Toronto based realistic Painter; Malinda Prud’homme

“It is my sincerest hope to make women feel empowered and uniquely beautiful just as they are.”

-Malinda Prud’homme

Malinda Prudhomme - Head Shot

Even though I’d been making art my entire life it never became a professional goal until my mid 20s. I’d always wanted to become a teacher because I loved learning and wanted to instill that passion in our youth. People generally like to say that high school “was the best time of their life”. It was the opposite for me. I didn’t fit in socially and was often bullied. In some cases my teachers even took part in ridiculing me and it wasn’t long before I realized kindness and maturity have nothing to do with age. Because of my personal experiences I wanted to become a teacher that students would feel comfortable coming to with their problems. I wanted to be there for those who had no one else to talk to. I worked my hardest to achieve this goal and while I do have all the necessary education and more, it just wasn’t meant to be. After I graduated the teaching market in Ontario was incredibly flooded and it was impossible for me to find work.

After years of feeling like my dreams were unattainable I decided it was time to start a new dream, a dream that had been within me all along but seemed too“unrealistic” to ever give it a try. If my “realistic” dream wasn’t panning out then it was time to go big! I’d already been making art part time so thanks to the support of my family I decided to go full-time. With that support and years of hard work and dedication I am proud to say I have been a full-time professional artist for 4 years now.

What keeps me so motivated is the message I try to spread using my artwork and my online presence. It is my sincerest hope to make women feel empowered and uniquely beautiful just as they are. The amazing feedback from fans that I’m fortunate to receive really keeps me passionate and excited about my work.

Q4 - Malinda Prudhomme - True Beauty - Alisha Gauveau“True Beauty”, “Alisha Gauvreau”

IFWA..You mentioned you were dissatisfied with the way the medias represent women. What do you disagree with?

I disagree with the lack of variety we see in our media. Quite often the women portrayed in magazines and advertisements fit into the stereotypical “norms” for beauty. Generally they are thin, young, and predominantly white. These women are gorgeous but so are others! I believe ALL women, regardless of age, size, ethnicity, and personal style, are beautiful in their own unique way. My message is not one the condemns the beauty of women who fall under societal norms but rather encourages all women to see themselves as beautiful. I would love to see larger women and women of different ethnicity incorporated into our mainstream media. I feel that variety is not only beautiful, but is the key to solving the epidemic of low self-esteem a lot of today’s women suffer from.

Q3 - Malinda Prudhomme - Curvy Beauties

-Curvy Beauties

IFWA..Do you see an evolution , or is it still the same as when you first noticed it?

I have definitely seen things change since starting my practice. A trend that’s becoming more popular is the acceptance that women come in all different shapes and sizes and that these shapes and sizes do not necessarily correlate to their health and certainly do not impact their ability to be beautiful. Perhaps I’m seeing this because I surround myself with like-minded people and am interested in topics that follow this type of thinking but I truly believe it is becoming more common and I can only hope that this continues.

IFWA..Did you ever had any difficulty working as a woman, to find work, or be accepted as a portraitist ? If so, what did you do to help you go through the difficulties ?

It’s hard for me to say whether or not I’ve been held back as an artist because I’m a woman. Honestly I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had a good amount of work from the beginning. I think my skill speaks for itself and people who don’t respect women would likely not find my work interesting anyways as it revolves around the well-being of women. The only thing that I’ve noticed is how my language is interpreted differently, very likely because I’m a woman. I’m quite confident about my skill and my work. I would never dream of thinking I’m perfect or even better than others, in fact I never compare myself to other artists, but I have come a long way over the years and I’m proud of that. On occasion I’ll receive comments saying I’m “arrogant” or “pretentious” which is always from someone who doesn’t follow my practice. It’s frustrating that a woman’s confidence is seen as arrogance. But then again, I try not to take too much of what is said from strangers to heart. No matter what you do ,there will always be someone out there who dislikes you. You just have to be self-aware and know you’re doing the best you can do.

Q6 - Malinda Prudhomme - Colour Inspired - RAW

–Color inspired, RAW

IFWA..I must say your pencil drawings are quite touching…How is it working in black and white compared with color, or is it a question of medium?

