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Rachel Hazell, Paper Artist

Can you tell us about yourself and your creative background?

Books, paper and ink are the tools of my trade. Depending on who's asking, I'm a book-artist, a paper-artist (or a 'literary sculptor' if I'm feeling pretentious.) After a childhood spent reading under the covers after lights out, escaping into stories, I studied literature at Edinburgh University. The structure of the book became as important as what I was reading, and a weekend bookbinding workshop led to an HND, then a Bookart Masters degree in London. Couldn't wait to get back to Edinburgh where I set up Hazell Designs Books in 1998. It seems that I hadn't studied enough, so a Masters in Printmaking from ECA rounded everything off....Books, paper and ink....

Can you give us an insight in to your practice and what you do?

Teaching is my passion: Worldwide and online, a combination of good craft techniques and unique personal content. I love creating whole experiences, such as making books about the sea whilst staying at a lighthouse in Shetland, or sewing driftwood bindings on the Isle of Iona. Occasionally I undertake commissions (such as the Bookquet in the picture) and exhibit. One job that literally changed the scale of my work was designing a two metre high book - Amygdala - for The Helen Storey Foundation - you could stand inside the pages! The most memorable job title on my CV is 'Assistant Post Mistress and Penguin Monitor' when I spent a season at Port Lockroy in Antarctica.

What exciting projects do you have on the horizon?

The PaperLove e-course is coming up soon: Five full weeks of bookart, origami, calligraphy and mail art. It runs from October 5th and I can't wait to meet the international crowd in the virtual classroom! I'm concocting collaboration plans with my favourite magazine - Flow (all about paper and mindfulness - yes really!) and i've been invited to teach in the USA, at a dreamy venue, next summer.

What makes Edinburgh a good city to be based?

It is so close to the sea and hills - very inspiring for someone influenced by urban and coastal landscapes. ALL of the festivals of course, but especially the splendid Edinburgh International Book Festival. The literary heritage of this city is extraordinary, well deserving of it's award as the first UNESCO City of Literature. The wealth of creative resources such as the Printmaker's Workshop, libraries and galleries. Maybe I'm biased in celebrating all of the independent bookshops, in particular The Golden Hare and Looking Glass Books too.

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing a career in the creative industries, or more specifically, in book arts?

The great thing about bookart is that it is accessible at any level, from fine print letterpress with hand-sewn headbands to photocopied zines stapled together, and everything in between. The key to any career in the creative industry is, boringly, keeping on top of book-keeping. It helps to have an eye for a good photograph (and to know when to commission someone else to document your work...for example, I have only recently realised how impossible it is to take good workshop shots when I'm teaching it....!) Go to as many bookish events as you can - the Fruitmarket's Bookmarket for one. Also have a squizz at the Artist's Book Year Book, published by UWE - it's full of useful stuff - and sign up for the bookarts newsletter. I can't imagine doing anything else. It is risky, but the passion for creation and self-expression is strong.

For more information about Rachel Hazell, please visit http://www.rachelhazell.com/ follow Rachel on Twitter: @BookloverRAH

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