Katy Welsh is a designer and illustrator based in Britain, whose cut-and-paste aesthetic produces bold and colourful compositions that embrace clashing patterns. Inspired by both the naturalistic tradition of English art and the wild brush strokes of Fauvism, Welsh questions these historic modes of expression from the position of a contemporary designer. She works primarily with print on paper and textiles, so we knew when we first saw her work that she was a perfect fit for us!
Katy Welsh is the artist for Issue 85 of Papirmass, mailed to subscribers in January 2017.
Hi Katy! Tell us about your artwork for Papirmass.
Underwater Floral is from a collection inspired by quick studies made on a trip to the Welsh coastline. Additionally, an exhibition of Matisse’s “Cutouts” at the Tate totally shaped my practice. His use of scale, shape, and colour were, and are still, incredibly inspiring to me. I wanted to translate the world around me the way he did, making it larger than life and bringing attention to the shapes and patterns we see everyday.
What’s your creative process like? How do you make the leap from idea to finished piece?
First, I collect photos, illustrations, and patterns that are interesting to me at that time, which I pin up on boards in front of me. Ideas and themes spring from this initial research and often help me start to develop a concept.
I like to work out my ideas using collage. I like the immediacy of cutting out a block of colour and positioning it on my page, I like the freedom it gives me to play with composition, I never start with a fully formed idea of what a piece will look like, it’s much more exciting to me to let things develop organically.
I have a big collection of papers which I rifle through to find the perfect colour and texture, doing things this way helps to create happy accidents too, I like to reuse the offcuts or pull random assortments of colours to create something new and unexpected.
From here, I use Photoshop to digitally repeat the image. However, I still think of myself as an “analogue” designer.
What themes and ideas are present in your work?
I believe we should seek beauty in imperfection, and not sandpaper work down to a shop-finish to make it desirable. I aim to explore the notions of the role of the Artist vs. the Designer vs. the Craftsperson and why there is still such a divide between the conceptual, the functional, and the decorative.
Describe your studio:
I used to work in a beautiful big studio with a lot of other designers when I was at university. Now I have moved home, and my studio is my kitchen. I work at the table, which extends to fit all my papers ( I am a very messy designer). I have pin boards which I cover in inspiration that lean against the window, and boxes and boxes full of materials and equipment.
What frustrates you about your workspace?
I miss not having other creatives around. I loved the communal atmosphere and being able to get immediate opinions from people whose taste I trust. My old studio was such a melting pot of ideas and different kinds of people, being on my own is very different.
How has your practice changed over time?
I think I have become a lot more focused. I know my sense of style, and I know what works for me. I have also become more confident at applying my style to lots of different working models. For example, a big part of my job now is illustration, which is not something I have been trained in. I think that it’s important as a designer to have to confidence to throw yourself into new challenges and make things work on your terms.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
The best place I have visited has to be Istanbul. It’s such an interesting mix of Eastern and Western cultures. There is so much to take in. As a textile designer, the city is so rich in inspiration: colours, smells, sights. The bazaars are incredible and filled with beautiful fabrics, metal work, and crafts. It’s a city full of hidden gems!
What’s the best thing about being an artist?
I love being able to do something I love for a job. I love the feeling of making work that excites me. Sometimes when I make something I have no idea how I did it. I love it when it feels like a design has just flowed out of you.
How can art affect change in our culture?
I want to challenge throw-away culture and encourage people to consume more responsibly. I want people to engage with my work because they love it, want to keep it, and not because it ticks the box of this season’s trend. In design, sustainability is becoming an imperative rather than an add-on.
Is creativity learned or innate?
I think creativity is innate. I agree with Picasso when he said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Creativity has to be nurtured and built upon because it’s an easy thing to lose sight of. Under the right circumstances, everyone has the ability to create.
Katy Welsh is our January 2017 artist.
See more at cargocollective.com/katywelsh