Thank you! It can sometimes be a question of medium. For example if someone requests a charcoal drawing they’ll obviously be receiving an image in black and white but then again I do sometimes make the choice to do black and white with something like oil paints just because it gives off a different emotion. At this point in time I believe I prefer to work with color. The brightness and variety makes me very happy. But I can say from experience that working in black and white is much easier. Your eyes aren’t required to take in as much information. You’re focusing on darks and lights rather than colors as well as darks and lights. I think in the end it’s all a matter of preferences and I’m certainly willing to do whatever my clients wish.

Q5 - Malinda Prudhomme - A Mark Of Beauty

A Mark of Beauty

IFWA.. Your portraits of women really captures their personality . Who are those women and why them? 

Oh, I’m so glad to hear that. Thank you! When I first began doing portraiture I had to prove my skill so I would often work from images of models and actresses who had inspired me in some way. Now that I’ve gathered a following and people are confident in my skills I am able to put calls out to the public for images. Generally when I’m working on a new series I’ll post throughout social media asking for submissions of beauty stating that all women are welcome to apply. From these submissions I am able to choose, sometimes at random, who will be represented in my new works. I LOVE this! This was certainly a goal I had in mind when I first started because I truly want to show “everyday” women just how stunning they really are. So yes! They absolutely can be people I don’t know and have been! Anyone can submit to my calls! The more the merrier. :)

Q1 - Malinda Prudhomme - One And The Same

–One and the same

IFWA..Are you tempted to work with other medias then the ones you are using -mostly oil and acrylic -, say sculpture, clay, photography ?

You’re right! Most of my work is done using acrylic paint and oil paints. BUT I’m also a Mixed Media Artist so from time to time I like to pull out quite a few of my different supplies and put them together in a new series or artwork. I use pencil, charcoal, pastel, watercolor paint, gouache paint, encaustic (wax) paint, and have just begun learning airbrush. As far as sculpture and photography go … No, I’m not tempted to use them. My father is a sculptor but that just never appealed to me. I prefer working in the 2 dimensional plane. I do LOVE taking photographs, especially when I’m traveling, but I believe my shots are better used as reference photos for my artwork rather then incorporated directly into a piece. But you never know! Perhaps that will change in the future.

IFWA..Do you have any interest in working with other artist , collaborating on a common project / exhibition / performance? 

It’s definitely fun to work on collaborations with other artists as long as they have a similar work ethic. I take my work seriously so I would expect anyone I work with to feel the same way. Putting together a show with another artist and maybe creating a collaborative piece for it would certainly be something I’d be interested in.

IFWA..Is there a particular piece of work you are really satisfied with ? If so, why?

One of my favorite pieces to date is “True Beauty” ‘Delena Providence’. Why am I so satisfied with it? Hmm that’s a tough one. I believe it’s because of the look I achieved with the eyes. They are very mesmerizing. Another reason I might be so drawn to this piece is because it depicts a young woman who’s been in my life since I was toddler and I always felt she was special and worthy of being honored in this way. It could also be because this piece took a very long time to complete, putting in each strand of hair one at a time, so there is a sense of accomplishment and time well spent. And lastly because of the variety in her skin tone. Such bright whites and the dark shadows all taking shape harmoniously in one portrait is a bit of a rare thing and I like how it turned out in this piece.

Q9 - Malinda Prudhomme - True Beauty - Delena Providence

“True Beauty”,‘Delena Providence’

IFWA..What direction is your work taking , now?

I currently have an abundance of commissions I must complete so I haven’t allowed myself to go too overboard with planning original artwork/series. I do know that I would like to continue proving that a variety of women are beautiful using “everyday” women. I think that in order to change things up.

I’d like to start including geometric shapes with my portraits as a way of contrasting my realistic portrait style. I also plan to work on wood when I find the time in order to allow some of the natural grain to show through. In all truth I have a huge list of ideas I’d like to get to but for now it’s time to pay the bills. Working on commissions, while isn’t as creative, has it’s own rewards. There’s nothing like creating something that will be cherished and passed down from generation to generation.

