Philip Sheffield creates hand-crafted graphic sculpture from his studio based deep in the Suffolk countryside; Low Step Studio. Using paper, cardboard and wood at the very core of his work, Philip uses a combination of traditional skills and the latest technology to create his stunning sculptural pieces and limited edition prints. He is a true craftsman, and was happy to give us a little insight into his background and inspirations..
Q. How and when did you first become interested in art.. and specifically your 3D paper work?
A. For as long as I can remember I have always been interested in 3-Dimensional work. I have always been very hands-on with what I create.. Even as a school boy I would love making friezes on the classroom walls, adding 3D elements such as paper flower heads to the finished scenes.
Q. How difficult has it been for you to establish yourself as an artist? Can you tell us a little bit about your creative background?
A. It takes a lot of hard work and determination, but it’s what I do… it’s part of who I am and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.. I went to Art School in London, and upon graduating, moved down to Devon where I worked as part of a small company creating t-shirt transfer designs. This was during the 1970’s, and times were pretty tough! I then moved back up to London to help an artist-friend with her silk-screening. She had injured her back and so needed someone to help with the making of her hand-cut paper stencils and the printing of her limited editions..and so I was her ‘boy’. I helped distribute these to the galleries in London and across the UK, which was such a fab learning experience for me.
I then started creating my own prints, and selling these to the gallery contacts I had made. At this time, much of my work focused on Japanese birds and flowers – so very different from what I am doing now!
I then began working with The Art Group – a leading global publisher of fine art open-edition prints. I worked as an artist in residence creating silk-screen prints for publishing, and then went on to build both their silk-screen and digital printing studios. I have witnessed so many changes in technology over the last 20yrs, and have been fortunate to be a part of these changes and developments within the art and publishing world. I have had to learn to grow and adapt with every new development and advancement.
Two years ago I held the position of Artist In residence at The Art Group, creating all different kinds of imagery for publishing, with work being selected by retailers such as IKEA, NEXT, and Habitat – to mention just a few. It was at this time that my traditional, hand-crafted skills came back to the fore in my work…using the latest technology to make my creations possible for flat-paper printing.
I now work as an artist and screen-printer from my own studio in the middle of rural Suffolk. My studio – Low Step Studio – is my haven. I can make a mess, make a noise, and work through the night if I so wish, with no-one to complain (other than Mrs Sheffield of course!).
Q. Wow! What an amazing career history. What would you say are the biggest influences behind your work?
A. The majority of my ideas come from nature…I love gardening.. and the countryside where I live is my constant inspiration. The changing seasons, the flora and fauna…all of my work comes back to this in some way. I think my work visually ties the link between my rural life in the studio, and my experience working in London. I see my work as a collaboration between the two.
Q. Do you know when a piece of work is finished and complete, or do you tend to go back and forth making multiple tweaks?
A. I have always been very focused, and I tend to know what I want to achieve before I begin. And so when the piece in front of me looks like what I have in my mind, I know it is ready. But I tend to think everything out in advance before I start. My work doesn’t tend to evolve naturally… a lot of my work involves structural challenges and problem-solving.. so I need to think things out before I begin. It is this part of the creative process that I love the most!
A. I love collaborating with other creative people…such exciting ideas can be dreamed up together! I think my pinnacle project would involve creating something monumental in the countryside.. something along the vein of Newcastle’s Angel of the North.
Q. What tool or medium could you not live without?
A. My scalpel. I use surgical scalpels to create my paper pieces. My ‘butterfly’ pieces bring my two passions together – printmaking and paper.
Q. How do you maintain a balance between work and life?
A. I don’t! It is all the same thing. My work isn’t 9-5, and this is part of it’s beauty. With having my studio at home, I have the freedom to work whenever I want to. When an idea takes form, I just go and start it!
Q. What plans have you got for this year?
A. To keep developing and growing. I am aiming towards a one-man show in 2012 to show all of my hand-crafted pieces…so watch this space!
Philip’s website link: http://philipsheffield.4ormat.com/