still have, and enjoy every day, is a pair of felted red slippers by Suzanne McCulloch (now of The Dolly Tub). We were both on the North West Arts Boards ‘Setting Up Scheme’ when we graduated, and at the time she was doing contemporary felt making, and also making non-functional garments. Even though these are meant to be functional children’s slippers I was drawn to them as the scale made them non-functional to me, and the colour reminded me of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.

These have moved house with me many times over the years, but are always displayed somewhere that I can enjoy them every day.

When you’ve exhibited your work at recent events, which other makers’ work have especially caught your eye? Whilst exhibiting at NY Now in New York I ALWAYS adore the beautiful bright work of Lynsey Walters. Last year I treated myself to one of Lynsey’s beautiful mustard and grey necklaces and even bought a cardigan in NY to match it. I also adore the work of Gilly Langton; I don’t wear much jewellery, but like Lynsey’s work, this is incredibly wearable and comes in bright bold colours. The necklace of Gilly’s that I got at NY Now in January is made from hand dyed elastic finished with a piece of silver, and I wear it all the time.

Tell us about some of your favourite purchases (or gifts if they were given to you). For years I have always coveted the work of Samantha Bryan and I always wanted to own one of her fairies. 3 years ago I co-curated an exhibition at my gallery Unit Twelve called ‘madebyhandonline presents….’ with Katie, the director of madebyhandonline, to showcase some of the best on this beautiful site, and Sam’s was some of the work we showed. I adored seeing the fairies every day and was so gutted when the exhibition came to an end that my husband bought me one as an anniversary present.

I adore the work of Anya Keeley and was lucky enough to get one of her brush sculptures for Christmas a few years ago, which now sits on the microwave with the beautiful work of Jessica Thorn, who I also love, and the beautiful glass work of Vinegar and Brown Paper.

I only ever wear contemporary jewellery and just love the work of Lindsey Mann, and I bought a necklace from her a few years ago. I was lucky enough to also get a pair of her earrings last year on my wedding anniversary.

My husband Iain of Print Garage is a fellow maker, so as well as having excellent taste he never begrudges spending money on handmade, and is brilliant at taking hints!

What other sort of work are you drawn to? Are you attracted to work that has a familiarity or connection to your own practice? I am always drawn to the simply breathtaking work of Julia Jowett, as I adore the combination of materials, the brave use of white space and, most importantly, the incredible attention to detail and minute stitches. I am lucky enough to own this beautiful framed piece and it is on the wall right near where I sit in the lounge so I enjoy it daily. Julia, and her incredible work, have made me fall in love with hand stitch again and made me remember to relish the making process and enjoy every piece I make…

Do you feel there’s a theme to the pieces you own? The main theme is that the work has to be handmade, have its own unique voice and that there is integrity to the maker practice. We own A LOT of ceramics, and I think it is because it is something I have never done, so it feels like a magical process that I do not understand. I think I am also drawn to the idea of functionality too, though many of the pieces I own are intended to be functional I do not use them in this way. We have so many ceramic pieces that when we were redecorating the kitchen we put in an ‘objet d’art’ shelf to house them, with work by Virginia Graham (including a one off piece she made as a birth gift for my son), Lisa Ellul, Rebecca Callis, Cath Ball, Tone von Krogh and work from Ruth Singer’s ‘Interlace’ project.

Where do your purchases live? We have craft on every available surface and wall in our home. Necklaces that I own are hung over my mirror, so even if I am not wearing them I can still enjoy them. Every window sill houses work, so a Jo Pond brooch sits in its opened box on the window sill on the landing, alongside other favourite pieces, including a Katie Almond cup.

A Libby Ward brooch was bought for the sole purpose of completing a collection on the bedroom wall.

And a beautiful stitched framed artwork by Emily Notman sits in the lounge window next to a vintage sewing machine and both serve as a constant source of inspiration. We also have framed artworks going all the way up the stairs, so it always takes visitors ages to pop up stairs to the loo!

Do you have a favourite piece and what’s the story behind it? My current favourite is by Richard McVetis, and was a 40th Birthday present earlier this year. I adore the intricate simplicity of his work and the meticulous nature of his tidy stitches. We have shown his ‘Units of Time’ series at Unit Twelve, where each is titled by the time it takes to make (this is 50.29, so a bargain no matter what my husband paid for it, given the amount of time spent on it!).

I have since been following Richard’s career with interest, as not only is his work stunning, but he is a thoroughly lovely chap, and I was gob smacked when I received this piece as a present.

Do you buy contemporary craft as presents and if so what sort of work do you choose? I love the colourful work of Rachel Butlin, as it is very affordable and wearable and she has work at all different price points. I often go for ceramics as they are functional, which is great for the harder to buy for in the family. And the beautiful print work of Ruth Green is always perfect for gifts as it never fails to make the recipient smile.

What’s your most recent purchase? My favourite place to buy is at the amazing Contemporary Craft Festival, because as well as the festival atmosphere, great food and sunshine, you have all the best makers in one place to choose from. We bought even MORE ceramics this year; my favourite of which was by Harriet Elkerton who makes her maquettes from paper to create her moulds, so you can see the creases and folds the paper has formed, which I cannot help but adore. We were lucky enough to have some amazing wins at the raffle in aid of the Bovey Youth Café, that Sarah the organizer supports every year, and I am now the proud owner of a 4 leaf clover piece by Suzanne Breakwell and a trug by Jane Crisp, both of whom I have been coveting for a few years now.

If you could write the ultimate wish list which makers’ work would be on it? First is Kasasagi, whose work in paper intrigues me. I also love the work of Katie Lowe, especially pieces like ‘Eleven’ where one of the vessels break the confines of the frame.

I just adore the work of Knit Me A Stitch Ceramics and am excited to be showing her work in our ‘Cup’ exhibition at Unit Twelve, which runs until 16th December:

I love the bright bold geometric jewellery of Tracey Falvey and simply adore the stitched elegance of Liz Cooksey’s work, who I have managed to just confirm for the ‘Cuts the Mustard’ exhibition at Unit Twelve, on 11th Jan- 21st April 2018.

Well that’s a wish list we share! Thank you so much to Jennifer for writing for us about such a beautiful, personal collection. You can follow the links above to find out more about all the makers she’s featured and head this way to see and buy Jennifer’s work with us here on madebyhandonline. Thanks again!