In conversation with: Claire Coles

Artist Claire Coles handcrafts wallpaper murals and applique artworks using paper, silk, leather and freehand embroidery

Tell me about your background? I trained in Applied Arts in London and graduated in 2003. I was very fortunate that my first commissions were a wallpaper display for Liberty London and then a window display for Selfridges. In 2004 I moved into the creative studio hub Cockpit Arts London where I shared studios with wonderful creatives and made some great friends.

In 2019 I decided to relocate back to Norfolk, I was craving somewhere more rural.

Can you describe your creative process? I normally work with pen and paper sketching first, I then look into the colours and materials I will work with to create a colour palette. When working to commission I usually work on sampling patterns and designs for clients.

I start with a base layer of paint to create the shape and movement in the piece, followed by layering up hand cut papers and leathers. This moves into free motion embroidery, followed by painting and more collage, these steps will be repeated several times until the piece is completed.

I always want my work to have energy and movement, so I actually work quite quickly moving between different techniques.

Applique by Claire Coles

What is the appeal of working in applique? I have always been interested in bringing together different materials and textures within my work. Appliqué allows me to combine layers in quite a quick way, enabling me to build depth into my work.

When I started making wallpapers I was working with vintage wallpapers I had collected from markets, charity and antique shops. My idea was to make pieces that appeared that the patterns had grown to life, florals joining together, leaves and petals growing, the process of appliqué allowed me to achieve this.

In my most recent work I am playing with the idea that the collection looks like paintings, but on closer inspection the layers of appliqué and collage become apparent. I want to create work that every time you look at it you notice something different, challenging the viewer to wonder ‘how is this made’?

Artwork by Claire Coles

What are you working on now? I have just completed my most complicated wallpaper commission approximately 12m 2. I’ve been working on this for several months and its the most intricate piece I have ever made. Commissioned by a luxury brand the store will be open in London this May.

I’m also working on several private residential commissions and I’m exhibiting artworks with Contemporary and Country at Stapleford Grange in Cambridge.

What is your favourite possession? I’ve picked three, sorry! Jewellery, art and fashion. I have a floral coral pendant that I was given as a child from my parents, my mother and sister had matching ones. I love collecting artworks. my favourite piece is a mountain painting by Neil Raitt, I live in my sheepskin Birkenstocks!

See more of Claire Coles work here

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