This month, we're playing with decoupage - and delighted to introduce you to decoupage and collage artist Gabriela Szulman.
We love Gabriela's distinctive and playful work, and talked to her about her background, what inspires her, and advice for those starting out with decoupage.
How did you first get into collage and decoupage?
My work has always featured layered images and I started using chine-collé (a technique in which delicate papers are collaged onto a printed surface) while working towards my MA in Studio Printmaking over 10 years ago. After that, mixed media work with a strong collage element followed naturally.
My interest decoupage took off more recently when one of my sisters taught me how to revamp a pair of much loved but scuffed boots using napkin paper and glue. I loved the technique and soon I was hooked, moving to trays, decorative dolls, glass dishes, furniture and even walls!
Can you tell us how your first project went?
Well, I still wear those boots when they are not on display at the studio providing inspiration to my students! And it was that first decoupage project that set me on the route to teaching, which is something I really love. I started with a single workshop and now I teach a whole range of decoupage techniques as well as mixed media and collage, so I’d say that first attempt was a success…
Where do you get your inspiration from?
The images I use in my work are inspired by memory, nostalgia and a love of everything vintage. My work is often humorous and whimsical – unless my romantic side takes over and then we enter into a fairy-tale territory of old-fashioned script, pages of books and music scores populated by chivalrous gentlemen and glamorous ladies, with a sprinkling of butterflies and rabbits.
I love delving into old photograph albums, vintage documents, magazines, books, cards, technical manuals and illustrated dictionaries among other things. Second-hand bookshops, junk shops, market stalls, attics and long-forgotten boxes are my treasure trove. I have a growing archive of ephemera that provides me with reference material and inspiration.
I am also drawn to colour and pattern, both of which are strong elements in my work.
What do you love most about the process?
What I love about decoupage is that it can be used to upcycle and transform pretty much anything: all you need is paper, glue and a lot of patience. I also believe that anyone can learn it and achieve stunning results in a relatively short time, which is something that continues to amaze many of the people who take part in my workshops.
What would be your best advice for those starting out?
To come and learn with me at the studio, of course! Seriously, it is much easier to learn how to decoupage properly if someone shows you how to do it, so for those who are unable to join a class locally, the second best thing is YouTube where lots of great decoupage tutorials can be found. Buy good quality decoupage glue, cheap flat brushes and experiment with lots of different papers, from printed napkins and tissue to giftwrap and wallpaper.
What’s next for you, any upcoming projects you’re working on?
I recently started working with metal foils: I love bling and am a real maximalist so foiling is a perfect fit for me! Very soon I’m going to start teaching how to use metal foils to embellish both paper and fabric, and I’m really looking forward to sharing all my exciting experiments in these new classes.
In the longer term, my dream project is to write a book on funky decoupage, as I believe the technique is seriously under-appreciated!
We hope this has helped to inspire you!