Inspiring : Renato Crepaldi (part 2)

When I first discovered Renato Crepaldi’s marbled papers, I have to say I swooned a little. The colours and patterns are so deliciously seductive that I couldn’t resist featuring them on the blog in December last year.

The technique of marbling paper is such that no two prints are the same, so when Renato contacted me recently to let me know he had been working with digital versions and turning them into repeats in Photoshop, I was quite excited. He’s moved them beyond the one-off and made them into prints, which he’s making available on Society6 on a variety of products, including throw pillows, tote bags, stationery and mobile cases.


renato crepaldi - bw

renato crepaldi – bw


I jumped at the chance to talk to him and find out more about him, his process and this very niche product. I started by asking him how long he’d been working with the technique.

“It started in 2002. After living for 5 years in Japan, I got back to Brazil and started making marbled paper and dyeing calf skin to supply a bookbinding studio owned by an aunt in São Paulo. I was taught the very basics by my brother, who was doing the job back then.

“I quickly got obsessed with the process and started researching it, only to realize that I had no clue what I was doing, and that my papers were really crude. I bought some books on marbling and started reading everything I could about it. After lots of study, I made all new tools myself and then started from scratch. The results began to improve, and in June 2003, I launched my first catalogue.”


renato crepaldi - antique 2

renato crepaldi – antique 2


Besides using it in books (probably the most familiar application for marbled papers), Renato mentioned that his work was also used in interior decorations and furnishing. I was curious how this worked.

“I haven’t ever licensed a marbled design for interior decoration purposes; most licensing I’ve done is for the publishing industry; book covers, EBooks and apps. They usually already have the design they want for the project and just contact me to arrange the details of use. In interior decoration, original marbled paper sheets are always preferred, I have sold papers to be used as wallpapers, lamp shades, for matting artworks, to decorate small pieces of furniture and to be displayed as an art piece itself, like the limited edition print (text quotes, in hand pulled silkscreen on marbled paper) that I released in 2012.”


renato crepaldi - green shell

renato crepaldi – green shell


So, if the prints prove poular, what does Renato’s future hold for him? A full-time launch into surface design?

“I think that marbled paper patterns are very unique and exquisite, and it is a shame to keep it closed inside books. That is why I am always trying to find ways to bring it to light and make it available for contemporary spaces. The repeats are a wonderful way I’ve found to make that happen. It’s a very new approach to create marbled designs for me, and I think that it’s also a good way to keep me connected with the craft while I am not around the bath producing. I will surely devote more time to it, there are still so many patterns to try, and colour themes that were impractical in papers for bookbinding are now a valid choice.

I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface with it though; nothing beats real paint and the process of making marbled papers.”


renato crepaldi - revenge

renato crepaldi – revenge


You can find Renato’s originals in his shop at, and his prints in his Society6 shop,
And I really think he should branch out onto Spoonflower. How awesome would Green Shell be in a dress?

The crafted object : Elsa Mora ~ papercuts

I admit it; I have been stalking the eminently admirable Elsa Mora for a few years now. Not only does she make fabulously sculptural papercuts, but her art extends into every facet of her life – she is also a drawer, a painter, a photographer, a maker of books and a storyteller. Even her site is called “Art is a Way”.


elsa mora - little red riding hood papercut

elsa mora – little red riding hood papercut


Her work is populated with plants and animals in a style that is part whimsy, part surreal; her paintings especially are a little reminiscent of Frida Kahlo’s work, with oblique hints of autobiography. But Elsa’s paintings are somehow gentler and more hopeful.


elsa mora - hand

elsa mora – hand


Elsa was born into a poor family in Cuba, the fifth child of eight. Her upbringing was unremarkable, and she remembers walking to school every morning past a park which was the local hangout for drunks and delinquents. It was not a world full of inspiring possibilities.

She celebrated her birthday on the 8th May every year until she was 16. But when she went to a registry office to get her ID card, she  was told by the officer that her birthday was actually a day later – on the 9th. Her father confirmed that this was the case – the 8th had been Mother’s Day the year she was born, and her mother had wanted a double celebration. The discovery had a profound effect. She realised then, that she could be anything she believed she was.

It was, she said, how she escaped from her original destiny.


elsa mora - fly pendant

elsa mora – fly pendant


elsa mora - bee sculpture

elsa mora – bee sculpture


“I was able to imagine a better destiny. I made it happen, day after day, inside my head. I wrote that imagined world down in diaries, I drew it, I painted it, I modeled it in clay and plasticine, I sang it  out loud in the bathroom, I day-dreamed about it.   That imaginary reality became my project, my experiment, my secret love, the only thing that I could count on because it was all up to me. Everything else failed me but not my imagination.”


elsa mora - sketch for paper flower

elsa mora – sketch for paper flower


elsa mora - paper flower

elsa mora – paper flower


“I grew up poor, but poverty taught me a series of important lessons that I will always treasure. I learned that the most precious possession that you have is your mind. I also learned that creativity and imagination could solve any problem, whether it’s a material problem or an emotional one.”


elsa mora - falling girl (part of a book cover)

elsa mora – falling girl (part of an illustration for a book cover)


After leaving home at 16, Elsa moved to a different part of the country, went to art school and graduated in 1990. She worked first as an art teacher and then as a gallery assistant, making her own art in her spare time. But she decided that neither of those jobs was what she really wanted to do, and so she left paid employment to become a full-time artist. The next several years were spent poor and hungry but she was determined and productive, and eventually local interest in her work grew. International interest in the Cuban art world grew too, and soon she was having her own shows and travelling to other countries.