On a smaller,scale, I’ve done collaborative works with my fan base, many of which are artists themselves. I held a contest this past year where anyone was able to take my initial drawing and turn it into their own artwork. It was amazing seeing all the different outcomes. You can check it out HERE.


Website:                                      www.                                                                                           Twitter:                                                                                            Instagram:                                                                        Etsy:                                                                                                Blog:

Rodin’s Lover, Heather Webb’s New Book

 Heather Webb Smiling

Author Bio:

 Heather Webb writes historical novels for Penguin and HarperCollins, which have been translated to three languages and have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan magazine, France magazine, and Reuters News Book Talk. BECOMING JOSEPHINE follows the life and times of Josephine Bonaparte set to the backdrop of the French Revolution, and RODIN’S LOVER chronicles the passionate and tragic story of Camille Claudel, sculptor, collaborator, and lover to the famed Auguste Rodin. A FALL OF POPPIES releases in 2016. Heather is also a freelance editor and contributor to award-winning writing sites and She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

 Heather Webb book cover

1) What was the starting point of your interest for Camille Claudel?

I fell in love with Camille while in my French film class in college. The film, simply called Camille Claudel, was multiple award-winning in Europe and the U.S. with stars Isabelle Adjani and Gérard Depardieu playing the roles of Camille and Rodin. Their tragic love story gripped me and I swooned at the beauty they created both together and separately. After the film, I became rather obsessed with sculpture in general. Many years later, I had not forgotten Camille, and knew I wanted to delve more into her life. It has been an incredible experience spending time exploring her brilliant mind, and ultimately sharing her story.

2) Did you have to go to Paris to find details for your book?

I did, though it was mostly to satisfy my need to see all of the beautiful pieces in person at the Musée Rodin and the Musée d’Orsay. In terms of the bulk of my research, I read as many biographies about Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin as I could get my hands on. I layered this knowledge with other books like For the Soul of France and From the Revolution to the Belle Époque in addition to “How to” books on sculpture. I spent some time in a 101 sculpture class, getting my hands in the clay and learning about the tools. Finally, I studied both Camille’s and Rodin’s works extensively through photos, as well as in person at several museums including those I mentioned in Paris, along with a few in the United States that exhibit smaller collections.

3) Has your opinion about Rodin changed after writing about him?

I’ve never seen Rodin as the villain that many ardent Claudel lovers have portrayed him to be. He signed her pieces with his signature, yes, but this was not only typical but expected in the artist-student relationship, as well as in the atelier setting. He loved Camille completely, and devoted much of his time —even after they split—to helping her career advance, as well as keeping her afloat financially. He had his faults, certainly, but she did as well, as do we all. As for a change in opinion? I grew to love him while learning about his life and his style, determination, and passion almost as much as I love Camille. Almost, but not quite.

4) Are there details of her life you were surprised or horrified to find?

The most horrifying thing I learned was that Camille lived thirty years of her life in this asylum that barely fed her enough to stay alive, that was frigid in the winters and sweltering in the summers. Camille’s beloved brother Paul visited her only a handful of times after she was committed. That broke my heart for her just a little more.

5) I bet you saw the movie with Isabelle Adjani and Gerard  Depardieu from director Bruno Nuytten . Was the film accurate or adapted too much to please a larger audience?

I absolutely adored this film. As I mentioned above, it was my first introduction to Camille Claudel and really to Rodin as well. The film is fairly accurate. The director did a wonderful job capturing the era as well as dealing with the time lapses in their relationship. The one thing I would say isn’t entirely true is that the film paints Rodin in a bit of playboy light. While he did have lovers and worshipped the female form, all of my research indicated that while in love with Camille, he was very taken by her—obsessed even. I didn’t really get that sensibility in this film. The director really painted Camille as the forlorn one and though she was deeply in love as well, the scales seemed tipped in the other direction in my reading.

6) Do you have a favorite moment in her life story?

I have two. The moment she realizes she is in love with a genius—like herself, and also the moment she wins the Salon prize for Sakuntala. Her winning was really the beginning of her being respected on a broader scale.

7) Do you find similarities between your life and hers as a female artist?

