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Paper Art With Stephanie Smart

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Paper Art With Stephanie Smart

Stephanie Smart is the artist behind the beautiful ‘Regency Wardrobe’ collection which has just concluded its residency at Firle Place, East Sussex. The exquisite collection utilises Duni paper tablecloths and thread to create garments inspired by Autumn de Wilde’s recent feature film of Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’.

Stephanie’s working practice combines that of a fashion house and a fine art studio. Each garment produced is a work of paper textiles, created using only paper and thread; inspired by period and place, history and story.

We caught up with Stephanie to find out more...

What inspired you to make this collection?

A: It was an initial connection with the Regency Town House in Hove, where I then became an artist in residence for 15 months. During that period and since, I’ve been working with a team of wonderful volunteers who are researching the Regency more generally and, how it relates to the local area. I then made connections with the Royal Pavilion and came across all sorts of fascinating information. I also visited museum stores and private collections, making links in particular with Chertsey Museum and Worthing Museum, and basing some of the elements of certain pieces on real Regency garments from their collections.

This was not a period I knew much about before starting the project but one of the first things I learnt was the idea of chalking a design on the floor for a ball and I knew immediately that I wanted to design a chalked floor that would match a ball gown and see both realized in a historic setting. The collection in total now consists of 11 pieces on mannequins, 12 accessories, 4 wall hangings, a jewellery box, and two areas of chalked floor which have been displayed at Firle Place, East Sussex, so it grew a bit from my original notion!

Why use Duni tablecloths?

A: I first discovered a Duni paper tablecloth, sold folded in an individual packet, in the supermarket, whilst working on my last collection ‘Maison de Papier’, and was thrilled with how well it copied when I applied free-machine embroidery to it. I use all sorts of paper types to get the looks I want, and although I use Duni paper tablecloth alone, I can also use it to stabilize other forms of paper if they are too fragile for certain areas. It also drapes very nicely. I now buy it on the roll.

What are your plans for the future?

A: Parts of ‘The Regency Wardrobe’ collection are being exhibited at Chertsey Museum at the end of this year, and then Worthing Museum next spring. I am in discussion with another exciting venue about extending that tour and possibly making an extra piece or two. I am discussing with a silk mill the possibility of a future residency/collection, and am also looking to return to working on my ‘300 Years of Shoes’ collection, one show from every decade from the 1720s to the 2020s. I have created the first five; four of which include Duni paper tablecloth, so I have 25 to go! I am also due to be giving many talks about my work over the forthcoming months.

Looking to see the collection in person? A select number of pieces will be shown at Chertsey Museum (6th November – 26th February). The whole collection will then be displayed at The Royal Pavilion, Brighton, and Worthing Museum from March until September 2022.

Credit: Stephanie Smart @houseofembroideredpaper_art
Photo Credit: Ray Sullivan
Sponsors: @aceagrams, @greatart_uk, @the_textile_society


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