Then she met her husband, and moved with him to California.


elsa mora - pendants

elsa mora – pendants


elsa mora - garden of books

elsa mora – garden of books


Of course, life is still life and there are ups and downs. Despite the hard bits, Elsa maintains a positive outlook.
“Sometimes life gets hard for one reason or another, but after all the things that I learned from my past in Cuba, I always manage to find the positive in the negative. Now we celebrate my birthday on the right day, but I still like to reinvent myself in everything that I do or create with my hands. In the end each one of us has the power to be what we really want to be, that’s what our journey is all about.”


“I believe that life, as well as art, has the potential to become whatever we want it to be.”


elsa mora - enchanted forest

elsa mora – enchanted forest


Elsa currently lives in upstate New York with her husband, film producer William Horberg and their two children.

You can read more of her story on her website, (in fact, I urge you to – it’s fascinating), and find more of her work there too. You can also purchase Elsa’s work through her Etsy shop,


Surface Design : The amazing marbled papers of Renato Crepaldi

It’s not often that I introduce an artist’s work as ‘amazing’, but for Renato Crepaldi’s marbled papers, the term is well-deserved. The Brazilian artist uses the centuries-old technique to create glorious and deliciously complex patterns.


renato crepaldi - marbled paper

renato crepaldi – marbled paper


renato crepaldi - blue peacock

blue peacock


The technique is relatively simple – float spots of ink in a broad, shallow tank, then manipulate them using a variety of large combs to create the patterns. The paper is placed on top and then is drawn off, taking the ink with it to create the print.

However, it requires specialist knowledge and particular craftsmanship at each step to create pieces as beautiful as these. The size and placement of the initial ink spots, choice of comb size, and the handling and direction of the combing all play a part, as well as a steady hand with the paper.


renato crepaldi - blue brown french shell

blue brown french shell


Renato takes on modern technology and materials, remaking classic patterns with contemporary pigments and metallic accents, and he also often marbles over dark coloured papers resulting in works with a particular depth and intensity.


renato crepaldi - blue brown chevron with circles

blue brown chevron with circles


renato crepaldi - marbled paper

renato crepaldi – marbled paper


renato crepaldi - book of handmarbled papers

book of handmarbled papers


His papers have been exhibited world-wide and have been published in a number of books, including a special edition of his own (which unfortunately I can’t find any further information for!).

You can find more of Renato’s fabulous work on his Flickr site, renato_crepaldi, and there’s a very good demonstration of his technique on PaperMojo.


The crafted object : Andy Singleton – papercuts

You KNOW I love a great papercut. Andy Singleton produces remarkable things out of his studio in Wakefield, England.

His large-scale paper sculptures are breathtaking and awe-inspiring, not only for their beauty, but also for their scale, their technical skill, and their subject matter (Eagle Nebula anyone?).


andy singleton - Dust Clouds in the Eagle Nebula (detail 1)

andy singleton – Dust Clouds in the Eagle Nebula (detail 1)


What I find fascinating are his methods in putting these huge pieces together – more than just slicing into a bit of paper with an exacto, Andy has to figure out how to best hold large pieces of this delicate and flimsy material in its place, without destroying its visual integrity. So he also has to build frames with wood, using pins, glue, and wire as part of his repertoire.  I encourage you to check out this video of him installing his Ice Sculpture at Manchester Art Gallery last year. The piece was commissioned by the MAG to complement their exhibition, The First Cut, and is inspired by ice formations such as icicles, ice caverns and frozen water falls.


andy singleton - ice structure - manchester art gallery

andy singleton – ice structure – manchester art gallery


One of the most exciting projects he has worked on recently was for Kensington Palace, where he was asked to make some installations for display cabinets as part of an exhibition there titled Victoria Revealed. One cabinet housed Queen Victoria’s original wedding dress and the other her mourning dress, along with mourning outfits worn by Princess Beatrice and Prince Leopold.


andy singleton - victoria revealed - wedding dress

andy singleton – victoria revealed – wedding dress


andy singleton - victoria revealed - mourning dresses

andy singleton – victoria revealed – mourning dresses


Another wonderful installation is a series of pieces he did for Liberty London to celebrate the opening of their stationery room. Commissioned by the Crafts Council, the work is a celebration of all things stationery, and builds on Liberty’s history as a supporter of excellence in design and craftsmanship.


andy singleton - they loved what they found - liberty london

andy singleton – they loved what they found – liberty london


andy singleton - they loved what they found - liberty london

andy singleton – they loved what they found – liberty london


andy singleton - they loved what they found - liberty london

andy singleton – they loved what they found – liberty london


Andy has produced work for variety of other clients around the world, including Hermés, DDB Australia, The Hepworth and The Beautiful Meme.

You can find more of his work at

All fresh for the new year


The last day of the year? Really, it’s just another day. Ask your dog if it’s special – I’m sure their answer would be “Huh? What’s for dinner?”

However. We humans do like to ascribe meaning to events; it’s a way of defining and making sense of our world; it gives us some kind of measure. (It’s the same type of urge that makes us like to name things, and to understand the processes behind natural phenomena – we like to have a base from which to manipulate our environments according to our own desires.)

New Year’s Eve is not a time for making promises to ourselves that we can’t keep. It is a time for looking back at the year that was, of self-assessment, of understanding what it is that is important to us. Of figuring out where to go from here.

The new year holds the promise of newness and freshness, of great possibilities. And yes, this is true! But keep in mind you are not infinitely malleable. Like materials – paper, glass, metal, fabric – each has its own true nature, capable of many wonderful and amazing things, but not everything. Be kind to yourself – understand who you are, go your own direction, climb your own mountain.

I wish you all the very best for the fresh year.

Julie x


taylorseclectic – lime grove earrings – 925 silver, paper


svsoaps – citrus bliss


cksstudio80 – citrus and sunshine


clayswan – tea for two – ceramic


uneekglassfusions – coral shoots bowl – glass