Welcome to our second big Friday Feature Artist blog, we are thrilled to be able to share with you an insight to a young and upcoming artisan, who not only has talent trickling from her fingertips, she has the mind of a mad genius and the ability to create beauty from these crazy convictions.
Meet the marvellous Lee Ann Donaldson of Not Just Paper Boutique.
Lady Lock Designs first started working with Lee Ann in February of 2015, there was an immediate creative and business chemistry and the partnership of mentor and designer has thrived ever since. I was able to grab a chat with Lee Ann via telephone and ask her all about her thoughts and dreams.
The phone rings and a soft, Scottish accent answers “Hello, Lisa.” I have obviously spoken over messenger many times with Lee Ann, but had never heard the sound of her voice before, so in my head it had been more southern, as she lives that way… so this was a real treat for me! I love a good accent, don’t you?
So tell me about where you were born and grew up, and what you were like as a little girl?
I was born & grew up in Falkirk, in Central Scotland. I’d like to say I was a nice, lovely, well behaved child but I think my Mum would have a slight difference of opinion on that one! I do consider myself a true Scot, (she would not confirm what that meant? Haha!!) I did move away eventually but I still consider Scotland home.
Was art something you did a lot of?
Yes, I was always drawing from as far back as I can remember. I loved art at school, and remember the old art room fondly from primary school, with the smells of poster paints and piles of every colour of paper you can imagine pouring out of drawers.
I remember having massive reams of printer paper at home – the type with the perforated edges – and spent hours drawing and painting. I think the reams of paper arrived after I drew a life sized picture of a school friend on the inside of the wardrobe door.
Growing up what other trends and hobbies were you into?
I didn’t really have any specific hobbies growing up, I was a typical kid who would be out playing with friends after school, or as I got older, “hanging out” – which was much cooler! I loved reading, which I still do, but it’s a dangerous thing for me to pick up a book as I’ll easily lose a whole day to it. I’ve always been heavily in to music – not playing instruments, I just love music. Although, my Grandma used to set me up at her dining table with an old tape recorder and had me record myself singing so she could listen back to them. I’m 90% certain those tapes have been destroyed, I’d be mortified if they resurfaced, haha!
So, what is your all-time favourite song then? The Jezabels – A Little Piece… only because it’s what I’m listening to now! She couldn’t pick, which is a sign of an avid music fan after all, yes?
Do you think you had any early influences like teachers or parents etc?
My Grandma was very creative, she loved to draw or paint, and always had a box tucked away in a cupboard full of pastels, oil paints, “proper” colouring pencils etc. I loved when she’d dig that box out while I was visiting, she always encouraged me to draw, and had a great belief in me.
After she passed, my Mum discovered an old Christmas card I’d drawn in Primary 4 – I’d have been around 8 when I made it – which she’d kept in a frame on her bedroom wall for all of those years. I don’t think I realised until then just how much of a supporter she’d been of mine while I was growing up.
How did becoming a mum affect your career path?
I used to worry being a Mum would limit me in whether I could work in the creative industry. But actually, the most difficult part is trying to juggle the two. I’m a single parent so life can get very hectic especially when I have a lot going on with my work, but my ultimate goal is to show my kids that you really can achieve your dreams if you work hard at it.
If anything I think I take less risks than maybe I should, but I prefer to think that’s me being sensible!
What’s your favourite food and why?
Ooh, tough question! I’m not sure I have an ultimate favourite – maybe steak, you can’t go wrong with a good bit of steak!
What time of the year do you love the most?
I love Summer, however, I think I may like Autumn just a tiny bit more. I love seeing the changes in nature, and my inner child loves crunching the crisp leaves as I walk down the street! Throw in a sunny but frosty morning – that’s my favourite right there.
What makes you giggle?
This is such a Mum answer, but Charlie, my 4 year old. He’s hilarious, he makes me laugh every single day. For a 4 year old he has a brilliant sense of humour and impeccable timing with his one-liners. Sadly, he takes after his mother and has almost mastered the art of sarcasm, so I’m already dreading the phone calls from school next year.
Where did your idea stem from for your Shadow boxes?
I started out doing the same as most papercutters, cutting 2D papercuts for special occassions, but I always felt there was more I could do with paper. I started following the work of Carlos Meira, and was in awe at his work – the depth he creates using single sheets of paper layered on top of each other really inspired me. At the time I couldn’t find any tutorials on this, I didn’t even know what the technique was called! It took me months to build up the courage to try something similar myself, and it did take a lot of trial and error to make something that worked for me.
I was hesitant at first about making my shadow boxes available as DIY templates, I think I felt protective over them – I had put a lot of work into figuring out the process behind them – but I love that I’ve been able to offer something different to crafters.
