Traditional techniques when it comes to art are seeing a revival but focus has tended to lie on more popular (and user-friendly) disciplines such as knitting, embroidery and analogue photography. Annemarieke Kloosterhof is a young artist currently makes huge waves in the art world as a paper-cutter (in her spare time, she’s still a student!) and we got a chance to speak with her to find out more about her cutting-edge (no pun intended) skills.
Can you give us a little bit of background to yourself, where you’re from and what you currently do?
I am a 21 year old girl, and as you might have guessed considering my name: born and bred in The Netherlands! When I turned 17 I moved to England to do an exchange year, and liked the people and the culture so much, that I decided to stay. I applied to do an Art-Foundation at Central Saint Martins and moved down to London, and sort of never looked back since. I am currently a final-year student at Central Saint Martins, studying Graphic Design & Illustration.
You specialize in paper cutting but could be considered an artistic polymath with many skills under belt. What made you choose paper cutting?
I kind of fell into it, as it sort of started as a dare: When I was 16, my Granddad went to an exhibition in Holland about traditional paper-cutting, and brought me back a leaflet. He pointed out how impressive it was and how it must be really difficult and precise work, and I (a slightly overachieving teenager) was like “Yeah, I could do that…” It was summer holidays and I was up for a new challenge, so I went out and bought a scalpel and started sketching a Snow-White design. Being quite pleased with myself when I finished it (without accidentally cutting my fingers off) I soon drew up more designs. After having done several 2D paper-cuttings, I then moved on to 3D Book-Art. After that came collage, paper craft, paper installations and layered paper illustrations… I guess now you could say the dare has definitely gotten out of control and there is no turning back (blame my Granddad). I still use the same scalpel I bought for my first paper-cutting.
Your artistic specialty currently is paper cutting – can you explain a little bit about the work that goes into a piece as well as some of the origins/history of paper-cutting?
Unlike the traditional paper-cutting technique of using a tiny pair of scissors, I use a scalpel (sorry to burst the bubble). Depending on whether I am creating a flat paper-cutting, a 3D object or a layered piece, my work approach varies. Though I usually spend a good few days on the idea, the concept and the step-by-step execution, and plan everything in my head until I can see it clearly before me. I draw out a lot of mind-maps of the concept, symbolism or topic I am trying to portray, note down potential pit-falls and ways to avoid cliché’s or stereotypes. I sketch out several designs until I am happy with the outcome, and then plan out a colour-palette. When I am completely satisfied, I draw out the sketch in neat, and in as much detail as the final outcome will be, and create a mirror of the design, drawn on the back of the piece of paper I am going to cut. Once all that is done I get my scalpel and happily work for days sometimes weeks, cutting away tiny individual pieces of paper at a time, occasionally flipping the paper the right way up to see if it’s starting to look like anything yet.
When I create collages the majority of the time is sorting out heaps of paper, magazines, or in the case of my tea-collages: tea bags, for the perfect colour, shape or object, and then trying to tear it in the perfect angle, twisting and turning it for 5 minutes until it is placed in the perfect location, before finally glueing it down. When I create paper-craft illustrations with lots of loose objects and layers, it kind of just goes tiny paper-object by tiny paper-object, and when I create Book-Art it goes, quite literally; page by page.
Every piece is different and so is the work process, what they do all have in common though, is excessive attention to detail and way, way too many work-hours!
Can you tell us about any exciting past projects you’ve worked on?
To be honest, I enjoy almost every project created with paper, just because it is such a magical thing to see the transition of solid, blank page, to fully cut illustration. Apart from my own work, probably the most exciting projects I helped work on were as an Assistant for The Makerie Studio. Under their direction, I helped work on Paper-projects for window displays in Harrods and Watches of Switzerland, helped install hundreds of origami birds for the new Lexus advertisement and, most recently, was allowed to assist on a paper-photoshoot for Vogue China’s 10th anniversary. Though of course none of these projects are technically made by me, being only an assistant, it still allows me to help create, experience and learn a lot of things I normally never would be able to.
You are originally from the Netherlands. How do you think that has influenced you as an artist?
