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My interview with Paulette Edwards, talking about art and Kirstie's Handmade Christmas

I had a lovely interview on BBC Radio Sheffield with the wonderful Paulette Edwards just before Christmas, talking about my upcoming episode of Kirstie's Handmade Christmas. Paulette is one of those people who you just can't help but like. She made me feel so at ease on the show and it was just like talking to an old friend (rather than talking to half of Sheffield, which is what it really was!).

Read the interview below.

Sheffield cut paper collage artist Kat Taylor with radio presenter Paulette Edwards in the BBC Radio Sheffield Studio
Paulette and I in the BBC Radio Sheffield Studio

PE: Thank you for joining us Kat; what is cut paper collage?

KT: I make pictures and illustrations using lots of pieces of cut and torn hand-painted and recycled paper, rather than drawing or painting directly onto a piece of paper. I make my own papers, so I'll find a selection of papers that I can print and paint on. I use sentimental papers, bits of magazines, sheet music, old dictionaries and books, things as tiny as old stamps and then I cut them up and make them into pictures. I usually work on landscapes and nature but what I've done for Kirstie's Handmade Christmas is quite different to my usual.

PE: So for you then, when did you discover that this was something that you were good at, that you enjoyed doing...?

KT: It was sort of by accident actually. I've always been arty; ever since I could hold a spoon I've been holding a paintbrush, but after my daughter was born I wrote a couple of children's books and I had a really clear vision of how I wanted them to be illustrated and I was thinking of the style of Eric Carle with his hungry caterpillar. So I thought, I'll just have a go and see how it comes out and I discovered that I was actually pretty good at it and I really enjoyed it so I just carried on and it all went from there.

A work in progress cut paper collage by Sheffield artist Kat Taylor
A work in progress: my very first attempt at cut paper collage back in 2019

PE: So what does it do for you then, how does it make you feel?

KT: I just find it really mindful, I get completely lost in it and feel so relaxed when I'm doing it. I don't have any music on or anything, I just sit in complete silence and I'm just focussed on these tiny little pieces of paper and my little pair of tweezers. I have bits of paper that are just millimetres small and I just become completely absorbed in it.

PE: So what made you decide them, to take this very personal thing, this very pleasant thing for you, so what made you decide you wanted to take it to Auntie Kirstie?

KT: I didn't really, they contacted me. They found me in Instagram. I would never in a million years have thought to apply for something like that, I always just think I'm sat there in my little corner of the internet and nobody is really seeing me, but they found my work and they contacted me and said, "we really like what you do, would you be interested in coming on?", and it went from that to me being there ten days later!

PE: So have you sold your work then, is that how they found you on Instagram?

KT: I do sell my work, yes; I do sell prints and I do commissions as well but I think they must have just been searching for "paper crafts" and my stuff must have come up.

PE: I want to talk some more about what you do, I've got your portfolio here and it's just beautiful stuff. It's something I didn't realise I loved until I'd seen your work. I didn't realise you could do this. so you cut bits of all sorts of things, some magazines. We'll talk about this one actually because this puts it all into context. This is a picture of a woman at a table writing, there's a bookshelf with all sorts of books, there's a plant hanging down, there's a postbox thought the window, there are flowers outside the window and there's a brick wall behind her, and when I actually touch these, they're very tactile because these are bits that you've cut, from where?

KT: This one is made almost entirely from used stamps and old envelopes and postmarks but I use any sort of paper that I can find. It's usually a race between my daughter and I to see who can get to the recycling bin first. I just collect bits of paper, so I've got stacks of magazines, bits of old newspapers, I use sheet music, old dictionaries, old books; anything I can get my hands on, and then I paint it, print it, and then I use those papers to cut up and remodel them into something else.

A cut paper collage of the artist Kat Taylor's cousin writing letters in a cafe
A collage made almost entirely of stamps of my cousin writing letters in a cafe

PE: So this was for your cousin, because she's a pen-paler you said?

KT: Yes, she has hundreds of penpals all around the world, pretty much every day of the year she writes a letter to somebody, and if you get a letter from my cousin, it's just like receiving an envelope full of happiness - it's covered in stamps, it's covered in stickers, she doodles all over it. It just always makes me so happy to receive something from her so I wanted to do something as a surprise for her that would make her feel the same way.

PE: I bet she loved this, and I bet Kirstie [Allsopp] loved this actually because she's quite sentimental is Kirstie; she likes her crafting but she likes it to be connected to real life doesn't she. How was she with it all, did she get very excited?

KT: She did, yes, she loved how small everything was. I like to work in miniature so I make little characters that are the size of my little finger nail so she was really interested in the scale of things. I think she was quite surprised how small I made things, because I could make things huge.

