Artist of the Week: Lauren Hayes

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This week Brighton Journal spoke to Lauren Hayes, a Brighton-based paper artist who creates stunning botanical sculptures. Her delicate sculptures often feature plants with medicinal or folklorish significance.

Every single piece is designed, drawn and cut by hand, resulting in the most intricate forms. We discussed Lauren’s wonderful work, her involvement in Brighton Artist’s Open Houses, organising The Maker’s Fair and her favourite things to do locally.


What are you doing today?

Today, I’ve been taking some time out with the kids and enjoying the last few weeks of the summer holidays. We’ve been splashing around at the level fountains and enjoying some glorious weather.


Describe where you do most of your creative work.

My sofa and bed. I only work in the evenings as I find it’s the best time for my brain to focus on creative tasks. When I cut paper, it’s very repetitive, time-consuming and monotonous so I must be in a relaxing environment without distractions. I often have a trail of confetti by the side of my bed or on the living room floor.


What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?

One of the most interesting projects I’ve worked on was a collaborative theatre and art event last year based on the Hans Christian Andersen’s story of The Nightingale. It was a themed art fair combined with an interactive performance where the audience could walk round the set and buy the props, parts of the set and costumes. I found working with very specific theme really challenging but enjoyed reading the script and original story for inspiration. I ended up creating 3-D paper-cut nightingales perched in small glass display domes using a variety of coloured papers and book pages. It was interesting to show and sell artwork in an alternative environment with a totally different format.


What made you decide to become an artist?

I never really made the conscious decision to become an artist. I grew up in a very creative home and was used to having lots of art materials around. Making things has always made me feel happy and keeps my brain ticking. I studied Fine Art and Digital Media 10 years ago at Chichester University. Since then my artistic practice has changed such a lot, moving away from technology to using paper and scissors!

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What are you currently working on?

Nothing at the moment! I’m still recovering from wrist surgery, so I’ve downed tools for a while. I’ve been keeping myself busy with organising an event called The Maker’s Fair at the newly renovated St Augustine’s events centre on Stanford Avenue. I grew up in the area and remember it being derelict and overgrown for years and years. Now it’s been transformed into a fantastic multi-use space I’ve decided to put on a one-day event where local makers, artists and designers can show and sell their work. It’s an exciting new project which I hope to continue doing in the future. The first fair is on Saturday 14th September, 11am – 5pm.


What are the key themes in your work?

All my work is heavily influenced by nature – mainly flora and natural forms. I display all my paper cut sculptures in glass domes and box frames which is very reminiscent of the Victorian trend of collecting specimens and objects found in nature. My botanical sculptures often focus on plants used for medicinal purposes or that hold a special significance in plant folklore. My sea form sculptures are all to do with the beautiful textures and repetitive shapes that can be found in natural world.


What would you like people to notice about your work?

Every single piece is cut by hand. Every component is designed and drawn by hand then cut out with scissors. It’s a very painstaking and repetitive process and takes hours of work to compete.


What attracts you to the medium you work in?

Paper is an incredible material to work with. It’s so versatile in the way it can be manipulated, layered and cut into. It starts of as being so fragile and delicate but then once you begin to layer repetitive shapes or fold it, it takes on a stronger form. I thoroughly enjoy the transformation process from start to finish.


What equipment could you not do without?

My scissors! I always have a pair in my bag.


Who or what inspires you?

Elsa Mora. She’s Cuban born artist and curator living in New Jersey with her Husband and two kids. She creates these astonishing paper sculptures based on different mental disorders. I love all the different textures and structures she creates with very basic materials like paper and masking tape. I follow her on Instagram where she regularly posts about her work, family life, being a mother and having a neuro-diverse family.


How is your work affected by living in this area?

I’m involved with the Brighton Artist’s Open Houses during May and Christmas. I’ve always loved exhibiting work during the Brighton Festival as it’s such a relaxed and informal way of showing your work and great for meeting new people. Getting feedback from visitors during the shows has helped build my confidence and has encouraged me to carry on with what I’m doing.


What’s your favourite thing to do locally?

My favourite local places to visit are Charleston farmhouse and Monk’s house in Rodmell the old houses of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. The gardens are full of beautiful plants and surrounded by some fabulous landscape. I also enjoy regular trips to Lewes and browse the vast number of antique shops. I always keep an eye out for unusual glass display domes to use for my work.


What’s your favourite gallery (or place to see/experience art)?

I’m not sure about galleries as such as I find it hard to get to exhibitions with my kids being so young still. My all-time favourite place to go to for inspiration is the Natural History Museum especially the collections of sea forms, urchins, corals and insects. There’s something quite dark and gruesome about them and I find it totally fascinating. I always come away with ideas for new paper sculptures.


If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be and why?

There are so many! I suppose a dream collaboration would be with other inspirational paper artists like Su Blackwell who creates enchanting paper art inspired by dark fairytales. Her work is almost like a miniature theatre set as she pays such attention to lighting, silhouettes and characters in foreboding places.


What’s your favourite colour?

Green – the colour of nature!


Check out more of Lauren’s work on Facebook and Instagram. Details for The Maker’s Fair can be found here.

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