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Meet paper cut designer Sarah Matthews -

Paper Design

I am excited to reveal our first blog ‘Paper Design’ number one in a series which will be released throughout 2018. This series will showcase interviews with some of the amazing women who have supported, inspired and been part of Saloukee’s 10 year story in business.

First up we speak with with paper engineer and paper cut designer Sarah Louise Matthews and what a talented lady she is at paper design!

Our month one showcase is all about paper design. This is not only material which marks our very beginnings but also the first wedding anniversary – a gift marked with paper. This year for us is all about celebrating our 1-10 years in business.  So during March, I will also be making new work made of paper. Plus recommending other brilliant independents who work in the same medium.

Paper Design Paper Cut Designer

Some Background

Paper Design Paper Flowers
How did you and Sarah first meet?
During my Textile Surface Design degree there was a paper module. Sarah was (the natural choice to be) the visiting lecturer for this project and I thought we clicked quite well during one to one tutorials – hopefully Sarah agrees! When I graduated, I reached out to see if I could come and do some work experience at Saloukee, and Sarah said yes, so before I knew it I was in London being her little helper.
What are you doing at this stage in your career?
I am a freelance paper engineer and paper cut designer. I work with a variety of brands and individual clients to design and make paper creations for photoshoots, visual merchandising, events and everything in between.
What’s your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
Last November, I had my work in an Oxford Street-facing Selfridges window, as well as inside the store. I made hundreds of paper flowers, and it was a stressful, last minute rush to meet the deadline, but I still can’t believe it happened!
Is there one piece of advice that you would give to someone thinking of starting their own creative business? 
Just start. Taking the first step is always the hardest part (I am reminded of this every year when it’s tax return time haha). Nobody is going to be perfect at first, so just make the first move and then allow your business to evolve over time.
I cringe looking back on some of my old work, but if I hadn’t done it I wouldn’t be doing what I do now and I think most creative people would say the same. If the idea of diving in head first is too daunting, just make the first tiny move (even if you have no idea where it will lead).
Whether it’s setting yourself a little creative project and making an Instagram page to share it, or designing one product and opening up an Etsy shop, just do something. Setting up an Etsy shop was my first move, and it only had one product in it for quite some time, but at least I had put the wheels in motion.

Women In Business

Paper Design Paper Craft
How has running your business changed in the time you’ve been involved in the industry?
When I graduated, I spent a year doing various internships and bits of work experience. During this time, inspired by the people I was surrounded by, I started creating my own designs, not yet knowing wether it would be a hobby or business.

I got a full time job off the back of one of my internships, where I ended up working for four years, the whole time continuing my own work as a side-hustle. As time went on it became harder to juggle both, but I was worried that I couldn’t yet afford to continue living in London on the income from my own work alone, so I just continued to burn the candle at both ends. My team ended up being made redundant due to our employer’s financial problems, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it gave me the push to see if I could make my own business properly work. Yes it was hard, yes I had to move out of London, and yes there were times when I thought I couldn’t make it work, but being able to dedicate all of my time to my own work was life-changing!

In the (almost) two years since losing my job, I have had my work on the cover of a magazine, written a book, taught 300 people over a weekend of workshops at the Southbank Centre, had my work in numerous shop windows (including the Selfridges one!) and so much more.

Can you name a female role model (alive/dead) that you believe future generations should know about?
I recently watched the film ‘Hidden Figures’, which was so good! Janelle Monae, who I love, is in it, the soundtrack is great and it is an amazing true story about three female African-American mathematicians who served vital roles in the early years of NASA. I had never heard of any of these women or their work before watching, but am so pleased to now know their stories. All three women are incredible role models, but one in particular, Katherine Johnson, stood out to me.
What’s your favourite material to work with and are there any you’d still love to explore?
It probably comes as no surprise but I love paper! It is the most readily available, affordable material I know of, and there are endless possibilities with it. There is also the added bonus that if it all goes wrong, it can just be recycled! And as for a material I’d still love to explore, I quite fancy doing a ceramics class (but just for fun!) I dabbled a little bit with ceramics at college but would like to have another go.

Real Life Stuff

Paper Design Priceless Paper
What’s one thing that creativity has taught you about life?

This may not really answer the question but, like many others, my creative business has been prone to somewhat taking over my life, teaching me that I need to be more time-realistic rather than time-optimistic.

One of my pet peeves is the emphasis online among creative business owners on ‘the hustle’, glamorising busyness and encouraging others to aspire to the way their work has taken over their life, which (in my opinion) is a pretty unhealthy way to live. I know for example that my mental and physical health has been worse when I have taken on too much and have consequently had to work weeks of consecutive 19+ hour days … you most definitely won’t find me glamorising it on social media!

Part of me sees it as building the foundations of my business and ‘paying my dues’, but the other part knows that it’s just not a healthy or happy way of life to aspire to.  I am (quietly) ambitious and have always been a hard worker (my family would probably say too hard), but I am increasingly aware of the importance of work/life balance … finding that balance isn’t easy though – I’m definitely still working on it.

What’s the most sentimental object that you own and why?
Photographs! My parents always took lots of photos so I think it was instilled in me to do the same. I love looking through them, bringing back happy memories. I think I’ve been slacking a bit in the last few years though.
What does priceless mean to you?
So precious that money can’t buy it. To me, nothing physical is ‘priceless’, only  experiences can be. As much as I do like to have (a select few) nice things around me, It is far more precious to have nice people around me, and to create ‘priceless’ memories with them.
Sarah

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