What do you do when greeted by an onslaught of flyers and packages at the end of a night? Store them safely away as valuable materials for paper and wire installations? Birds perhaps? Me neither. But for Kate Slater, paper in all its forms is a painful thing to part with, particularly old envelopes and stamps, so that her room is now filled to the brim with dormant scraps awaiting new life by way of scissors and glue. She is a hat wearing, cake baking, paper-cutting-sticking-hanging illustrator living in London, and she is one of the illustrators to have successfully submitted a piece for the ‘everything is connected’ theme of issue ten. Hello Kate. What are you up to now?
At this very moment, I’m working on a piece – a sort of set – for a production company. Bits of it are going to be animated which I’m very excited about! I’m also working on 3 posters for an ad agency in Chicago, which is quite surreal… I mean, some of these are going to be 6 foot high. It’s mad. Long-term what I really want to do is write and illustrate children’s books, and I’m now working on my first with Andersen Press. It’s going to be flat collage, which I’m happy about. I think I began hanging my collages because I was trying to find a ‘style’ or a way to make my paper-cuts work, but now that’s not so important – I feel like my way of working is my own, however I do it. I still do love to construct the 3D pieces so it’s great to have the chance to work like that for adveritising and book jackets and things. I’ve always liked making intricate structures and working in 3D, so the hanging collages are the perfect combination. I also do love to draw, and although you probably can’t tell from my work, it is still quite observational in some ways. For instance, if I’m collaging a bird, I have to have a picture of a real bird to get it right – the way the wings move and the feather patterns – I just give it more character. So yes, in life, children’s books are my main aim. It is actually what I have always always wanted to do and I can’t believe I actually am, I feel so lucky!
What materials do you like to work with? And how do you make your pieces? Does it take a long time?
Paper paper paper. It began with the insides of envelopes, and now I struggle to throw a single scrap away. I love it when I find a piece of an image which perfectly describes something I need (like pancakes for dress ruffles). I also have piles of old envelopes with bright, jewel-like stamps which I can’t bear to cut up. Gardening magazines are always good. Apart from that I use wire and sometimes thread. I get the wire from florists or I strip down the flex from old irons, or my dad gives me electric fence wire and things, it’s very handy having a farmer for a Dad – he gives me all the envelopes too. He spends ages searching for unusual patterns and post marks. I make a wire framework and tape it to the wall above the background piece of paper, and then I just hand the pieces of collage from the framework. It is a very intricate way of working, but I’m not really very precious about it, I just get some glue and scissors and try things out – that’s the great thing about collage, it’s never definite, you can always cut it up and remake it in a different way! The time thing is always difficult to work out. I suppose they do take a long time, but I can work quickly if I need to, it’s just even more chaotic than usual!
What were your favourite books as a child?
Oh there are so many… all the usuals – Janet and Alan Ahlberg, Quentin Blake (Mr Magnolia had only one boot!), there was a book called ‘Where’s Julius?’ that my grandpa always used to read to me. The really memorable ones are those that create such a believable, atmospheric, magical world. I hope I can do that. Even just with words, like The Owl and the Pussycat, I never had an illustrated copy of that but it’s still an actual land I can reach in my head. And the munch bunch, not that I particularly loved those books, but when I was seven, my teacher at school told me a nine year old girl wrote them (I’m not sure how accurate that fact is!) so I was determined to have a book published by the time I was eight.
What has been your favourite project so far?
I suppose it has to be the children’s book I’m working on, as that is what I really want to do! I’ve been working on it for so long now, first at uni and then it was a few months before I got a definite yes from my publisher. Really, I get excited every time someone asks me to do anything!
What would your dream project be?
Apart from children’s books… I would love to do a window display! Imagine having a whole window in which to hang things! That would be amazing. I love the illustrations in their 3D form, before they’ve been photographed and a window would be the absolute perfect space.
I hope you enjoy her work as much as I have, have a look at some more here.
- Craftastic. What to do with old envelopes?
- Thereza Rowe, Hearts: interview and review
- Mark Pawson – Badgemaker Extraordinaire
- Making Great Illustration, by Derek Brazell and Jo Davies: Book Review
- Femke de Jong