Mariel Manuel is a Swiss artist and fashion designer. She mainly works by materializing ideas in 3D.
Storytelling holds a central place in all her work, and a lot of her time is spent drawing and painting.
During her recent art residency throughout India with the Swiss Art Council, she discovered Bluecat paper and painting with natural dyes.
Tell us about yourself and your work
I am half Swiss, half American artist. I studied fashion design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, which is one of the very very creative places to study fashion.
I have drawn my whole life, and have been bathed in creative work and world explorations since childhood. These memories and impressions of the world are a central part of my creative work and how I approach life. It’s always about telling stories, and how I translate emotion, be it in a painting or a dress.
The story will materialize in a different way depending on the medium I use, and that’s for me where the magic lies.
How did you find out about the tree-free paper that Bluecatpaper makes?
I was kindly introduced to Bluecat paper by Suprita Moorthy, founder of the Bangalore Design Week. I was in Bangalore for my residency with Pro Helevetia, The Swiss Arts Council, and was giving workshops and talks.
Kavya picked me up at my hotel and we drove to see the factory. I was so inspired to see the beautiful textures and how the papers they produce there are so full of their own life.
How does Bluecat Paper make your work unique?
Bluecat makes the work unique, because in itself the paper IS already unique. And that is something I can feel. Again, it brings me back to the story. I know the story of Bluecat, the process, the fabrication, the waste material that was used.
All this story, I take it in my paintings. It’s like my paintings are a continuation of the paper.
What’s your process like while working on Bluecat Paper’s product?
When I visited the factory, it was already like so many papers in the display shelves were calling to me. That’s the beginning of the work. My vision. Back in Chennai, where my partner’s painting studio is, I started using the natural dyes that served as dyes for my dresses, and used them to paint large scale faces of Indian women.
I loved to explore and experiment how the rag absorbed the liquid dyes, how it diffused, or how it didn’t. it’s all happening in the moment. The process is very much like meditation or mindfulness.
It’s actually my favourite way to do: watercolors free my mind.
What other materials do you use along with Bluecat Paper?
I use, as mentioned, the natural dyes, or paint directly with the pigments, or plain gouache or watercolor.
I also used some textured bluecat paper to make collages, which is so beautiful.
What advice do you have for artists starting with Bluecat Paper?
To find your own link and tell your own story between the paper and your work of art. As each paper I have used so far has an identity, propriety, specific fibre, or direction, or feel, these are all things that should inspire you to expand with your medium. Even the darker or colored papers are so interesting to experiment with.
Do you have a favourite project or piece?
I love the large faces series. I was able to make a few very large scales on Bluecat paper, and I will continue this series. I also made the smaller faces with the natural dyes on the recycled cotton rag.
I would love to exhibit all these faces together in one room.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
Oh, yes! With Kavya, we were talking about making garments! That’s definitely something I want to share and experiment. The banana leaf paper, slightly transparent, would be great. And somehow, if we can make garments, 100% compostable, that would be a very interesting project.
The range of paper from Bluecatpaper includes the following.
cotton rag paper | coffee husk paper | corn husk paper | linen paper | seed paper | elephant poo paper |
hemp paper | mulberry paper | flax paper | lemongrass paper | banana paper | rice stubble paper |
Which paper did you use?
Banana paper, coffee paper, recycled cotton rag (white and blue and also some in green and pink color).
I think I made some using small pieces of seed paper, that was for some Christmas cards.
Which would you like to pick next?
I love the lemongrass paper, but this would be more to design a beautiful packaging system for my collections.
Otherwise, the rags are always stunning, because you can work the texture into them. I would love to paint on the elephant poo one!
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