Meet Origami Artist, Caroline Preston | All By Mama
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Meet Origami Artist, Caroline Preston


As we set up for The Handmade Fair we have an interview with one of our Mamas, Caroline Preston, who will be holding a workshop and building origami on our stand. Read about her inspiration and what she'll be teaching during her workshop session.

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Where did you learn origami, and what first made you interested in it?

I was first interested in Japanese paper folding when I was an art student. I worked in a traditional Japanese restaurant and adored all their packaging, the Japanese writing and their attention to detail. I traveled to Japan during my Fine Art degree to research the culture and traditions that inspired me and my artwork. As soon as I completed my studies I moved to live and work in Japan which is when I first learnt origami. During that time I helped run an art club after school. One of the students taught me how to fold the origami crane. It became particularly poignant to me because of where I lived in Ofuna, Yokohama, close to 'The Goddess of Mercy' temple. It has an eternal flame and monuments to Hiroshima and Nagasaki along with 1000 origami cranes. The children I taught folded the cranes together each year in memory of Sadako Sasaki: 'I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world.' I loved how beautifully striking the 'senbazuru' 1000 cranes were outside all of the shrines and temples I visited, and the legend and story of how the origami crane came to symbolise peace: 'This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the World', became an inspiration. I like that my artwork can resonate this in people's homes as a symbol of peace, love and longevity. The fact that I can continue to share the skill and love for origami through workshops as a means to bring people together is a really big part of the origami world. This is where it all started for me, so I am delighted to have the opportunity to teach in the Papercraft tent at The Handmade Fair, Hampton Court Palace.

What do you love most about working with paper?

I love the history of paper and its links with the natural world. To think that paper was once unaffordable and so precious only the rich could use it and now it is a throw-away everyday item. With all our digital technology, like the writing slate, I imagine paper will one day be a novelty item. Therefore, I like to think that my work is a celebration of the preciousness of paper, a nod to its 'roots' so to speak, especially in our environmental climate. (Whilst I am on that note, how amazing is it that paper comes from trees?! The opportunity to visit a paper making factory or make your own paper is an amazing process that I highly recommend experiencing!) I also love that paper can be both 2D and with a little ingenuity and creativity, can become three dimensional. The paper I use 'washi' is renowned for its preservative qualities, is known to have lasted 1000 years so far, and was used by Rembrandt. The different fibres make some of the paper I use almost textile like. Since I spend a lot of time folding paper, I have become quite particular about the paper I use!

Why is origami as a craft so important to you?

The craft of origami is steeped in history, sharing through generations, celebrations, and is beautiful by its creative endeavour and artistic outcome. With the craftsmanship of skilful hands, patience and an eye for detail, a 2D piece of paper can become a 3D form/sculpture/model. This is important, but my tutor always used to ask in discussions about my work 'well Caroline is it art or craft?!' For as long as I can remember there has always been a debate as to what category my work falls within (if you're into categorisation that is). For exhibitions, societies, guilds and curators, the 'art or craft' factor is often a very big thing. E.g. when applying to the open submission Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, my work simply did not fit into any of their categories. Therefore, I like to say that my artwork dances between art, craft and design. Basically, I take the craft of origami and present it as an art form. My aim is not to master every origami technique or become a master of origami. My motivation is firstly as an artist to inject aesthetics, concept and design into each commission and piece of artwork that I create, to master the craftsmanship of the perfect fold, yet embrace the 'wabi sabi' elements that the paper can present to me. Put simply I treat origami as my paint and leave it to others to decide whether it is art or craft!

How do you usually decorate or design your papers?

I use traditional imported origami papers that are pre-printed in a variety of patterns and colours. I use patterns from the inside of envelopes and print them. I use pages from books as paper because I love the history and links to text and communication that a book and envelopes suggest. (Language, text and communication have always been a strong influence and presence in my work, hence why I also write my own poetry and include it in my work.) I add gold leaf to patterns to enhance the craftsmanship, ceremonial and ritualistic links in some pieces. For others I might print digitally using photoshop to create and combine my images from source material such as photographs, map drawings, and sketches. Some papers are painted on directly or are created with traditional printmaking techniques. I have also just started a collaboration with a contemporary photographer and printmaker called Catherine Gillingham who is using a technique similar to Suminagashi. I am really looking forward to how this will evolve and I am currently testing the right texture of washi for printing and the variations of patterned folds that we can achieve.

Can you tell me a bit more about what people will learn in your workshop at The Handmade Fair?

Interested people or aspiring young artists alike who attend the workshops at The Handmade Fair will be immersed in the creation of a beautiful 3D origami butterfly made from origami paper. They will individually learn valley and mountain folds, single sheet and modular techniques. Each person will take their own beautifully created 3D butterfly home with a special card made for the occasion. (This is because in 2013 the South West's Eden Project provided 3000 butterflies for the Hampton Court Flower Show. I thought it would be fitting for 100's of people from Devon, where I live, and all over the UK to fold butterflies & contribute to an origami swan that will be on exhibition both in North Devon and at The Handmade Fair for the duration of the show.) Modular origami means that many single sheet units of origami join with other pieces to form the finished origami outcome. Together over the three days, if I get enough participants, we will have created enough pieces to make...

What will your sculpture be at Hampton Court Palace? How can people get involved?

...An origami swan! The participants from each workshop will have their origami made into the sculpture of a swan that I will create in situ at Hampton Court Palace. Visitors can see me creating this as I will be on a stand with 'All By Mama' where you can see and purchase my origami artwork and jewellery on exhibition.

Do you offer any other workshops that teach origami skills?

I am available as a freelance artist and teacher to deliver origami workshops and give illustrated artist talks and demonstrations. Examples include cards, hanging mobiles, group sculptures and compositions. I particularly like to teach the origami peace crane as well as butterflies and origami stars, and can also teach how to fold origami fabric brooches and fascinators. I take Japanese ink, calligraphy brushes and a traditional ink stone with me if learning how to grind ink and how to use it is also of interest. I like each person to go home with something special from a workshop and to have learnt a new skill, so hope anyone interested in hosting a workshop with me can find something to suit their particular interests. Readers can find out more about my workshop at The Handmade Fair here: Take a look at Caroline's shop here.

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