[Lydia Crook] From a very young age, I always felt I had a strong creative streak in me. I come from an artistic family — my mum’s a painter, my sister’s a textile designer, and my dad likes to work with wood a lot — so working creatively has always been part of my everyday life.
In 2004, I was studying for a degree in Fashion at Winchester School of Art. During the Easter holidays, I started working for the internationally acclaimed ace paper engineer Corina Fletcher. Corina taught me about all things paper and pop-up, and I loved it from the word go. Since then my love for paper has grown into an obsession, to the point where in recent years I have started forging a career out of it.
I have just moved into a studio, The Loose Box, where I am currently expanding my paper passion into a business. (A loose box is a term for a building used to house farm animals, rather like a stable. Each animal is kept on a long tether, so it thinks it’s loose, but it’s inside the box.) I share the flint-walled space with my older sister, who designs for her block printed textile company, Woven Oak. The studio nestles contentedly in a block of outbuildings on a working farm just outside the small market town of Lewes, in Sussex, England. Prior to being a hub of creative activity, the studio was used as a grain store (seen in the image below; I believe this image dates back to the 1950s), and it also housed the occasional animal. When naming the studio The Loose Box, it seemed correct to keep this original use in mind. My sister and I felt it would be a place where creative ideas could run loose.
From The Loose Box, I run my little business under my own name, working with … yep, you’ve guessed it … paper! My paper creations vary from designing and creating an array of pop-up books (this is me being a paper engineer) to designing ornate paper cuttings (this is me being an artist). I am excited to have recently started getting some of my paper cutting designs produced letterpress as limited-edition prints.
On the days I am being a paper engineer, I always start with the good old trusted card and scissor duo. After having a cut and paste session (literally), I then move to the computer, where I draw up the pop design cutters. (The book printer uses these cutters to tell them where to cut or crease the paper.) From here, a pop-up book slowly forms. To be honest, it is all to do with the math.
A recent title in my paper engineering career is Shoe Love, a pop-up book all about shoes! It was a fabulous title to design, as I had free rein on the pop designs and the chance to play around with amazing shoes. My favorite pop in this book has to be the Courrèges boot. I had great fun designing it, as it is a truly classic shoe. The next title in the series is coming out in the fall: Bags to Love.
On the days I am being an artist, I tend to drink a lot of tea. During these tea drinking sessions I create ornate paper cuttings.
It all started a couple of years ago as a bit of a hobby. One day I was attending a local exhibition by the talented paper cutter Rob Ryan. As I stared at these beautiful paper forms, I thought to myself, “I could do that!” Since then, I have gradually developed my own style of cuttings that take inspiration from childhood memories and idioms. When designing a cutting I start by doing a sketch, then carefully hand-cut and paint my designs to create delicate and individual pieces of art. By using a combination of words, images, bold colors and intricate details, I try to give each rhyme its own unique character.
A recent addition to my cutting family is one inspired by the magical song “Over the Rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz. This is a cutting incorporating all colors of the rainbow, with the words interwoven in the design. When I read the cutting, I always find myself singing along to the tune of the song. I like to think it might sing to others, too.
I have recently adapted one of my cuttings into a letterpress print that is based on the well-known nursery rhyme “I’m a little teapot.” I have a small collection of teapots (which encourages me to drink lots of tea) displayed on a shelf, and one of them was the inspiration for the design. It is a traditional “pillar box red” teapot just the right size for one person.
I love teapots, especially ones in the shape of houses or an object you’d least expect to be a teapot. I’m always on the hunt for these types of vintage teapots, as they really do make tea taste so much better!
I’m hoping, in the very near future, to design some more, cut some more, and letterpress some more of my conjured-up designs. Obviously, not forgetting to pop up some paper every now and then, too. I also aspire to keep expanding my wizard paper world.
Lydia Crook is a U.K.-based paper engineer and artist. She creates bespoke paper cuttings and limited-edition letterpress prints (produced by Blush Publishing in the U.K., and newly available at Felt & Wire Shop). She also designs pop-up books for adults and children. And she tries to be conscientious about keeping up with her blog.