We chat to paper collage artist, Catherine Holtzhausen, about her home studio space, illustration as a career path and using paper as medium of story telling.
Tell us a bit about yourself: Where are you from, how you started out?
I am a collage artist and illustrator living in Somerset West. My mixed media works honour a humanist moment of joy and hopefulness. I actually started out working a very corporate graphic design job but I majored in Illustration at the Stellenbosch Academy of Design. When working as a designer I missed the freedom and joy of illustration and decided to risk it and trade my keyboard in for my scissors.
What led you to choose illustration as a career path?
I never really chose illustration as a career path. I just knew that I loved making illustrations and that it made me happy during a time of severe unhappiness and depression. I had saved some money from my previous job and was privileged enough to quit my job and make art everyday until eventually I started making a living off of it. I still consider it more of a compulsion than a career.
Working with paper offcuts as a medium to tell stories is a very interesting concept, how did it come about?
I actually loathed illustration in college. I couldn’t wait to split majors and focus on Design and Advertising. These had a level of rules and guidelines to follow and my OCD was very comfortable there. Just before deciding majors we did a workshop with my lecturer, Ros Stockhall, where we had to do a bunch of various mark-making techniques and then cut apart those papers and putting them back together to become a character or landscape. It was like a synapse in my brain and work just started pouring from me. I think we had to create one illustration in that workshop and I must have made over 10 pieces.
Tell us a about your studio space and the advantages or disadvantages of working from home?
My studio is an awkward spare room that I’ve filled with desks, drawers and all the plants.
Routine. It’s something years of freelancing and starting out has stolen from me, but now it is probably the most important practice in my work. It’s incredibly difficult to separate work from play when work is making art all day and play is also the desire to make art.
Working from home is not only an introverts dream and great way to save on make-up and fancy work clothes – it’s pretty essential to starting out. Studio spaces are expensive and can eat away massive chunks of business capital. Saving on rental meant I got to put money back into my business and make my work affordable and accessible. I wouldn’t and couldn’t have done it any differently but now that my business has grown and I am making “switching off” from work a priority, I’m in the process of moving into a studio space away from home.
Does your studio space reflect your personality – if so, how?
My studio is probably closer to a greenhouse than a studio. I find great refuge in nature and bring as much of it into my space as it can hold. I think my space reflects my “best version” part of my personality. As someone who suffers from debilitating anxiety I fill my studio with things that not only inspire me but joyful motifs of healthy, life affirming activities like gardening, dancing, family and meditation.
How would you describe your personal aesthetic?
I guess you could say I have a rather eclectic style. I’m generally drawn to vintage and slightly old and worn things that seem to have decades of stories stored inside them. But I’m also a sucker for current trends and combine things that perhaps don’t combine as well as they do in my head.
What is your most treasured item in your studio?
I have a super beautiful but barely functional tool drawer that belonged to my great grandfather. The drawers open when they feel like it and not when you need something so it’s mostly filled with sentimental bits like some scissors from my grandmother and old love letters.
Who are the creatives on you radar to keep an eye on?
There’s actually a lot of local women who I draw a lot of inspiration as well as a sense of community even though most of them I only know online.
Kobie Nieuwoudt, Wonder Meyer, Ruschka du Toit, Alice Toich, Stephanie Simpson, Kirsten Sims, Sonia Dearling, Simone van der Spuy, Adrie le Roux, Amy Ayanda, Amy Keevy, Nadia du Plesis, Fran Labuschagne, and so many more.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve got so many projects and ideas I don’t know which will materialise. I’m enjoying creating much larger contemporary pieces and would like to make more of. I’ve also got two children’s books planned that I’m pretty excited about. Wearable art is also on the list, but I’m trying to hone my scattered brain in these days so for now I’ll probably be focusing on exhibitions and shows.
Catch Catherine at Salon 91’s end-of-year salon-style group show which opened on December 1 at 91 Kloof Street, Gardens, Cape Town, South Africa.
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