This month we had the pleasure of meeting bookbinder and paper artist Freya Scott,
Founder of Paperwilds at her studio in South London. We were lucky enough to witness
Freya creating a beautiful marble print as we found out all about the wonders of marble
printmaking and bookbinding.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and Paperwilds?
I am a paper lover with a serious obsession with colour and form! I have always been
creative, and I love so many different art forms, so my career path has been a wonky one.
I studied photography at college, English at University, and did many courses after
university in different disciplines. I spent many years freelancing as a photographer and
bookbinder before properly setting up my business. Paperwilds has been a really organic
process for me - it encapsulates so much of what I love.
Where did your passion for printmaking and book binding come from?
My love of books started really early. 'Book' was my first word. I 'made' my first book at the
age of five with the aid of a hole punch and some string! Then I fell in love with words, and
it wasn't until after university that I started making books again. I'd had a severe illness in
my last year that seriously affected my cognitive abilities - I couldn't really read, or even
speak properly some of the time. I took a class in bookbinding as part of my rehabilitation,
and it used a completely different part of my brain. Suddenly I could create again; it's
helped me recover over the years. I got a job where I studied, and the rest is history.
Can you describe your printmaking process?
Marbling is a simple concept, but a tricky process to master. Essentially it is floating paints
or inks on an aqueous mixture. The way I do it is to mix gouache paints, watercolours,
acrylics or my own paints with water and a spreading agent and then float them on a bath of
water mixed with carrageenan or methylcellulose. The balancing of the paints takes time -
each one is mixed differently and behaves differently once applied to the bath. Once it's all
on the surface, I manipulate the colours in different ways to make particular patterns. Then
it's time to lay the paper. The paper I use is coated with a mordant to help the paint bite into
the fibres of the paper instead of just sitting in a layer on the top. Once the pattern is
transferred, the paper is rinsed with clean water and hung to dry. They are then pressed
between heavy boards to make them flat enough for use on books and boxes.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Everywhere! I am obsessed with colour. I'm a West Country lass at heart, so I love the
countryside; I take a lot of inspiration from the landscape. I love visiting gardens and old
houses. In the city I'll head to the art galleries and museums. I'm lucky that my partner is a
photographer - we take our cameras and phones out everywhere and we're forever stopping
to take random pictures. For me it's often colour palettes, whether it's lichen on a rock, a
particular combination of colours in a painting, or even someone's outfit. Yes - I'm that
person who asks if they can photograph you holding that red drink against your pink shirt
with your green watch on.
How would you describe your work and aesthetic?
I would describe my aesthetic as modern with a traditional edge. Or perhaps the other way
around! Books and boxes can be as traditional or as artistic as the project dictates. I
recently got asked by an artist to make a leather book with two spines that didn't open! My
marbling work can be quite varied depending on whether it is bespoke work or marbling for
my products. Sometimes it is mad and bright, sometimes it is subtle and clean. I rarely make
traditional papers. Often a client will give me a colour palette or a photo or an idea and just
ask me to design something based on that. Recent requests have been to make a paper
based on walnut veneer, a photo of an owl, and something that resembles the sea!
Can you tell us about your work with charity Bound by Veterans?
Working with Bound by Veterans has been one of the highlights of my career so far. It's an
amazing charity that uses bookbinding as a form of craft therapy. It is designed to give
veterans, many of whom are coping with physical and mental illness, new skills and
qualifications in a friendly and supportive environment. Based on my own background of
using craft to help me back to health, I felt a real affinity with the students coming through
the program. I was their principle instructor for four years. I met so many wonderful and
inspirational students and have made some great friends. I don't work with them as much as
I used to, but it is always a real joy to go back.
What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?
Everyday is different, but most start with a dog walk! My dog Ludo is a permanent fixture in
the studio, usually getting under my feet. If it's a marbling day, I'll start by making up my
paints and coating my paper. Bookbinding and box-making happen in stages, so sometimes
in between marbling I'll be finishing off covering a box or cutting materials for books.
Towards the end of the day I'll pack up orders and order in more materials for new projects.
Then around all that there's the usual accounting, quoting, marketing and other admin.
During the summer, an ice cream van visits the estate, so often there's an ice cream break
in there too!
What advice would you give to someone starting their own creative business?
Be prepared for a lot of hard work! While sometimes you get to choose your hours, there will
be times when you work longer than the regular 9-5. You also have to be good at separating
work life and home life. It's so easy to take it home with you. Also, be as original as possible,
and be true to your own likes and aesthetic. That way it will be easier to keep going when
you go through the inevitable ups and downs of business. Remember to network! Not only
will you meet people in the same boat as you who can champion you and support you, but
you will often discover opportunities you wouldn't have found otherwise.
How do you make your clothes work for you and your busy lifestyle?
My clothes have to be comfortable and hard wearing, especially my shoes! I am on my feet
most of the day at the bench, so they have to be comfy and supportive. I wear a lot of
clothes that aren't too restrictive - marbling and bookbinding make you move in weird ways,
so clothing has to move with me! I also do trade fairs, demonstrations and a lot of face to
face meetings, so I have a second half of my wardrobe which has to fulfil the brief of smart,
comfortable, but also good for making in!
What are your go-to wardrobe staples?
I love a good pair of jeans and a relaxed cotton shirt. In the summer I go for loose cotton
dresses and overalls too, and in the winter layering pieces come into their own - I love long
sleeve t-shirts and polo necks under a good quality bit of knitwear. I can spatter the t-shirts
in paint, and then pop the knitwear over the top to go home in!
If I wasn't running Paperwilds... I'd still be a photographer.
The best thing about my job... the people I get to meet, and the fact I get to play with paper and colour every day.
My ideal breakfast... pancakes or french toast with bacon and maple syrup! Although usually it's a grab'n'go smoothie.
Words to live by... Love and kindness are the greatest things. Give them freely to yourself and others.
My day isn't complete until... I've read something, eaten some chocolate, said a proper goodnight to Ludo.
A holiday destination I love... Italy. Or walking in the Scottish Highlands.
My favourite London hangout... the South Bank for theatre, art, books and culture in one place. Beckenham Place Park for a bit of countryside in the city.