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Craft and Collage with Sarah Campbell

Have you ever found yourself wanting to participate rather than observe? After months of cancelled events, online meetings and webinars, I jumped at the opportunity to do something creative that didn’t involve sitting in front of a computer screen. Eager to unleash my inner artist, I joined an intimate, socially distanced gathering in a snug basement corner at Anthropologie’s colourful King’s Road emporium. As part of London Craft Week, textile designer and artist Sarah Campbell was giving a ‘decorative collage workshop’ to coincide with a selling exhibition of her work at the in-store gallery. 

After introductions and a curious feeling I had met the warm and exuberant designer in a previous life (or possibly at the Fashion and Textile Museum), Sarah proceeded to take us through an impressive array of “here’s some I did earlier” collages. If, like me, you imagined that collages were created using cuttings from magazines stuck onto paper, you would be overlooking a myriad of aesthetic artistry, encompassing cutting, folding, painting, printing, tearing, drawing and even weaving. Sarah’s passion for her craft shone through as she explained how she made all her own greetings cards, making me envy her friends and relatives. 

Laid out in front of us was a selection of equipment, including scissors, tapes, cutting tools, card, sticky backed papers, tape, glue and coloured pencils. Then we were each given our own folder stuffed with fascinating and alluring oddments. Mine contained pre-used tissue and wrapping paper, stamps, Post It notes, fragments of hand painted card, a vintage women’s magazine, and discarded packaging – mostly the sort of material that might otherwise end up in the bin. 

So I set to work. Firstly, deciding on which pieces to use, and then arranging them on my canvas – an A4 sheet of thin card. Inspiration came thick and fast once I spotted the makings of a theme. You may find it rather sad, but this was one of the most enjoyable and satisfying afternoons I have spent in a long time. My only frustration was that it didn’t go on for longer, and I wasn’t able to perfect a method for creating paper flowers – I may need another workshop for that. 

See more in this video, plus the finished collage below.

After we had shared the fruits of our labour, I visited the exhibition – Painted Treasures by Sarah Campbell Designs. An accomplished international designer, Sarah worked alongside her sister, the late Susan Collier, from the early 1960s until 2011. The duo initially designed for Liberty before establishing their own practice, Collier Campbell in 1979, where they were responsible for a number of iconic print patterns. In addition to speaking, teaching and running workshops, some of Sarah’s latest work can be seen in this small show, which reflects the variety and mastery of her craft as a textile designer, and creator of patterns bursting with enthusiasm for colour and an eternally youthful energy. 

“To make is to share – ideas, ingenuity, invention, beauty – and to share is an act of generosity from which everyone can benefit,” says Sarah. And that’s why I wanted to share the details of this wonderful experience, and the outcome of my afternoon with the Queen of Collage. 

Painted Treasures is at the Anthropologie gallery until Sunday 8th November.

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