At first, I never really thought being Dutch had much influence on my work. Having recently looked through my Uni-portfolio and previous work, I have started to notice it more and more. There are definitely a lot of hints (the reoccurring colour orange, for one) in my work, nudging to my cultural heritage. Apart from having done a couple projects on stereotypes, expressions of the Dutch Language, and my childhood, I have come to recognize my obsession with angles, lines and layouts: Modernism, De Styl and the Bauhaus movement definitely take part in that. Though mostly in film and photography projects, Mondriaan is an artist I have started to reference quite a bit. As for my paper-based stuff, I guess you could say it is quite clear I grew up in a stereotypical small Dutch village, surrounded by lots of meadows with cows and fields with tulips, with a big forest just a bicycle ride away, as animals, plants and nature are definitely a reoccurring theme.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I have written a To-Do list of over a hundred ideas of “Things I’d like to make” as soon as I’ve got some extra time on my hands. These ideas usually come to me at moments where you don’t actually have a pencil or piece of paper on you to sketch it out (when I’m on a train, under the shower, or just about to fall asleep). When I’ve got a concept I want to explore, the next thing I usually do is go online to see if it’s an original idea or if it’s already been done before. If it’s the latter I try to change it up, do the opposite, or go my own way, so it will still be something new and different. Sometimes I look through my list of ideas and realize I am working on a project that is a collaboration of a multiple of project-ideas, creating something new all together yet ticking off several boxes.
What artists are currently taking your interest?
Gosh, thanks to social media I am able to stalk/follow just about every Paper-Artist you can think of. Instagram is really good to get lost in, there are so many creative who put their work on there, it’s amazing. I find new illustrators, artists and designers I like every week. I look at film directors, photographers and fashion designers for inspiration too. I guess my current paper-favorites are studios like The Makerie Studio, INK- Studio, Zim & Zou, Adrian & Gidi and Fidel Sundqvist – all of whom I’d love to work with some day.
You are currently based in London – what about London do you think provides so much inspiration for artists and is there something in particular about the city that sets it aside from other cities?
It is such a vast, multicultural hub of all different kinds of people – you can’t do much better than that. Street-Art everywhere you go, Galleries at every other turn and as many *free* Museums visits one could wish for. For me it is not only the architecture, the streets and the infrastructure, but also the diversity of boroughs. Every week I come across a new unnoticed secret little passageways I didn’t know about, or end up in a hidden park or obscure café. There is just so much to see and to do, and every location comes with its own history, type of residents, and sub-culture. It is ancient yet modern at the same time – and I know I start to sound like a travel-agent by this point, but it really has everything you could ever want, all in one place. London is definitely the Creative-Capital of Europe (sorry Amsterdam).
Do you think there’s a growing trend for traditional art forms such as paper cutting? If so, what do you think it feeding it?
Oh god yes. Paper-Art is everywhere! I really hope it is not becoming so popular that everyone is going to do it, and that it becomes a “Trend”… as trends go out of fashion and then I would be without a job. I think the reason behind the growth of art and design in traditional craft-based media is partially due to technology. We are already so used to seeing photos, films, websites and digital drawings, that Photoshop and Illustrator have become almost a second language to most designers. I think that the public, upon seeing hand-lettering, wood & lino-cuts, screenprints, embroidery and collage, gets nostalgic. We like things we know and we like tactile things, things where you can see how much time and effort must have gone into making it. Things which look intricate and detailed, for which you need to have mastered a niche skill, tends to earn more respect and praise from the public now, because they are a traditional art form. No objections here!
How have sites such as Behance and social media platforms benefitted you as an artist?
They are everything. Without my website people would not have been able to find my work, so I would not have been selected for the Dutch “Young Talent” Rabobank Cultuur Prijs. Without my Instagram account I could not have collaborated with other artist, get my work out there, or do lots of networking. Without my Behance-account I would have never found The Makerie Studio, nor would I have then proceeded to work for them. Without social media, no-one would know about the work I make, no-one would commission me for illustrations, buy my paper-pieces or ask me to do an interview for a blog feature.
Any cool projects that you’re working on currently or in the near future?
This Autumn, I am about to launch a Dutch childrens book called “De Avonturen van Rosa en Willem”, which I illustrated.
I am also, thanks to my magical Instagram-networking (stalking) abilities, currently working on a collaboration project with Russian still-life photographer Dina Belenko. We have been working on the concept together, have decided the colourscheme, the materials and planned out the design, all via about 50 emails back and forth. I am currently creating a paper-piece, here in London, which (because of fear of bad postage) she will try to re-create in Russia, after which she does her magic with the camera and creates the end result. What that end result is, I am going to keep a secret for now, but the entire process of this project can be followed via Instagram.