Meet the Maker: Red Paper House
British designer Amy Hall, aka Red Paper House, combines elements of nature with bold colours, geometric shapes and hand-illustrated patterns and motifs to create her distinctive jewellery range. She lives in Leeds with her musical cat and mischievous boyfriend… or have we got that the wrong way round? We caught up with Amy to find out more about her busy creative life and the inspiration behind her wonderful work…
Can you introduce yourself?
Hello! I’m Amy, I’m the creator of Red Paper House. I make jewellery and accessories inspired by nature and featuring illustrated scenes and patterns, contemporary, geometric shapes and bold, exciting colours. I live in Leeds with my musical boyfriend and my mischievous cat, Cleo. I work at Leeds Art Gallery and also as a learning support assistant with East Street Arts. I facilitate community art classes and run workshops at the gallery too. All alongside Red Paper House!
How would you describe what you do?
I make jewellery and accessories that are fun, bright and inspired by the natural world. I want to make jewellery that stands out from the main high street selections, and offer customers the chance to buy unique, handmade products.
How did you start making jewellery?
I used to work with community classes for Leeds College of Art. One of the sessions involved jewellery making and I’ve been in love ever since. I used to experiment with lots of different materials; resin, polymer clay, wood, shrink plastic, paper, plastic and glass beads. Eventually I refined my designs and settled on using materials I felt the most comfortable with. In my early work I used a lot of resin and loved the finish and final results, but my pieces have changed a lot since then. I also used make a lot of beads from paper, which is definitely something I’m going to bring back into my designs soon.
What was the first thing you made?
I can’t actually remember what the very first thing I made was. I started making jewellery as a hobby, making pieces for friends and family and experimenting with lots of different materials. Although I don’t have the very first piece I made, I do have a rather odd keepsake: a mini plastic jug which has a tiny piece of leftover scrap from nearly every piece of jewellery I’ve made. It’s filled with resin, paper scraps, bent metal and pieces of wood. I’ve grown pretty attached to it.
Do you take inspiration from your day job?
Absolutely! Not only does the art in the gallery inspire me but the people there do too. I have run workshops for families in the past and the ideas people bring and the way people work is really refreshing to see and can spark new ideas. I take inspiration from everything around me. A person’s scarf can ignite a new colour combo in my head or an overheard conversation might inspire a new idea.
What else influences your work?
Nature plays a big part in my work and I often find my ideas come full circle and back to the basic elements of the natural world. I often have my best and most successful ideas just as I’m about to fall asleep – sometimes I have to write them down, mostly I remember them and more often than I’d like, I forget them forever. I’m inspired by flowers, birds in the garden (and my cat chasing them), cups of tea, the changing of seasons, natural patterns, manmade patterns, traditional patterns, patterns (!), tribal jewellery, Ancient Egyptian jewellery… the list is endless really. I like to try and introduce new colours as the seasons change – berry in autumn, crisp mint green in winter, and I’ve introduced terracotta this spring.
Can you describe your making process? Where do your ideas come from and how do you go from idea to final piece?
I carry a sketch book and notebook with me most places I go, so I’m ready to write down and draw any spur-of-the-moment ideas. If I’ve forgotten my book I have to find a scrap of paper to sketch on – my bags and books are full of loose pieces of paper with scribbles and ideas on! I never sit down or dedicate time to the initial thought process of my work. It always happens spontaneously and naturally. If I sat down to sketch out the initial stages I wouldn’t be able to do it!
Once the initial ideas are roughly jotted down, I select the ideas I think are worth taking forward to the next stages and begin to refine the designs to exactly how I’d like them to look. It’s at this point that I decide on colours, the exact illustrations and shapes and the sizes of the pieces. Once the designs are complete, they are laser cut from sustainable, birch plywood. The next stage is to finalise all the initial ideas and bring the piece together. I draw and add the illustrations by hand, paint it and add any chains or findings to complete the piece.
Where do you work – can we have a peek inside your studio?
At the moment I work in the box room studio in the attic of my house. It’s small and cosy but I’ve outgrown it now. I try to make everything work to my needs and purposes, which requires being inventive and resourceful! I have desk space, drawers, plenty of storage, my record player, mini cactus collection and favourite art pieces around. My partner and I have recently bought a house where I’ll have a new, improved and much bigger studio to work in. I can’t wait!
What do you listen to when you work?
My boyfriend is a musician and he’ll often practise in the room next door while I’m working. He DJs so I get to listen to his eclectic record collection and mixing, which is great. If I’m alone I usually listen to BBC Radio 6 Music. I do have a record player and will listen to things – like The Knife, Bowie, Patti Smith, Goat, Joy Division among many, many others – but I prefer the radio when I’m working as I’m not interrupted when the record needs turning over.
What’s the best thing about being a designer and maker?
I think the best thing about being a designer and maker is the ability to express my creativity. Designing and making allows me to keep working on new projects, allows me to keep changing my practice and to experiment with new ideas, new materials and to keep learning. Working for yourself means you can work to your own schedule with freedom and flexibility to suit your needs. And you can go to work in your pyjamas without being judged!
What would you say to someone thinking about selling their work?
Persevere with your work and ideas. It’s easy to lose hope, as there is so much to learn and to continue learning. Sticking with a business takes a lot of determination and dedication, and working when you might rather be doing something else, but mostly it won’t feel like ‘work’ because if you love the work it will be enjoyable. I’ve found that as I’ve persevered I’ve continued to learn new things and continued to grow my business in new ways.
Can you tell us something people might not know about you?
I have a degree in psychology and I almost became a teacher… but my passion for art, craft and being chaotically creative took over and I’ve never looked back.
To celebrate being a featured maker Amy is offering 20% off all Red Paper House items in her Folksy shop with the code MEETMAKER20. The discount code will run until the 12 April 2015.