PE: This is incredible. So on this book shelf, there are books that say "Hope", "Courage", there's an Edinburgh castle book, so where are these bits from then that you've cut?

A close up of detail of a collage by Sheffield artist Kat Taylor
Close up of some of the details of my pen-pal collage, most of the details are made form used stamps

KT: They're all cut from stamps, so the Edinburgh Castle one was a stamp with a picture of Edinburgh Castle with the text beneath it so I cut it out, I think the "Hope" and "Courage" were from a magazine but most of those are made out of stamps. So the picture on the wall is made out of a stamp, all of the flowers are cut from stamps, and if you look closely you'll see bits of the queen's nose and the queen's eyebrows and things like that.

Close up detail of a postbox and flowers made out of used stamps and old envelopes by Sheffield artist Kat Taylor
Used stamps and bits of old envelopes made up the majority of this collage

PE: It's so exciting, I can't get over it to be honest! Did it feel like you were on telly then?

KT: No, not at all, the most TV bit for me was the one-to-one interview before I went on to the set, there was a camera stuck about 12 inches from my face so that did feel like I was on camera. But when I was on set they just had the overhead cameras coming down over us so we just all completely forgot we were on camera so there's probably some swearing they've had to cut out...

PE: I hope not, Kat Taylor, showing us up in Sheffield!

KT: Not me of course, I don't swear [laughs]

PE: Now this one, you talked to me a little bit about this picture at the front. So we talked about Kirstie being quite sentimental in her art and that's probably the attraction of the show, it's not just about cutting bits and pieces up, it's about more than that isn't it?

KT: Yeah, it's creating and saving memories, which is what my art's all about.

PE: So what's this about then, this front picture that you showed me?

KT: That's a picture of Beaumaris in Anglesey and it's the last place I went to with my dad before he died. And after he died.... I decided to make a picture using pieces of paper that had belonged to him, so things that he had actually physically touched, so there's things like the last birthday card envelope I gave him, there's his beloved language dictionaries in there... so. I just used them and cut up and made this scene of the last place that we went to. But when I was actually working on that, I used a picture that I'd found on Google and just as I got to the very end of it, I zoomed in to the picture to make the small details, and sitting on the bench was my dad! And he'd only ever been to Beaumaris one day in his life and it just so happened that that photographer, by chance, took a photo of my dad looking out to sea and stuck it on the internet for me to find a couple of years later!

Beaumaris sea front, a cut paper collage by Kat Taylor
Beaumaris sea front, cut paper collage

PE: What are the chances of that? That's remarkable isn't it? So this is a picture of Anglesey, there's the beach, there's some flowers, and all of these pieces of paper are connected to your dad in some way. It is incredible actually because I keep mentioning that I lost my brother a couple of weeks ago and he had all of the birthday cards and Christmas cards that my mum had sent him and I just put them in the coffin because I didn't know what to do with them, I thought, I can't ever get rid of these! Do you do this for other people then?

KT: Yeah, I take commissions, I call it memorial art, so when somebody loses someone, I'll have a long chat with them and get to really know the person that's passed away and understand what they were interested in, what made them happy, what made them smile, and then I'll try to incorporate those little details into the artwork, really subtly, so that over the years as they look at that picture, they'll see all of those little details that represent that person. It doesn't have to be a picture of that person, it could be a landscape that made them really happy, or somewhere they went to on childhood holidays, anything really.

PE: It's like being a celebrant really, through art, isn't it? It's really beautiful. And the picture, as you said, it is of a place that you visited with your dad. So there's the glory of that, the beauty of that, but the fact that every little bit of that was a part of your dad's life.

KT: Yeah... and it felt like he was there with me when I was making it, because my dad had Parkinson's and he went blind as a result of that so he never actually got to see my work so for me to make that picture and then find him in it... it just felt so special that it was part of him. That's him there on the bench, and if you look at the flowers at the front, it says "say goodbye", I noticed that after I'd made the picture and it's part of one of his German dictionaries so it just felt like it was meant to me.

A tiny cut paper collage of a man sitting on a bench, by artist Kat Taylor
My little dad, sitting on a bench waiting to be added to my picture of Beaumaris

PE: Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Beautiful, beautiful, I'm having a good stroke of that. So, you're going to be on Kirstie's Handmade Christmas just before Christmas. I won't ask you if you've won it. So there were other people on doing paper art like you?

KT: Yes, each episode has four artists competing against each other, so there was three other paper artists on there as well.

PE: Beautiful. Well we're looking forward to seeing our lovely Kat, you'll be doing Kirstie's job soon. So that's Kat Taylor, Kirstie's Handmade Christmas, December the 23rd, we're going to be there aren't we, Kat, watching!

KT: We are yeah, with our mulled wine and mince pies!

PE: Absolutely!

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