Meet paper-craft artist Clare Youngs

Clare Youngs is a multi-talented craft artist who has numerous book publications showcasing her far-ranging creative expertise. However, it is the endless possibilities of paper-based crafts such as pattern making and collage that fascinate her the most. As we launch Clare’s characterful collection of prints, we catch up with the artist to learn more about her love of all things paper based craft.

Q: Hi Clare, it’s lovely to meet you. Have you always been creative from an early age?

A: Yes, for as long as I can remember I have loved creating. I was very lucky to have parents who were very interested in art. We had shelves full of wonderful art books and also books on craft. I learnt to sew, knit and crochet but my favourite books were the ones on making things with paper.

At the age of 7 I entered an art competition with a collage of a hedgehog and won a prize. I have never stopped making things and spent many happy hours of my childhood creating things from paper, card and fabric scraps.

Q: In 2009 you took the leap from working as a graphic designer to working on your own projects full time. Can you tell us a bit about your journey?

A: Art was always my favourite subject at school. When it came to choosing which direction to go at art college, I wavered between, printmaking, jewellery design or graphic design. In the end I went with graphic design.

I worked in the industry for a number of years, mostly designing the surface graphics on packaging for companies like Marks and Spencer, Boots and the big supermarkets. It was fun and I worked on a huge variety of jobs, but I took a break to have four children and after that I felt it was time for a change.

I returned to my love of paper craft and put together an idea for a book to make stylish things for your home out of paper and card. It was taken up by a publisher and I went on to spend the next ten years writing books on a wide range of crafts. In between writing I worked on my art and illustration work, developing my collage skills and my own style.

‘It never ceases to amaze me that by cutting, folding, tearing, curling and glueing a simple piece of paper, it can be transformed into stunning artworks.’

Clare in her studio

Q: As you mentioned, you work across a number of crafts. Do you have a favourite?

A: Yes, I do really enjoy different crafts but working with paper is probably my favourite. Paper has endless possibilities. It never ceases to amaze me that by cutting, folding, tearing, curling and glueing a simple piece of paper, it can be transformed into stunning artworks.

Developing my work in collage has enabled me to work in paper but bring in my love of printing, pattern making and mark making techniques, to create pieces that are full of colour and texture.

Q: What are your main sources of inspiration? 

A: I am inspired by so many things. I am a collector of ephemera. Some things I have kept since my childhood. I love mid century matchbox labels, especially ones from the Czech Republic and Poland.

The graphics are amazing, like little works of art. I like mid century children’s book illustrators, folk art, old toys especially ones that move or ones made of tin, vintage studio pottery, textile design, ancient and modern, beautiful patterned tiles on an old building, the texture of old stone work. The list could go on and on!

Q: Could you tell us more about your characterful collages? 

A: When I first started making collages, I used patterned craft papers that you can buy, but very quickly realised how limited I was by them. I have always loved creating patterns so started making my own papers.

It changed the whole way I worked, so that my colourful collages I created became very much my own style. I use paint, oil pastels, pencils, ink, chalk, printing techniques, really anything that makes a mark to create my paper samples. I then use these to cut up and piece together to make my artworks.

My collages are often of animals and wildlife. I love the huge variety of texture, colour and patterns I can explore. I have scrap boxes full of offcuts and sample papers that I have made. Sometimes I pull out a few different samples that I think work well together and see if a subject matter jumps out at me.

Or sometimes I will have a particular idea in mind and I will paint and print paper samples especially for that collage. Sometimes I jump right in and start cutting out pieces of paper and grouping them together, letting the collage grow and develop.

Other times if I am depicting a certain animal, I will do drawings in pencil from photographs and then try to simplify and divide areas into shapes. The fun part is the piecing together from the many different bits of paper.

There is a lot of pushing shapes around until I am happy with the colour combinations and the positioning. Then I can finally stick the pieces down.

Q: What does a regular work day look like for you? Do you have a set routine?

A: I am not really a morning person but I try to keep up my routine. First job of the day is usually checking on emails and messages. If I have a project on the go I start working on that.

Sometimes if I don’t feel that motivated or inspired, I will spend some time freeing up with some mark making or painting some patterns for my stash. That usually does the trick and then I tend to work on through the day.

I do take breaks maybe for a walk along the beach, or meeting a friend for coffee or doing a bit of gardening. We are very lucky to live on the beautiful Kent coast with the sea at the end of our road.

My husband works from home too, so we have our lunch and tea breaks together, with our little dachshund Otis nearby hoping for a treat!

At the end of the afternoon I always try to do an Instagram post, which could be something I am working on, or a page from my sketchbook or just some doodles that I may have done on a train journey. I then spend some time answering comments and messages.

If I have taken time off during the day to do other things, I will often spend a couple of hours in the early evening working. In the summer it’s the sunniest time of the day in my studio and it’s a nice time to spend time working in my sketchbooks. Sometimes it can be quite a long day at my desk but it doesn’t feel like it, because I love what I do.

Q: You have an impressive array of book publications, tutorials, and press coverage, what have been your personal career highlights so far?

A: Getting my first book published was very exciting and a big achievement for me. The creative aspect, the making of the projects, came easily to me but the writing wasn’t so easy. I had a lot of learning to do. Building a strong following on instagram and being able to connect with people all over the world has been wonderful in my career.

I joined in with the 100 day challenge on instagram. You set yourself a creative challenge. I chose to make collaged articulated cardboard animals every day.

They caught the eye of Joe Pearson of Design for Today, an independent publisher of beautiful books. It led to the publication of Animal Parade, An adventure in collage. I felt very proud when I saw it on the shelves in the illustrators gallery in London.

Getting my first commission for a series of original artworks was amazing. Being commissioned to illustrate a series of children books for the publisher Nosy Crow was brilliant.

Finally, being able to team up with my daughter to design all the collage kits for her exciting new adventure in opening a Craft Cafe was one of my more recent and very enjoyable highlights in my ever changing creative career!

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