The Art of Paper Design – Interview with Naomi J Kendall
In this series of the Art of Paper Design, we interviewed Naomi J Kendall – a Somerset, England based paper artist who creates geometric artworks by folding and weaving thin pieces of paper together.
Read on to learn more about Naomi and her artistic process!
“It takes great patience to be an artist and trust in yourself and the work that you make.”
Tell us about yourself and how your art journey began.
I’ve always been a maker and I grew up in a creative house. My art teacher at school was my dad! I started making large paper sculptures at art school many decades ago but I then went on to study art history and a postgraduate course in art gallery and museum studies. I worked for many years in galleries and community arts but when I came back to making my own work I made smaller, folded paper pieces. My work evolved as I started to layer and weave these forms.
Can you tell us a bit about your current work process?
My work process is quite painstaking and I’m frequently told I must be very patient! I keep a lot of sources of inspiration around me, including my own drawings and photographs. From these points of inspiration I usually begin by drawing patterns and making small test pieces, trying out new techniques and colours. The colour palette is usually fixed at the start and I return to it quite a few times to edit before I begin working on the piece. The pieces themselves however tend to evolve, as in they follow a particular pattern or plan for the weave or fold but the colour order is chosen as the piece develops.
What inspires you to create/design each of your art pieces? Has it changed over time?
I sketch when I visit museums and galleries and take a lot of photos when I’m travelling or just out in the world. Often these are fragments of buildings or street architecture or details or textiles or clothing. I think I’ve always been inspired by similar things and it’s more that my work has evolved to respond to these differently.
Naomi pictured holding her artwork
With all of the different options available to express one’s creativity, why do you choose paper as your primary medium?
Paper is so versatile! It’s strong and flexible and comes in so many weights and colours. I only use paper but I do create my own marks and textures with inks and paints.
What were your first weaved paper works like? Are they similar to the pieces that you currently create? If not, how does your current work differ from when you started?
My first works weren’t woven at all but more folded, three dimensional pieces. My first woven pieces were similar to those I create now although I think now I make more complex weaves, especially the tessellated hexagons. My first pieces used more white paper as background and in my current work I’ve developed ways to weave paper without leaving so much white. The result is a more dense, textured surface.
Can you reveal your favourite part of the artistic process? What motivates you to continue creating?
I love the whole process! I enjoy the newness of beginning a piece and bringing all the elements together, from sketching to choosing paper, and then weaving or layering the first sections. I also enjoy being deeply involved right in the middle of a piece when I can start to see it coming together. Finishing a piece is hugely satisfying as each one can take many days or even weeks.
You’ve done a few collaborative projects with other artists. Can you tell us what you enjoy most about collaborative work? What are the challenges?
I love working with other artists. I’m so lucky to be part of the Paper Artist Collective which is a global community. They are all so talented so it’s always exciting to be part of a creative process with a group of them. The challenges can be working remotely as we’re dotted about all over the world but it’s always a thrill when we share the final works to see how our different approaches come together.
What are you seeking to portray to viewers of your work?
I hope my viewers find my work intricate and beautiful. I hope they appreciate the level of craft that is involved and feel that the pieces are absorbing and meditative. People are often a bit surprised to find out they are made with woven or folded paper as sometimes this is hard to really comprehend from a photo. I’ve had some lovely responses and most recently from a child who didn’t want to leave the gallery because he wanted to look at one of my hexagon pieces a bit longer.
2022 Evolver Magazine cover featuring Naomi’s artwork
What has been a seminal moment in your artistic career?
I just found out I won the Evolver prize 2022. It’s a cultural magazine here in Wessex and each year there’s a competition to design a piece for the summer cover. My work will be on the July /August edition cover and exhibited alongside 49 other entries in a beautiful gallery in Somerton.
Where do you hope to see your creations in the future?
I really enjoyed creating the magazine cover and I would love my work to be used in a more illustrative way. I may at some point develop a series of pieces specifically for print or textiles which would take my designs into new places and in a new direction. I also make paper jewellery, but I’ve only sold this through open studio events. It would be exciting to see a small collection in a jewellery or craft store.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given for your career?
I think it takes great patience to be an artist and trust in yourself and the work that you make. I have been told to just keep going and enjoy the process of making which I think is crucial. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the promotion of work and social media and spend too much time worrying about numbers of “likes”. That’s not to say promoting your work isn’t important, just always remember why you’re an artist! I have two daughters who are probably going to be artists so my advice to them would be stay true to yourself, take opportunities and enjoy the journey!
Do you have any upcoming shows/exhibits/endeavors that you would like to share?
I have three pieces in a wonderful exhibition this summer in Penrith. It’s a really big exhibition at Rheged and includes lithographic prints of Matisse’s paper cut-outs as well as work by 43 other paper artists. It was a real highlight being able to attend the private view and meet so many of the paper artists I’ve been working with remotely for so many years!
I also have an exhibition this autumn as part of Somerset Art Weeks. It will be at a new arts space in Taunton called Flook House and I’m exhibiting alongside a lovely printmaker called Lisa Takahashi.