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Spotlight on Jessica Palmer

Craft Business: Tell us about yourself; did you come from a creative background?

Jessica Palmer: My mother was a sculptor, while my father painted and they were both superb potters. They took great pride in hand making everything, from plates and staircases, to clothes and preserves.

CB: What craft techniques do you specialise in and what inspired your interest?

JP: My passion is paper and I specialise in paper cutting, collage and sculpture. However, I am an illustrator and so I am probably happiest when I am drawing with a fine pigment liner pen. That being said, I see paper cutting as just another form of drawing, using a scalpel knife instead of a pencil.

CB: How did you develop your skills; did you take classes or were you self-taught?

JP: I did an MA in Illustration but there was little in the way of skills training on the course, so I taught myself. But I have learnt most by teaching. I run all kinds of art workshops and these have helped me extend what I know and the range of what I do.

CB: How did you get involved with writing books for Search Press? Tell us about the titles that you have written so far.

JP: I held an open studio in my home and a neighbour, who is a bookseller, saw my work and put me in touch with Search Press. I have just written The Art of Papercutting (July 2015) for Search Press and I have just drawn Tangle Wood – A Captivating Colouring Book for Grown-Ups (August 2015).

CB: How has the industry changed since you first started out?

JP: I was a BBC producer until 2006 when I took redundancy and did my MA in Illustration over the next two years. In 2008, we were still being advised to carry a portfolio around to publishers. That has almost disappeared now in favour of websites, blogs and online content.

CB: What effect has that had on the way your career has developed over the years?

JP: It took me a number of years and several tries before I came up with a website which worked and was well designed. This is absolutely crucial to me as a showcase for my work.

CB: What trends have you seen come and go?

JP: The current enthusiasm for handmade, homemade and hand crafted is one trend I really welcomed back with open arms. I love the technical challenge of learning how to cut large papercut images or making something like my Tudor Paper Galleon, in the Tudor House Museum in Southampton, or my Paper Tutu, now residing with the curator of the Royal Ballet Museum.

CB: What new products have appeared over the years that you feel have really made an impact on the industry?

JP: Paper as a material is a hugely diverse and growing medium now. There is a gigantic range of papers available for every different task you can imagine.

CB: Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known when you started out?

JP: I needed several years after my MA to continue learning, improving, growing a critical eye and really figuring out what I loved, what I was good at and finding a niche for myself as an artist. There were many times I nearly gave up. Luckily I was able to persuade myself to keep going! My husband was and is an incredible supporter and encourager. You need to have a friend or two with whom you can exchange ideas and offer encouragement.

CB: What are your plans for the future?

JP: To keep doing the best work I can and to continue experimenting. For example, I just made a series of collographs (sort of 3D collages) and used them to create embossed and printed images as illustrations for a book of poetry. To keep drawing and getting paid to do it, that is heaven for me!

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Jessica Palmer gave up a TV production career to rekindle her first love of art, gaining an MA in Illustration at Kingston University at the age of 49.