Absolutely! In fact, I found it comical, at times, how similar an artist’s frustrations and triumphs are to those of a writer. We love and live to create. And then there’s this incredible struggle to be discovered and recognized, well-reviewed. The rollercoaster of emotions a writer goes through are exactly the same as an artist’s when there’s a less-than-positive review, when a commission doesn’t come through, or when a piece isn’t shaping the way we would like it to.

8) Was it difficult to find information about her life? Did you encounter blocks or stops?

There weren’t as many sources as I would have liked, but on the other hand, having questions leaves room for invention—for the fiction to take over—so it actually worked in my favor.

9) What do you think of her, now?

If possible, I love her more now than I did when I began. She feels like a family member or friend that I want to protect. I am proud of her and the beauty she created to share with the world. I hope my novel introduces her to many many more so they may appreciate her as I do.

10) What are you working on next? Do you already have another project started?

I have two things in the works. The first is an anthology that will be released by HarperCollins called A FALL OF POPPIES which centers on WWI’s Armistice Day. The second is a novel set during Belle Époque Paris once again and is shaping up to be a bit of a Gothic thriller. It’s a retelling of a popular story and I’m very excited about it! That’s all I can share about the novel for now.

Learn more about Heather Webb on her Website and follow her updates via her Facebook page and Twitter.

Buy this book here.

Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.

LIZ JOHNDROW: A Builder Working in Nicaragua

Interviewed by Gabriella Alziari 

“[The best thing about being a builder is] seeing people find an expression of creativity and the power of working together, one brick or bale at a time, to create a structure that then can be lavished with artistic expression.”

-Liz Johndrow

Liz Johndrow is a builder from Vermont. She works with cob, earthbag, adobe, strawbale, earthen plasters and floor systems, and timber framing. During the last few years, Liz has taken on a prominent role as a natural building teacher and facilitator, traveling internationally to help town residents and communities learn the joys and advantages of building. She is currently running The Nicaragua Pueblo Project in Nicaragua, working with communities to build safe homes from natural resources and learn useful building skills. 

Where did your journey with building begin?

When I was young, I loved the woodworking tools in our little basement workshop and was always making things down there. Then I worked on a women’s carpentry crew for two seasons in my twenties, when I was a young single mom. I was fascinated with structures, particularly ones that embraced nature.

Tell us about yourself and your work.

I was a massage therapist for nearly 20 years. I’ve always been a hands-on person and always interested in health, nature, and creating things and community. And I was a single Mom who was incredibly resourceful in providing for my small family. This has all formed my recent work of natural building. Building for less environmental impact, creating beauty in function, supporting women’s empowerment, and working with the raw materials that nature provides.

What kind of planning is put into creating a new structure?

I like to design from the needs of the community and see how we can creatively meet those needs. In Nicaragua, there is an extremely limited budget to work with so we have to consider that! Then I like to add some fun factor; playfulness in the design. It lends to a lot more creative exploration, which is huge for those who don’t have many avenues or support towards such expression.

Do you prefer certain materials over others? Which ones?

I love, love, love, clay based soil to work with. It’s a truly magical material that allows for endless expression with so little environmental impact- before, during, and after.


How do you feel once you have finished a piece?

Like a proud mama.

Your work has given you the opportunity to travel. How different would your career be if you had stayed in the United States?

I would be seeking to work for those who have the means for natural beauty and expression in their homes. A ‘natural’ building in a more challenging US climate could easily cost several hundred thousand dollars. Natural building is very time consuming and labor intensive. But I also have the opportunity to work towards high performance homes for low income people. For example, I’m about to lead a volunteer straw bale home build for a Hopi family on the Hopi Reservation in AZ through The Red Feather Development Group.

Can you talk about your group work?

Do you mean community builds? This is the good stuff. This is where people of all skill levels come together and find where they are willing to explore, find their way as a cooperative in that moment in time, and discover a creativity within that they are willing to bring out. It breaks barriers and it creates inclusion. That and the clay soil; it’s truly magical and empowering.

One example is creating a way for the community to tell some stories of their history, their land, what is important to them. And then bring those stories to the wall of a building. Here is a link to that album (Reminds me I need to write a blog about that!)

What is the most rewarding thing about being a builder?

