Orkney is steeped in talent from musicians to jewellery makers, authors and artists. I’ve known Claire for several years now, and have seen her artwork grow and develop. I own some of it and love her style. She now has a growing business and her amazing work can be seen for sale in many places around Orkney. Here is an interview with Claire showing some of her amazing work and the story behind its beginnings.
Hi Claire, I’ve been a huge fan of your artwork and talent ever since I met you. How did it all begin?
Thanks Sarah, I’ve always loved art since school but I guess it properly began with Flutterbug Creations 7 years ago.
I designed a book for my son who was then 3 years old – we had been at a review meeting at the school (he had been diagnosed at 9 months old with a severe myoclonic epileptic syndrome) one of the things mentioned at the meeting was how difficult he was to engage in the nursery especially at story time so the educational psychologist suggested someone make him a book with his favourite things and at the time he loved Velcro and was obsessed with lawnmowers (sometimes he would watch the neighbours mow their lawn for hours at a time) so I took the challenge as was desperate to help him, although to be honest I think I was the last person they meant to do it because we were getting up sometimes 30+ times per night every night since he’d been born!
So with my son and 18 month old daughter in tow ‘Larry the Lawnmower’ was made – It was hand painted, had about 5 pages of thick paper stuck together and pull apart Velcro pages – he loved it!! We received help from different agencies in Orkney and they commented they couldn’t believe he was actually sitting looking at a book!
I then made a few others thinking he might look at them and also they might appeal to other children with or without difficulties and took it to a craft group, one of the people there’s husband did work for Business Gateway and she suggested I show them I now have 4 self – published books (which 6 more on file) that are in the top 4 disability websites in the UK, last year when I remarried I decided to start a fresh and closed Flutterbug Creations (although I do still have and sell the books) I reinvented myself with some new products and designs and a new name – Claire Kirkpatrick Art and have never looked back.
I’ve seen all kinds of work, I love your paper shredding portraits and it’s a real labour of love. I’ve also seen your wire pictures and place name work which are really popular. Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
Honestly – anything and everything and sometimes I’m not even sure, the ideas and inspiration are just there!
I do think ideas evolve as the paper collage pictures came originally from me making wedding cards, I loved the way when you tear paper you have the soft edge and used it as ‘lines’ in my paper ‘drawings’ having done wedding cards for a year for very little money I set it to the side for a few years but returned to it 4 years ago and made my card range of farm animals and pets (I even had a go at a few portraits) and then made the Stromness and Kirkwall scenes which led me on to the wire as I’d fancied working with it for a while, the first one I did was of a tree in a heart which got me wondering if I could do a couple stood at a beach with a sunset so I drew a couple of images and made it using the paper collage as the background, I shared it on facebook and it was a big hit, this is how most ideas of mine are decided whether they work or not is by the response from my facebook friends – my real bosses haha!
Word pictures have been around for a while so I can’t take credit for those but I had a go at doing a ‘home’ one and then it occurred to me to do the islands of Orkney and again I showed it off on facebook, this time I was completely blown off my feet as the response was huge, I now have 40+ designs and am constantly researching and designing more, and have most recently combined the words with scenes which is I think is like the paper collage only now I use words instead of paper. They take days to do and hundreds of words which I type, position, resize and colour myself ‘not’ what is misconceived to be automatically done by software, I hope to expand this range very soon.
People, life experiences, scenery, colours, etc all sorts of things inspire me – the need to not fail and the desire to be good at what I do is heavily ingrained in me also being a good role model for my children and sometimes I think if people still see me going despite having a few hard times then maybe I can inspire and motivate them too.
Do you have a favourite piece or style you like create?
I love designing new products but from what I already make I really enjoy doing it all, however I do find it difficult going from one type of medium to the other. For example if Ii’m painting and have to stop to do a wire picture the transition is hard because your mindset is on the one thing, but once I start the new product I soon get into it.
With a husband and three children, how do you find the time to create?
It can be very challenging at times and I have learned (quickly) to not do things that require a lot of concentration when the children are around! Also the housework suffers – I said to my husband shortly after our daughter was born that I could clean and look after the kids or I could work and look after the kids but I couldn’t do all 3, I also rely heavily on my husband and friends for support, have regular meltdowns and make lots of comments about being superwoman in disguise, plus have been known to put out pleas of advice from fellow working mums – lists was a top suggestion and get a cleaner – the lists I’m currently working from 4, and the cleaner started a few weeks ago (life changing!!)
Re the cleaner, I’m jealous! Where do you see your business going in the future?
I hope I’m as lucky to be doing what I’m doing currently, perhaps focusing more on the designing with folk helping me manufacture and distribute – I already have 2 casual workers that help me, but hope to have another 2 in the next year or 2 and despite the financial pressure I aim to keep it as local as I can.
What’s your favourite piece of artwork you’ve made?
I think it would have to be my paper collage ducks or Hereford calf, that was the first time I saw the paper collage-like paint brush strokes, the ducks is one original of a small few that I kept for me, I also still have my St Magnus Cathedral Wire Picture not because it’s a favourite but somehow I can’t part with it! I found it to be incredibly hard work and was completely drained towards the end!! I’ll part with it one day I’m sure.
Where can people buy your work in Orkney?
I have a website currently being built which has a link to my online Etsy Shop, my facebook page also has the link to my shop too and I have my word art in The Longship, Kirkwall, Leviathan International, Sutherland’s Chemist and WS Sinclair, Stromness also it will be in the Ayre Mills Filling Station and the 3 Northlink boats in a few weeks.
For paintings I will have them in the Tearoom in Stromness also in a few weeks time.
Do you do mail order for those outside of Orkney?
Yes, I’ve sent work all over the world – 2 favourites are Los Angeles and New York – I was keen to hand deliver those!!
(pity you couldn’t!)
I do most of my sales from Etsy … http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/clairekirkpatrickart
Would you like to share your social media links?
Thank you Sarah I’d love to…
That’s great, thanks so much for sharing your story with us and I look forward to seeing more of your work.