Clare Youngs is a designer/maker and a crafter by nature. She's written multiple craft books covering everything from needlecraft to cardboard crafting and her latest book, Folded Book Art, is out now. We managed to grab a few minutes from her busy creative schedule to find out a bit more about her craft career so far and hear some top tips for sketchbook and collage newbies!
You’ve written a number of fantastic craft books and have worked as a crafter full time for some years now. Can you tell us about your craft career so far?
I started off my career as a graphic designer but have always loved making things. I was taught to knit and sew when I was very young. My grandmother sewed all the time and gave me huge bags of scrap material to use. We had lots of craft books in the house and I used to spend my Saturdays and holidays doing craft classes at the local museum.
A few years ago I put together some ideas for a book on papercraft and sent it out to a few publishers. With my background in graphic design I was able to put together a few dummy spreads, a cover and contents page. I wanted it to catch the eye of a commissioning editor and it did. I have worked full time on craft books ever since and I feel incredibly lucky that I get to do what I love every day.
We’re pretty sure a lot of our readers would love to work as full-time designer makers! Can you give us an example of your typical creative day?
We moved out of London down to the Kent coast just a year into my new career as a craft writer. While we were renovating the house we had a studio built at the end of the garden for me to work in. It’s a lovely place to work especially in the summer when I can have the doors wide open and hear the bird song. Occasionally a fox will come and stare at me through the window and sometimes there are huge stomping noises above my head, which are just the seagulls walking about! During the winter I usually go up first to switch the heating on, come back to the house to make some tea to let it warm up a bit before I start.
My working days are usually a set pattern of making days, photography days and writing days. I have just finished a batch of 14 projects for my new book and had two days of photography. I always do the styling for the photography. I love deciding how a project should be presented and choosing the location and props. The writing days are quite intense. I have to write and draw step by step instructions to explain how to make something and remember that the instructions need to be clear and precise. Something that is simple to me may not be so easy to anyone who hasn’t done any craft before.
After a few hours of writing I need a creative break and spend an hour working in my sketch book or post something on Instagram. Last year I took part in the 100 day project on Instagram and challenged myself to do a collage everyday. I often started the day with the collage. Snipping up bits of paper makes me very happy and is a good way to start a creative day!
You tend to work with paper and fabric... What is your favourite thing about each of these craft materials?
Sewing is a great skill to learn. As a teenager with not a lot of money it was a great way to make pieces that were a fraction of the cost of clothes that I had seen in the shops. When I got my first flat, it was wonderful to be able to make cushion covers, curtains and slip covers for chairs to achieve the look I wanted. I can’t resist fabric shops and one of my favourite places to be is in Cloth House on Berwick Street London. I usually come away with a small stash to add to much larger one at home!
With paper it never ceases to amaze me the way you can manipulate a plain piece into anything you want, simply by cutting, folding and sticking. You don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to get started on paper craft. You can make beautiful things from a cheap material or even free material as many of the things I make are out of things that were destined for the recycle bin.
Your latest book, Folded Book Art, is absolutely beautiful! Where did the idea come from and what did you enjoy most about putting it together? Do you have a favourite project from the book?
It is a follow on from Book Art, a book I wrote a few years ago. I had so much fun on that book I wanted to explore the subject in more detail. I love the way the projects don’t always have to be useful. In some cases they are there to intrigue and to wonder at. My favourite project is a collection of spring bulbs (above) with the new leaves and flowers and the roots all made from the pages of an old book. I often have an idea in my head and I set about snipping and gluing to see if I can achieve it. Sometimes it really surprises me to see the transformation from flat paper to a 3D form.
Your Instagram feed is full of creative inspiration and illustrations, including some images of your sketchbook and collages. What would be your advice for someone starting their own scrapbook or collage collection?
I have a collection of sketch books and I always carry one around with me in my bag. They are not so much filled with sketches but mostly, collages and ideas. I often doodle and draw on small scraps of paper that I collect and then stick them into the books. I also stick in found scraps of paper. It is a good way of keeping a creative journal.
Sometimes a blank page in a sketchbook is a bit daunting, you worry that you may ruin the book but this way if you do something you don’t like, you can simply stick something over it and carry on. I have collected ephemera – a fancy word for paper items like tickets, labels, postcards and stamped envelopes, for many years. I also save all the scrap paper from paper projects that I make. I rummage through my boxes of scrap paper and pull out a few pieces that will be the starting point for a collage. Paper items pass through our hands everyday – grab them before they end in the recycling bin and start your own collection. Even the smallest scraps of paper can be turned into a work of art!