Seeing people find an expression of creativity and the power of working together, one brick or bale at a time, to create a structure that then can be lavished with artistic expression. And providing safer and healthier spaces for families to thrive.

Have you made connections or friends through this job that you might not have otherwise?

Natural building community is a special group of people. Artists, building science geeks, champions for people to create beautiful and affordable spaces– all around caring and supportive folks that freely share their knowledge and expertise!

How is it being a woman in your field? If it has been difficult, how have you overcome previous challenges?

I’m fairly feisty and comfortable with a lot of the building skills. But I know what it’s like to feel shut down by someone who is invested in knowing more! So I try to be humble and courageous and admit what I don’t know and share what I do. I try to remember that at all times and to help women trust their instincts, their creative energies, and loosen the performance anxiety reins. I try to think of myself as a skilled student who is passionate to share what I know with others. Like I said, natural building is labor intensive. If you can empower your workforce, they are going to create something beautiful with the proper guidance. It’s a win-win!

Are you working on anything now?

Always! Right now I am headed to the Hopi rez and will be there for two months to build the straw bale house. We are including an earthen floor and beautiful lime and clay based plasters inside and out. I will then be heading back to Nicaragua and Costa Rica to teach in the pueblos and also at some permaculture and eco based schools for international students to learn natural building. So my work continues as a mix of function and beauty. Everything from home improvements to beautiful lime plasters to storytelling into art mud sculpted and clay painted murals!

Learn more about Liz Johndrow here. Check out her Facebook page too!

Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Her paintings were influenced by bad memories

Artemisia Gentileschi

(July 8, 1593 – c. 1656)

Her paintings were influenced by bad memories

Artemisia Gentileschi was born in Rome on 8 July 1593, the eldest child of the Tuscan painter Orazio Gentileschi. Artemisia was introduced to painting in her father’s workshop, showing much more talent than her brothers, who worked alongside her. She learned drawing, how to mix color, and how to paint. Since her father’s style took inspiration from Caravaggio during that period, her style was just as heavily influenced in turn. Her approach to subject matter was different from her father’s, however, as her paintings are highly naturalistic, where Orazio’s are idealized. Orazio was a great encouragement to his daughter since, during the seventeenth century, women were considered lacking the intelligence to work. At the same time, Artemisia had to resist the “traditional attitude and psychological submission to this brainwashing and jealousy of her obvious talent” *. By doing so, she gained great respect and recognition for her work.
*Bissell, Ward R. Artemisia Gentileschi and the Authority of Art: Critical Reading and Catalogue Raisonne. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999.


