It's good news to hear that Arts Council England will be re-opening their Developing Your Creative Practice grant programme this Autumn. The DYCP grant supports individual creatives to carry out research activities that help to develop their practice and had been temporarily suspended due to Covid-19. I was fortunate to have been awarded an Arts Council England 'Developing Your Creative Practice' grant in November 2019 that I carried out during lockdown.

I've been practicing my art and craft skills every day since graduating from my costume design course at Wimbledon School of Art twenty years ago. I started my career working on performance and short films as a costume and production designer before making a transition to working on public art commission in 2012. I'm fortunate to be paid to make art through public art commissions with cultural clients, such as museums, as it's a very competitive field. To make my practice more sustainable and keep my career going I had identified that it would be crucial to develop my digital skills to compliment my craft skills.

I applied for a 'Developing Your Creative Practice' grant from Arts Council England for a research project that involved developing my practice through learning laser cutting and laser engraving computer tools, technology and materials for making work. I started the project Winter 2019 and during this time I attended fab lab sessions at The Word In South Shields where I was introduced to 3D printing and vinyl cutting technology. I had originally intended to use the facilities at The Word to prototype textiles and costumes that integrated different types of fab lab technology but lockdown prevented this from happening. I shifted my focus towards concentrating on learning software to use with 3D printing and vinyl cutting whilst prototyping work in paper and wood materials using a laser cutter and engraver that I have access to in my artist studio.

At the start of lockdown I was restricted in the range of materials I could purchase and decided to use recycled cardboard to prototype initial design ideas. This proved to be a sensible and cost effective decision that avoided wasting materials whilst learning a new skill and testing whether the design worked. 

One of the aims from taking part in this development opportunity was creating a new portfolio of work that showcased laser cutting and laser engraving skills for future commissions and work opportunities. I focused on designing a range of nature inspired patterns featuring my own bird designs and floral motifs derived from traditional Japanese katagami (paper patterned stencils) to be laser cut and engraved from paper and wood materials. As my expertise is in paper arts and crafts, the first stage involved crafting hand cut paper stencils. I then converted my paper cuts into digital files through scanning and then worked on the files in Photoshop and Illustrator before fabricating the final designs using laser cutting and engraving technology.

I feel very fortunate to have had this development opportunity. With my other work commissions having been cancelled in 2020, this activity received my total focus and gave structure to my time during lockdown. I've really developed my skills in working with wood materials and fabrication technology. It has opened up new possibilities to how I develop and make work during the next phase of my career.