Maker’s Choice with paper artist Alix Swan

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From the archives…

In the 3rd of our Maker’s Choice blog series we have a look at the personal contemporary craft collection of paper artist Alix Swan. Alix draws upon rhymes, tales and stories, creating books, collages and brooches that trigger memories and personal associations. We were intrigued to find out what she chooses to buy, as well as which fellow makers are on her ultimate wishlist…

Can you remember the first piece of contemporary craft that you bought and what it was that attracted you to it?
The first piece of contemporary craft I bought was a ring by Nick Hubbard.  In our house it’s known as the ‘Frog Prince Ring’.

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I bought it years ago from a beautiful shop we used to have in Leamington Spa which was full of contemporary craft from the very expensive to the more affordable.  I was at college at the time and hadn’t decided what to study at Uni but I think the collection of beautiful items in the shop must have had an influence!  I was particularly attracted to the ring by its opening door.  I didn’t know it was by Nick Hubbard until years later and I now own a ‘souvenir’ brooch of his as well and that also opens!

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When you’ve exhibited your work at recent events, which other makers’ work have especially caught your eye? 
I found Cindy Ashbridge’s jewellery in 2007 when I was exhibiting at the last ‘Origin’ to be held at Somerset House and The Contemporary Festival – always a feast of gorgeousness – was where I first found Anne Morgan’s work.

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I love her use and combination of objects and textures.  My Mum owns a beautiful ‘sea shore’ necklace which I sometimes get to borrow!

Tell us about some of your favourite purchases.
One of the pieces I treasure most is my ring by Cindy Ashbridge. I love its shape and the fact that it looks so serene but, once it moves, it rattles!  I also have a beautiful pair of Katie Mawson’s fingerless gloves which I bought completely out of season but just knew I had to own!  I love the fact that they are fingerless because it means I can wear them while I work (I get very cold hands!).

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In my precious collection of Artist Books; some by makers I know and some that I don’t, I have a special favourite by Lucy May Scofield called ‘Match Book’.

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It appeals to me because it’s really small and emulates a ‘book’ of matches but is designed with pullouts saying ‘I like your smile’ and ‘a place to write your phone number!’

What other sort of work are you drawn to? Are you attracted to work that has a familiarity or connection to your own practice?
The pieces I tend to collect have text, texture or something unexpected or unusual about them.  There is a lot of jewellery in my collection, perhaps because I nearly became a jeweller myself.  One of my tutors at Uni was convinced I should because I liked doing everything small!  I also love it when work has hidden elements. This connects with me and my work as I like to hide things away in my larger pieces such as a vintage music box or a book and I also like to do something different and unexpected with the whole idea of the book.

Where do your purchases live?
As most of my collection is jewellery, it tends to fall into two categories: ‘everyday wear’ which, when it’s not on me, lives in a dish beside my bed and ‘special wear’ which lives in a draw at home.  I also keep all the packaging from everything I buy, probably because of its paper and print content – I have always had a passion for packaging!
Do you have a favourite piece and what’s the story behind it?
Out of everything I have bought or been given, I have two favourite pieces.  The first is a Julie Arkell doll.  We came home with her from Wales after a visit to her recent exhibition ‘Away’ at Ruthin Craft Centre.  I think Julie Arkell’s work was the greatest influence on me when I was a student and I knew one day I would have to have a piece of her work!  My Mum bought her and we share her.  She is now named Blodwen and I’m hoping she’ll come on a holiday to mine soon!

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The second is a collection on bracelets made by Lucy Jade Sylvester.  I’ve always wanted to have something made by Lucy and have known her since I was a student.  After my Granny died I was given a small bit of money and I decided to spend it on something that would remind me of her.  I wear them almost every day and it makes me think of her!

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Do you buy contemporary craft as presents and if so what sort of work do you choose? 
I love buying contemporary craft as presents.  I feel it gives more meaning to the present as well as supporting makers.  My mum has a collection of brooches and she is very happy when I add to it!

What’s your most recent contemporary craft purchase? 
My most recent acquisition was two lampshades by Jennifer Collier.  I’ve always liked her use of found papers but the lampshades are my favourite.  She made them from old papers I had collected when we cleared my Granny’s house.  These included a letter my uncle sent home from school as a child with illustrations of butterflies, other family letters and envelopes, paper from an x-ray folder of my Grandpa and vintage Christmas wrapping paper we found in her ‘present drawer’.
If you could write the ultimate wish list which makers’ work would be on it?
My ultimate wish list would be endless as I keep finding new things and makers I want to collect!

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Items on my list right now are a fairy by Samantha Bryan, a book piece by Betty Pepper, a purse by Hens Teeth, a lampshade by Marna Lunt and a decoration by Anya Keeley but the piece at the top of my list would have to be a charm pin by Grainne Morton.  I have been collecting items for years in the hopes that one day I might be able to commission one!

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Many thanks to Alix for telling us all about her favourite posessions. Follow the links to find out more about Alix’s favourite makers and you can see Alix’s own work here…