 Self-Portrait as a Lute Player, 1615–1617, Artemisia Gentileschi
Susanna and the Elders, her first work, 1610, Artemisia Gentileschi
The first work of the young seventeen-year-old Artemisia was the Susanna e i Vecchioni (Susanna and the Elders) (1610, Schönborn collection in Pommersfelden). At the time, some influenced by the prevailing misconceptions, suspected that she was helped by her father. The painting shows how Artemisia assimilated the realism of Caravaggio without being indifferent to the language of the Bologna school, which had Annibale Carracci among its major artists. It is one of the few paintings on the theme of Susanna showing the sexual accosting by the two Elders as a traumatic event.
                                             캡처Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1611–1612, Artemisia Gentileschi/Judith Slaying Holofernes,1614–1620, Artemisia Gentileschi
In 1611, her father was working with Agostino Tassi to decorate the vaults of Casino della Rose inside the Pallavicini Rospigliosi Palace in Rome, so Orazio hired the painter to tutor his daughter privately. During this tutelage, Tassi raped Artemisia. Another man, Cosimo Quorlis, was also involved. After the initial rape, Artemisia continued to have sexual relations with Tassi, with the expectation that they were going to be married and with the hope to restore her dignity and her future. Tassi reneged on his promise to marry Artemisia. Nine months after the event, when he learnt that Artemisia and Tassi were not going to be married, Orazio pressed charges against Tassi. Orazio also claimed that Tassi stole a painting of Judith from the Gentileschi household. The major issue of this trial was the fact that Tassi had taken Artemisia’s virginity. If Artemisia had not been a virgin before Tassi raped her, the Gentileschis would not have been able to press charges. During the ensuing seven-month trial, it was discovered that Tassi had planned to murder his wife, had enjoined in adultery with his sister-in-law, and planned to steal some of Orazio’s paintings. During the trial, Artemisia was subjected to a gynecological examination and torture using thumbscrews to verify her testimony. At the end of the trial Tassi was sentenced to imprisonment for one year, although he never served the time. The trial influenced the feminist view of Artemisia Gentileschi during the late twentieth century.
* Thumbscrew (torture); A victim’s thumbs or fingers were placed in the vice and slowly crushed. The thumbscrew was also applied to crush prisoners’ big toes. The crushing bars were sometimes lined with sharp metal points to puncture the thumbs and inflict greater pain in the nail beds. Larger, heavier devices based on the same design principle were applied to crush feet and ears.
                                               캡처Judith I, 1901, Gustav Klimt/Judith Beheading Holofernes 1598–1599, Michelangelo da Caravaggio
This event became her anger and she expressed the anger in her paintings. Also, in her pictures which represent *Judith Beheading Holofernes, She drew all faces of Judith as hers face and Holofernes are Tassi on her paintings. Unlike other ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’, Judith looks like a strong woman and she has a tenacious grip. Usually, Judith had been expressed as a weak and fascinating woman in those days. For example, Gustav Klimt drew Judith as a fascinating femme fatale. Also, Michelangelo da Caravaggio drew Judith as a weak and delicate woman.
*The book of Judith: The Book of Judith has a tragic setting that appealed to Jewish patriots and it warned of the urgency of adhering to Mosaic law, generally speaking, but what accounted for its enduring appeal was the drama of its narrative. The story revolves around Judith, a daring and beautiful widow, who is upset with her Jewish countrymen for not trusting God to deliver them from their foreign conquerors. She goes with her loyal maid to the camp of the enemy general, Holofernes, with whom she slowly ingratiates herself, promising him information on the Israelites. Gaining his trust, she is allowed access to his tent one night as he lies in a drunken stupor. She decapitates him, then takes his head back to her fearful countrymen. The Assyrians, having lost their leader, disperse, and Israel is saved. Though she is courted by many, Judith remains unmarried for the rest of her life.
That she was a woman painting in the seventeenth century and that she was raped and participated in prosecuting the rapist, long overshadowed her achievements as an artist. For many years she was regarded as a curiosity. Today she is regarded as one of the most progressive and expressionist painters of her generation.


Judith and her Maidservant, 1613–1614, Artemisia Gentileschi
Because Artemisia returned again and again to violent subject matter such as Judith and Holofernes, a repressed-vengeance theory has been postulated. Some art historians suggest however, that she was shrewdly taking advantage of her fame from the rape trial to cater to a niche market in sexually charged, female-dominant art for male patrons.


Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura), 1638-1639, Artemisia Gentileschi
The most recent critic, starting from the difficult reconstruction of the entire catalogue of the Gentileschi, tried to give a less reductive reading of the career of Artemisia, placing it more accurately in the context of the different artistic environments in which the painter actively participated. A reading such as this restores Artemisia as an artist who fought with determination—using the weapon of personality and of the artistic qualities—against the prejudices expressed against women painters; being able to introduce herself productively in the circle of the most respected painters of her time, embracing a series of pictorial genres that probably were more ample and varied than her paintings suggest.

Isabell Buenz : British Paper Textile Artist

Artist Isabell Buenz works across the disciplines of paper sculptures, installations, photography and artist’s books. She became interested in recycling and re-purposing objects from an early age, even making clothes for herself and her family. Isbell became a full-time artist in 2000 and spends her time between her home studio near the Scottish Borders and her workshop/ gallery in Dumfriesshire.
In this interview with Isabell we talk about the influence of her father’s job at the local newspaper, the use of 100% renewable tea bag paper in her work and consider her unusual paper clothing.

International Foundation for Women Artists would like to thank for allowing us to repost this interview.