When do you get your best ideas?
I think this has become a bit of a running joke with me, but they usually appear late at night when I’m supposed to be sleeping. The idea for my latest Alice-inspired piece, ‘Intrigue,’ came to me at a ridiculous hour, and just last night I had a potential idea for new products for some of my designs at 2am. Which is all well and good, but I don’t just stop at the idea or jot it down in a notebook to pick up in the morning – I go all out and lay there in bed for hours thinking through in great detail, the process of how I will make the idea I’ve had.
(I am so glad she does not message me at these times!!!)
What’s your favourite joke?
Smell up who?
Ewww, you smell of poo!
(Can you tell I have a 4 year old son?)
What are your best skills?
Hmm.. this isn’t earth shattering, but I do pride myself in being able to engineer something from paper. My 3D sculptures, for example, I love the process of having the idea as a rough, 2D sketch, and figuring out and then turning it into a piece of 3D art.
Is there anything you do badly?
Yes, loads! I am rubbish at drawing properly (papercutting is very forgiving!) – I’d love to be able to draw beautiful things, and if I could also have the ability to colour them and add tone and depth, that would make me happy.
How did you come to start papercutting?
I saw some work by Rob Ryan, Suzy Taylor & Julene Harrison a few years ago – I was in college so 2009? 2010? Around then.. I was really taken in by the stuff they were making, it was completely breathtaking. I started playing around with simple cutting soon after, but really it was quite embarrassing because I wasn’t very good at figuring out the designing of a papercut.
In my first year of Uni I got the scalpel out and cut an illustration into the pages of a book as part of a project, and the following year I killed said scalpel cutting the lid of a box to present a different project in (300gsm grey board, my hand ached for a week!)
Papercutting was just a hobby for me though, I played around with it for a couple of years, but didn’t start doing it seriously until towards the end of 2013, then Not Just Paper Boutique was born at the beginning of 2014!
How important do you feel technology is to the artwork you produce and sell?
I have a little bit of OCD over my designs, so always finish them off digitally to make sure everything is symmetrical, that circles look like circles. I feel like maybe it’s cheating a little bit, but I’ve used Illustrator for a long long time and it makes sense to me to clean up my designs there before cutting – otherwise I know I wouldn’t be completely happy with the final piece, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable selling them.
Are you a shrewd business woman?
I don’t think so – I honestly couldn’t tell you what sort of business woman I am! I really am an artist first and the business side of things is something I’m still trying to grasp.
What’s in store for Lee-Ann Donaldson next?
It’s funny you ask that, I’ve been sitting on some pretty big news for the last couple of weeks and have been bursting to spill the beans! Myself and 3 wonderful artists – Louise Dyer of Paperlace by Louise Dyer; Sarah King of Apple Seed Paper Cut; and Emma King of Bluebirds & Paper – have been invited by my good friend, Panda herself, Louise Firchau, in her next Paper Panda and friends exhibition. Eeeek!! There, I said it! The exhibition will run from 25th March to 7th May 2017 and will be held in the National Trust Nunnington Hall in North Yorkshire. I’m incredibly excited for it, I think it’s a huge positive step for myself as an artist, and a massive opportunity to exhibit alongside such talent.
That aside, I want to go back to experimenting with paper sculptures, similar to the work I made in the dome jars earlier in the year. I feel like these are the next step up from the shadow boxes for me – a friend and I joke about this, we call it “levelling up”, think Mario!! – and creating them is incredibly enjoyable, it really gets the brain ticking when you’re trying to figure out how to engineer something from a simple sheet of paper!
I love paper engineering – I lose hours scrolling through Pinterest & Instagram looking at the works of the likes of Hattie Newman (who is incredible, by the way!) and when I look at this type of work, it lights a fire inside me. So I feel like it’s a natural step forward for me to explore more.
Can we expect any Christmas gifts from NJPB this year?
I hope so! I have a couple of ideas I need to try out, so fingers crossed!
If you had a magic wand what would you wish for?
More creating time! Ooh – or Bernard’s Watch! I’d just pause the world and take as much time as I needed to complete a new piece of work, that way I wouldn’t miss anything going on around me.
If you could offer advice to another budding artist what would that be?
Don’t be afraid to make bad art, sometimes our most disappointing works pave the way to creating something you’ll be most proud of. Don’t be afraid to experiment or try new things either – if you don’t try it, how do you know it won’t be the one big thing that gets you noticed? And lastly, don’t give up at the smallest hurdles!
So there you have it! A very down to earth woman with an imagination high in the clouds. A joy to work with and a beacon within the papercutting family. We will be sharing more exciting news with Lee Ann and others very soon so stayed tuned – but for now, take a look below for the links to Lee Ann’s various online homes: