Annie Stothert Art
Artist and maker Annie Stothert creates delightful decorative pieces inspired by folk art, folklore, heritage crafts and the seasons, made using traditional paper mache techniques – from small hanging decorations (often featuring mischievous mice) and seasonal decorations (we love her pastel-hued Easter eggs and chicks) to large whimsical pieces destined for galleries. Here, she tells illustrator and fellow Folksy seller Bee Brown where her ideas come from, how they come to life and what her dream project would be…
To celebrate being our featured maker Annie is offering 15% off all pieces in her Folksy shop with the code EASTER. This offer is only available until Sunday 28th March 2021. Click here to shop Annie Stothert Art on Folksy >
I think the best thing about paper mache, for me, is that there are no rules.Annie Stothert Art
Hi Anne. I love your handmade sculptures. Can you tell me a little about yourself and how you got started?
Hi Bee, I’m originally from Cumbria, where I studied graphic design, but I’ve lived in Yorkshire for 30 years, bringing up my family here. Art has always been a big part of my life. I fell in love with paper-mache (or papier-mâché) through making fancy dress and theatre costumes for my children – I think I was making gigantic unwieldy Lion King masks before the West End did it!
Your work is three dimensional and mainly in papier-mâché. What is it about the medium that particularly attracts you?
I think accessibility was a main attraction, as there are no special equipment needed. I like the idea of repurposing waste materials and bits and bobs from around the house. It’s also a very versatile medium – you can make just about anything you can imagine with it. It’s tactile, especially the paper pulp pieces, and it develops its own natural textures – you learn over time how to apply them to your work for the best effect. I think the best thing about it for me, though, is that with paper mache and mixed media, there are no rules. I just use whatever materials I have to hand, which work for me (not shown in my photos is the very unattractive giant stack of cardboard boxes I keep in my studio!).
Some of your creations are quite tiny and some are quite large. Do you prefer working on a larger or smaller scale?
The short answer is, I like both. I tend to alternate between making small craft items and tackling larger scale art projects. They demand different design skills and jumping between them stops things getting stale. Also, if I’m getting frustrated with a complicated piece not working the way I want it to, I can go off and paint something cute which cheers me up.
Can you tell me about your process? How do you go from your initial idea (and how does that come to you) through to the end result?
To be honest, the ideas just seem to pop into my head from nowhere. The difficult part is translating them into 3D pieces, especially for larger works. Before I start, I plan the whole piece in intricate detail. If I wing it, I’ll think I’m doing OK for a bit, only to find I need more structural support to stop something falling over. I only begin working when I’ve worked out exactly how each part will be constructed and how the whole piece will fit together. I usually do this in my head, but occasionally I sketch out the larger pieces.
For the small paper pulp pieces, I first make the pulp, which is newspaper soaked for a couple of days in warm water, and then I make clay models from which I cast plaster moulds. From these moulds, I can use the pulp paste to make as many as I need. Then they are dried, sanded, glued, primed, painted and varnished.
The larger pieces usually begin with a cardboard frame or base-and-wire armatures for the figures (usually mice!), then newspaper and masking tape to fill out the desired shapes, and paper strips and paste to cover. When the modelling is finished and everything is dry, it’s primed, painted and varnished.
What’s your favourite part of the process?
My favourite part is just before I start painting, when all the modelling is finished and I know the piece is going to turn out the way I envisaged, that’s when I can relax.
I think I was making gigantic unwieldy Lion King masks before the West End did it!Annie Stothert Art
I see from your Instagram that you also create stunning masks and other fascinating pieces. Can you tell me more about these? Are they destined for theatrical productions, maybe?
I love making masks. The ones you mention were made for a gallery exhibition in 2019. They are technically wearable but they are really made to hang on the wall. I find the history and diversity of masks fascinating and inspiring. It’s one of the oldest forms of art and this was one of my favourite projects.
The first sleepy mice I made were in walnut shells, and I loved them so much that I started to imagine what other things mice might sleep in…Annie Stothert Art
I love your tiny mice in sardine tins. Where did the idea come from for those and how long do they take you to make?
Thank you! As you’ve noticed, I have a bit of a thing for mice. The first sleepy mice I made were in walnut shells, and I loved them so much that I started to imagine what other things mice might sleep in and see if I could make it.
People often ask me how long an individual piece takes to make, but it’s hard to say. I always work on several pieces at once, as each one requires several periods of drying time, which, depending on the weather, could be anywhere from overnight to a couple of days. In the case of the sleepy mice, I make them in batches, maybe five or ten of each design. The making of each piece overlaps so much that I can never work out how long they take.
Nature seems to be a big inspiration behind your work. Do you find you work according to the season?
I’ve always lived in the country and loved nature and the outdoors. I’m definitely influenced by the turning of the year and it seems natural for it to influence my work. Traditional seasonal country practices (like basket-weaving and even barrel-making), folklore and folk art are also an influence.
Finally, is there anything you dream of making? A fabulous furnished house for tiny mice maybe?
This question made me smile. I think all artists have a dream project. I would love to make a life-sized tree with a whole host of creatures making their homes in it, like a little town.
Treat yourself to 15% off all pieces by Annie Stothert – use code EASTER in her Folksy shop before Sunday 28th March 2021.
Meet the interviewer
The maker asking the questions this time is illustrator Bee Brown. Read our interview with Bee here Bee Brown – Meet the Maker and shop Bee Brown on Folksy here – https://folksy.com/shops/BeeBrownStationeryandPrints