1 IsabellBuenz RoseNecklace 2013 540x540 Isabell Buenz – Paper TextilesIsabell Buenz – Rose Necklace (2013)

The freedom of fabric What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Isabell Buenz: Nowadays textile art forms an important element of my work, however, my core work has always been creating things with paper. I started sewing as a child and still enjoy the freedom I experience in my work with fabrics. I find it interesting to compare working with textiles with the level of versatility and possibilities paper offers.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
My Dad’s work has always captured my imagination. When he worked for the local newspaper we always had big rolls of waste paper in the house. Early on I became fascinated with the idea of making all sorts of things from paper and discarded newspapers. I still have one of my first craft books: ‘Basteln mit Zeitungspapier’ which I bought in 1975!
I also started designing and making my own clothes after a school sewing project. It had never occurred to me before that you could make your own outfits! Initially I made my clothes using my granny’s indestructible Singer sewing machine. When I was a teenager my parents finally bought our very own electrical machine. I started making my Mum’s evening dresses and showed her how to sew too.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
I wanted to be an artist since I was a teenager. I spent a lot of my time collecting my ideas, designing and making things. I was dreaming about having a gallery with a workshop where I could make and display my own and other people’s work.
However, I took very different career paths before setting out as a paper and book artist in 2000. At the time I was still working part-time for the NHS in Edinburgh which I finally left in the end of 2011.
I am now a full-time artist and mostly self-taught in the areas I work in, including book binding, textile work, paper art and photography. Over the years I have attended a variety of short courses that helped me increase specific skills and knowledge.

100% renewable tea bag paper 

What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
I like working with any kind of paper but prefer to use discarded books, mulberry paper or tea bag paper.
2 IsabellBuenz PaperRam 2013 Isabell Buenz – Paper TextilesIsabell Buenz – Paper Ram (2013)
Over the last few years I have mostly worked with 100% renewable tea bag paper as my main medium, creating a collection of whimsical dresses, fashion accessories and shoes. My shoes are mainly made by papier-mâchéing paper over shoe moulds I make from clay. I aim to make them as thin as possible to allow the structure to show through in the light.
3 IsabellBuenz LilyShoes 2013 25cm Isabell Buenz – Paper TextilesIsabell Buenz – Lily Shoes (2013), 25cm
My paper dresses are made like ‘real’ dresses and the latest ones can actually be worn. I first create the patterns by draping and then finish the outfits by gluing or sewing, depending on the type of tea bag paper I work with.
4 IsabellBuenz TheMuses 2014 Isabell Buenz – Paper TextilesIsabell Buenz – The Muses (2014)
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
My work is a collection of whimsical paper fashion items. Many have a fairy tale quality and range in size from tiny matching dress and handbag ensembles to giant shoes. The work is often inspired by encounters with nature and my close-up plant photography.
5 IsabellBuenz TinyDress 2014 15cm Isabell Buenz – Paper TextilesIsabell Buenz – Tiny Dress (2014) 15cm
6 IsabellBuenz GiantStiletto 2011 Isabell Buenz – Paper TextilesIsabell Buenz – Giant Stiletto (2011)
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
I have an office/studio in my home outside Edinburgh and a studio space in Dumfries and Galloway, working in one or the other depending on my work load and the size of the project. I like the fact that I work with material that is often considered worthless, too delicate to handle and is frequently thrown away without thought. I have been interested in recycling and re-using things for unintended purposes from an early age.
That unfortunately means I’m a hoarder as anything could one day be useful in a very different form! I would love to work in a spacious, organised office and try to create this before every new project starts. By the end of the process I can usually count myself lucky if I can still get into the room and find a space for my coffee cup. Fortunately the studio in D&G is much bigger and I seem not to have the same problem there!
 7 IsabellBuenz Studio 2013 Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – Studio (2013)

