Lisa Lloyd on working with paper, never giving up and the kindness of the creative industries
Lisa Lloyd is a paper artist you really ought to know. Her incredible work, which has caught the attention of clients such as Waitrose, Asahi and Elle Decoration, is mainly inspired by nature, patterns, symmetry and colour. And the detail is so precise you'd sometimes forget the material was paper.
But it wasn't always this way. Lisa began her career as an animator and then later became a creative director and co-owner of Mr and Mrs Smith; an animation production company in Soho, London. With over 18 years experience in commercial design work, her varied background has taken her on an interesting journey. One that we'll try to uncover a little now.
Your work is so intricate. How on earth do you make such incredible paper artworks?
Thank you! Firstly, I draw a sketch and try and plan the colours, textures and techniques I'm going to use. But after that, I kind of make it up as I go along. I can't really plan the construction as I find it easier to just cut and work the paper to try and get it to do what I want.
Have you always worked with paper?
No, I’ve had quite an exciting career over the years, I’ve worked as a graphic designer, an animator, I've directed music videos and I’ve also owned and was the creative director of an animation company in London.
Do you think graphic design and animation helped to shape your career?
Yes definitely. I think I've used every skill I've ever learnt from over the years, everything from taking a brief, pitching, time management, working with different materials, managing a budget, I'm constantly learning and banking all the experience I can.
Has there been anything you thought, gosh, I'm not sure I can do that?
Yes definitely! Quite often I'm making something for the first time. For example, when I made the blue tit for Waitrose, I hadn't made a bird before so I needed to work out how to construct the wing and how to make it feel like it was in flight. I had to study lots of photographs of blue tits in flight to see the angles, etc. That was a real challenge!
On average, how long does each project take?
In terms of actual working hours, I guess about two weeks on average, but there's a lot of thinking time that goes on too – if I'm doing a personal project I sometimes have a break for a few days and come back to it if I'm working out a visual or technical problem.
Have you perfected your technique in any way?
I think I'm finally starting to get there, I'm aspiring to get better at using graduated coloured paper with patterns – the tricky thing is working around a three-dimensional shape. It's not until I've finished it and I'm lighting and photographing the model that I understand how I can improve my technique.
Do you suffer from creative block? How do you tackle it?
I go through a kind of pain barrier when I want to just walk away from the project and stop. I just try to keep going, then when I leave work I try and forget about it completely – clear my mind and switch off. That's when the solution appears when I least expect it when I'm making dinner or something. Ironically, that's when I get the best feeling from my work... when I break through my mental blocks.
What is it that you love about your work so much?
I love the tactile quality of paper and the vibrant colours and textures you can find. It feels very simple, you don't need a lot of tools or expensive equipment to make something. It's nice to use my hands, listen to the radio and not be on my phone or computer – it can be like meditating sometimes. When I'm sticking all those little pieces of paper.
Describe a typical day
I drop the kids off at nursery and school. Go to the studio, which I share with loads of lovely creative people... artists, designers and makers... we all help and support each other. I then go and pick up the kids, make their dinner, do bedtime. Then hopefully sit on the sofa for a bit if I can!
You've worked with Waitrose, The Guardian and BBC – how do you find new work?
I've been finding that a lot of my work leads are coming from Instagram lately which is really exciting. I guess you've just got to get your work out there and hope the right people see it.
What's currently bugging you?
It's funny you ask what's bugging me as I'm making paper insects at the moment! I guess nothing's really bugging me, but if I could clone myself for the school holidays that would be quite helpful!
What advice can you give to those starting out?
It's taken a while for me to feel successful, but my biggest advice is just to keep going. Keep creating and keep putting it out there; even if you feel exposed and self-conscious. I honestly believe people are mostly really kind and supportive. It can take some time but if you persevere I think it can happen.
What do you do to unwind?
I love swimming in the sea and sitting on the beach, unfortunately, I'm mostly just chasing my kids around and sorting them out... so I think I actually go to work at the studio to unwind!
What are you currently working on? What's next?
I'm currently working on an "entomology series" – six insects inspired by fashion designers. I've just finished the first one, a Chalcosoma Atlas beetle inspired by Alexander McQueen. I'm currently deciding on the next one... I'm excited to get started.