Good morning my lovelies. How has your week been so far? Mine has been a mixed bag, but things are looking up – excited about a big event I am doing at the weekend for St Richards Hospice, a local charity. ANyway, am going off course….. interesting person…..yes, well, I met the lovely Melissa on Facebook through another paper cutter. I think her work is just fab, and she has also been very helpful and supportive when I have been stuck with a work type problem. So…..here is a little bit about her….
What’s your name and where d’ya come from?
Hiya Cilla 😉 I’m Melissa Holmes and I’m from York.
How long have you been doing what you do, and how did you get into it?
I’ve been papercutting for just under a year now. I started with a very simplistic Christmas card last December and its gone from there! I’ve always been a crafty sort and was initially running Holmes-made to sell my hand-made quilts and other machine-sewn items while also working as a magazine editor and journalist. The demand for quilts and patchworks (which I found very difficult to make a living from) alongside my writing and editing commitments, combined with being a full-time mum to my little girl all became a bit much. So in spring 2012, after several years editing three national magazines, I put away my red pen. My aim? To focus solely on papercutting. I still write a feature every couple of months – I used to win awards for my journalism, so it’s good to keep that going – but papercutting is where my passion lies now! So yes, I’ve been doing this for less than a year and, aside from the input of some very helpful paper artists, I’m entirely self-taught.
What’s the hardest part of your work?
The hardest part isn’t really to do with work at all, its to do with scheduling and finding time to draw and cut. Stealing a few moments here and there while my (very active and highly strung!) little girl naps has been increasingly difficult of late. But now she’s just turned two she’s started going to preschool a few mornings a week, which gives me at least four hours of cutting time a day. It doesn’t sound much, but it’s (sort of) enough. Plus I can’t work while she’s awake or in the house – scalpels and toddlers don’t mix! It’s working well so far though, and I’m at my desk a lot of evenings too to get through my busy order book.
And what’s the most rewarding?
For me, it has to be photographing or just admiring the finished piece. Often I can’t quite believe that little old me has managed to produce something so intricate and detailed. And right up there alongside that is the feeling I get when I hand over a cut to a client, or when they get in touch to give me their feedback. Making pretty things that make other people very happy – things that I know will be treasured for a lifetime – well, nothing tops it!
What do you class yourself as?
Good question! I’m a mum first and foremost, but after that I am an artist. It’s taken me many, many months to be able to say that, and I still feel like a bit of a fraud despite my experiences and full order book, but yes. I’m an artist.
Still feels weird.
I was a crafter when I made quilts, but now I’m creating these little fragile works of art I do see myself as more of an artist, especially since I have shops and galleries interested in displaying my work.
Who from the creative world do you admire?
Well, what a question. There are so many I look up to and am impressed by. I guess my favourite over all others – can I choose a dead person? – is Frida Kahlo. Her strength, her vibrancy, her attitude… She’s always been a creative force that I’ve looked up to. I’ve always been interested in colour like she was, and I think that’s something that shows in my work. I think one thing that puts my work apart from that of other papercut artists is my use of colour infills, which I’ve been doing since I first started cutting.
In terms of modern creative output, I see work on a daily basis that really impresses me. Too many to name names, but there are some amazing paper artists, ceramicists, textile artists and illustrators that I just adore the work of. It’s probably a good job I’ve never really got into Pinterest, because I’m not sure I’d ever be off it.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Honestly? I’m not going to say nature, or name another artist, or expound about the world around me. It’s simple – my family. My little girl inspires me because I want to show her what’s possible and to encourage her to follow her dreams and do what makes her happy, like I am. My fiancé inspires me with his love, support and patience – especially those rare moments of anger and frustration at errors I’ve made; when he holds me, tells me to calm down and makes me a hot chocolate.
And then there are those who are no longer around. My mum, who died when I was 20 and always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be. The only thing she ever wanted for me was for me to be happy (I am). And my grandparents – grandad a talented graphic designer, printmaker and teacher of art whose work is in the V&A, and granny a highly skilled artist, milliner and dressmaker. I never met them (they were killed in a car crash before I was born) but their style makes me tick, and their work is something I’m truly proud of. I feel that heritage coursing through my veins and, with one of my grandad’s beautiful paintings framed above my workspace, I’m reminded of – and inspired by – those much-missed family members everyday.
Do you listen to music/watch TV while you work?
No! I like to work in silence. Sometimes I’ve got the washing machine whirring around next to me (I work at the kitchen table), occasionally I’ve l got a cat purring on my lap and sometimes I’ll stick my iTunes on shuffle. But usually it’s just me, the blade and the paper. I like to be able to give it my full concentration because, when I do, my mind has the chance to wander off and take me anywhere! Sounds strange but that’s how it works – lately I’ve been transported back to gorgeous holidays in France while cutting my Christmas card designs. I guess I don’t mind my own company.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
No idea! I’ve always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sorta girl. I’ll be 35, will no doubt have more littlies and hopefully still be papercutting. If I am, I’d like to have a range of products – textiles, wallpaper, prints… I hope I’ll have the time to create more art-led pieces and explore the medium of papercutting more, perhaps combining it with one of my other creative passions, such as photography or machine sewing. I’d like to host workshops locally so I can teach others this satisfying skill and get to enjoy eating cake and spending time with other creative types. I do have a bit of a dream to have a barn set-up, with studios available to rent on a daily basis, a coffee shop, display space and crèche (so other arty parents can pursue their passion while someone looks after their small person), but that dream is a very, very long way off. Unless anyone happens to know the winning numbers for the next lottery draw…?
Above all, in five years, I’d still like to be in a happy place.
What sacrifices have you made for your art?
I gave up my career as a magazine editor for one. I imagine I can always go back to it but, right now, papercutting is where I’m at.
I also give up time with my little girl in order to work. Many thousands of parents do the same, I know; but when you’re self-employed with a small income and your little girl has been with you pretty much full-time from birth, it’s a painful sacrifice to make! But I guess she’s only just started preschool, so I’m feeling it more right now.
And my evenings. I started sacrificing those a long time ago with editing, but now pretty much every night is spent at the kitchen table designing and cutting. Good job I enjoy it! And I know I’m very privileged to be in the position I’m in. Self-employment is far from easy (I should know, I’ve been doing it since 2008), but there’s a huge reward in running your own show, doing it all off your own back and being your own boss. Plus the commute to the office is fairly stress-free, barring any toys strategically placed on the stairs. Yes, I’m very lucky to be doing a job I love, and to have so many people – most of whom I’ve never met before – like it so much that they want to hang it on their walls. *glows*
If you are interested in commissioning any work from Melissa, send her an e-mail at the following address…
You can also check out and ‘like’ her Facebook page
And of course you can buy stuff too over at Folksy…
http://folksy.com/shops/HolmesMadeCrafts (currently having a makeover)