We are fascinated by Rachael Ashe’s hand cut paper creations, the meticulous details of which are often mistaken for something machine made. This week Rachel is showing at Cityscape Community Art Space and doing a paper cutting demo at the North Vancouver Art Crawl. We caught up with her to find out more about her process.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself/background?
I am a self taught artist creating intricate hand cut paper work, and modular installations made from paper. I came to Vancouver almost eleven years ago from Toronto without a plan, a support system or connections and managed to create a good life for myself. I feel surrounded by an exciting community of inspiring and creative individuals in this city. I’ve been lucky enough to focus on my art full-time over the last few years with the support of my partner, Boris Mann. I stay active in my community by volunteering for Creative Mornings Vancouver, and have worked as a volunteer in the past for organizations such as the Eastside Culture Crawl, and Maker Foundation. I also organize a monthly Art & Craft Social at Hot Art Wet City. I share my hard earned knowledge of making and art by teaching workshops and giving demonstrations a few times a year.
How did you get into working with paper?
I got into it by following a long circuitous path exploring different processes over the last six or seven years. My background is as a professional photographer, and it was my entire creative focus for sixteen years. In transitioning from film to digital cameras in 2007 I felt this lack of hands-on process. I started experimenting with collage for about a year and a half, which led to making sculpture from old books (altered books) for about three years, and eventually to the paper cutting I’m currently recognized for.
For the last three years I’ve been completely focused on my paper work. I make one of a kind abstract paper cut designs exploring pattern and geometry, as well as large-scale modular installations made from paper. Everything is made from some type of paper, including alternative papers like tyvek, and TerraSkin. I did a talk for Creative Mornings Vancouver in December 2013 on the theme Make. I spoke about my evolution from photographer to paper artist in great detail, particularly around how much I’ve learned from hands on making.
What is do you take the most inspiration from in what you do?
The most inspirational thing for me comes from transforming a blank piece of paper into an intricate design through the simple process of cutting. Sharing this work publicly with others is also inspiring for me because the reaction is so often, “Wow! How did you do that?” I feel like I’m reminding people of the wonders created by the human hand. I can tell people are convinced machine-made work is superior to hand-made work (because what I do is often mistaken for laser cutting) and this simply isn’t true.
How has your practice changed over time?
While the work I focus on has changed dramatically over time, I think my practice has remained the same. I’m an explorer and experimenter with my work and that holds true today. I do my best work, and learn new things when I give myself time to play. Experimentation and play were important even in my days as a photographer when I explored alternative printing processes, plastic cameras, lighting, or digital tools.
What’s your favourite piece that you’ve created?
My favourite piece to date is a modular installation called, Flowerburst. It’s made up of over one hundred individual paper cut pieces that are about 3 inches in diameter each. The pieces are attached in layers to foamcore disks and can be arranged in different configurations. I showed it in an exhibition of paper work last year at Hot Art Wet City in Vancouver, and it will be exhibited at Mary E. Black gallery in Halifax this April.
If you had unlimited funding, what would your dream project look like?
I don’t have a specific dream project in mind. With unlimited funding one of the first things I would do is move into a larger studio so I would have more space to do larger pieces. I’d also use the money to experiment further with translating my paper cut designs into larger scale pieces and more durable materials using laser cutting. I’ve experimented with this a bit, but haven’t had the funds to go further.
More about Rachel:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/rachaelashe.art