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Lottie Smith 

set design, prop making and cardboard wizardry
Newcastle, UK

When searching for artists in Newcastle, I was drawn to the words “cardboard wizardry” on Lottie Smith’s website header. From wearable props to a movable set design for a music video about David Attenborough, Lottie’s cardboard creations are truly larger than life. 

When I visited her in her studio space last year, I got to ask her how she got into designing with cardboard. According to her, it was “by accident” – she taught herself how to create large scale models of everyday objects using a material that would have been thrown away. In fact, her first start was creating large pieces for the window display for an established arts & craft store. 

For Lottie, incorporating movement is key in her art pieces. Some of her first experiments included a giant compass and scissors with moving parts. She also loves that her art work is displayed in a shop window instead of an art gallery. The accessibility to regular people is a plus – “they can see it and interact with it, and it is child-like so it makes them smile”.

Lottie describes her first official jobs as “a good baptism by fire”. “It’s probably the best way I work. I imagine the outcome in my head, am not sure if I can’t do it but commit to figuring it out along the way.” 

What I love about Lottie’s art is that it means less wastage. Her work is essentially made of recycled materials and can also be reused. On the average, Lottie finds herself with one big project a year, which could range from big installations in museums to running classes for kids, teaching them to tinker with recycled materials and inspiring them to imagine and create new worlds. 

However, when I visited Lottie in her studio in last August, I found her engaged in another form of “cutting and sticking”. Her walls were filled with scenes of countryside wanderings and visits to small towns. Lottie explains: “[As a freelance artist], the creative part is full time, but you also end up playing less.” Lottie’s illustration and small-scale collages are her form of escapism and personal documentation.

Lottie explained that these illustrations are more recent and intentional. She is not fond of drawing big pieces which allows time for people to peek over your shoulder while you work, and has found that bringing a small notebook to sketch what she saw and felt was a better way of capturing fragments of a moment in a way that a phone camera could not. 

Watching her as she made her collages and flipped through her rough sketches, I felt privy to the mind of an artist at work. I love that it is in these quiet and often neglected moments of contemplation where creativity can thrive. I’m excited to see as Lottie does, and be transported to places through her little sketches and collages. 

Witness the cardboard wizardry over on Lottie’s website and follow her walks and sketches on Instagram.

Visited August 2019, published January 2020.

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