Ideas and interesting images

Do you use a sketchbook?
I rarely leave the house without a sketchbook and one of my cameras. Calling it a sketchbook however is probably misleading. I consider myself a complete amateur when it comes to sketching and drawing. A lot of the time my scribbles look like kid’s drawings (the only thing I seem to be able to draw a bit better are my fashion illustrations)… so the books are more like mood boards holding my ideas and interesting images. If I start a new project I usually make a new notebook for it.
8 IsabellBuenz Drawing 2014 Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – Drawing (2014)
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
I recently visited Aberdeen Art Gallery to see Kaffe Fasset’s ‘50 Years in Colour’ exhibition and attended his talk and quilting workshop. Having been to South East Asia earlier this year I am very interested in the use of colour and patterns (even though most of my recent work is white).
I love the work of Howard Schatz, Nick Knight, Issey Miyake, Nicholas Kirkwood, and I LOVE Spanish high street labels Desigual and Smash!
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
Probably my first paper shoe collection that I made for the summer exhibition at Bellcraig Studio in Fife in 2006. By then I had thought a lot about making paper stilettos but with work and trying to establish myself as an artist I never found the time. For that show I decided to make my paper shoe dream come true and created a chicken themed collection as the owner of the gallery was going to give me a wee coop to display my work. I don’t know how many shoes I’ve made since then.
9 IsabellBuenz PaperStilettos 2006 30cm each Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – Paper Stilettos (2006) 30cm each

Unusual, wearable paper dresses

How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
Over the last few years I have become more confident in my work and my ideas and I think it shows in the results. I have moved on from my little shoes to creating unusual, wearable paper dresses that I show as installations with a theatrical twist.
10 IsabellBuenz LittleWhiteDress 2013 Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – Little White Dress (2013)
I would like to continue working along those lines and possibly introduce other materials, such as fabric into my work. I am hoping that I can develop a more relaxed style and improve my fashion illustration skills.
11 IsabellBuenz MermaidWeddingDress 2014 Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – Mermaid Wedding Dress (2014)
I am also continuously updating my sewing skills and am working as tutor in an Edinburgh sewing shop.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Be bold, go for it and don’t worry about what work other people create. Also, network. Loads.
Can you recommend 3 or 4 books for textile artists?
Paper Textiles by Christina Leitner, A&C Black Textile Perspective in Mixed-Media Sculpture by Jac Scott, The Crowood Press
Fairie-ality Style: A sourcebook of inspirations from nature AND Fairie-ality: the Ellwand Collection by David Ellwand, Walker Books Fairie-ality Style: A sourcebook of inspirations from nature AND Fairie-ality: the Ellwand Collection by David Ellwand, Walker Books
1000 Artisan Textiles: Contemporary fiber art, quilts, and wearables by Sandra Salamony & Gina M Brown, Quarry Books

Resources, equipment and exhibitions

What other resources do you use? Blogs, websites, magazines etc.
I am following a number of textile and fashion related sites online, including: MODH,Textiles Scotland, Institute Magazine, V&A, Fashion and Textile Museum, WOW,Recycle Runway. For opportunities I check out: a-n, the Cultural Enterprise Office,Creative Scotland, local council, arts trusts/organisations and my network of contacts.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
Quite a few, I think: my tablet, a camera or phone, the current note book, my ‘pencil’ box full of pens, markers, scalpels etc. And my new sewing machine. And the old one… I mentioned I’m a hoarder, didn’t I?
12 IsabellBuenz WithOldSingerMachine 2014 Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – With Old Singer Machine (2014)
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
I usually give talks or run workshops in connection with my exhibitions and get invited to teach in schools, colleges and prisons. I work as a tutor for Materialise  the sewing shop I mentioned above. My workshops there revolve around my interests in creating new and unusual items from pre-loved clothes, free-hand machine embroidery, sewing with stretch fabrics and manipulating pattern magic constructions.
13 IsabellBuenz YoungDesignersWorkshopAd 2013 Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – Young Designers Workshop Ad (2013)
Information about workshops open to the public in other areas is usually announced on my website ‘News’ page. Or if someone is interested, they can contact me to be added to my mailing list.
Where can readers see your work this year?
I have just shown my solo exhibition ‘Little White Dress’ for the second time and am now planning two potential new projects for next year but have not finalised anything as yet. I am a member of the Galloway Textiles Collective ‘Intertwine’ and we will shortly plan our exhibitions for 2015. Until then my work can be viewed online. My website is a good place to start.
14 IsabellBuenz DaisyShoe 2013 25cm Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – Daisy Shoe (2013) 25cm

Learn more about Isabell Buenz on her Website and follow her updates via her Facebook page and Blog.

Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists in collaboration with Textile Artists