Sharon Derry is a book and paper artist living and working in St. Louis, Missouri. She designs and handcrafts journals, albums, note cards and other high-end paper goods. Sharon often uses vintage ephemera in her work, including yellowing book pages, tattered sheet music, well-worn maps, dog-eared postcards, handed-down recipes…. Meticulous craftsmanship, attention to detail and original design are hallmarks of her art. Online, she sometimes goes by secretleaves. She can be found here, here and here.
1. What’s your medium of choice and what do you love about it?
Paper, especially old paper. I do a lot with ledger pages, maps, sheet music, and lately, vintage wallpaper, especially from the thirties and forties. I also use other ephemera: Stamps, buttons, receipts, notions…all kinds of odd bits and pieces. I love these things because they have history and mystery. There’s an element of voyeurism too — a peek into past lives. Old things also have a patina of age that just is not reproducible digitally or manually. I’m not entirely sure what it is about old things that resonates with me. I’ve given it considerable thought, but haven’t completely nailed it down.
2. What are you working on right now? What’s on your camera/desk/easel or in your studio?
I’m working on a couple of things: A wedding invitation suite for my niece, and some collage/prints on vintage wallpaper and maps. I’m also experimenting with creating patterns, which I’m really jazzed about. And I’m doing some large-scale prints using the online printing service Spoonflower. I’m using Spoonflower to print on paper right now, but I would love to experiment with printing wallpaper or fabric, which is what they specialize in.
3. What practices/activities are most valuable to your creative process?
For me, the important thing is to try to find large chunks of time. I’m not good at grabbing a moment here and a moment there to create. I find I need a few hours to really get going and accomplish anything. The first couple of hours are for playing. Experimenting with ideas and techniques and trying not to get caught up in creating masterpieces. Frankly, the first few things I make are usually crap. But that part of the process is so important for idea generation, happy accidents, etc. I’ve also started drawing again, although I’m not doing it with the frequency or regularity I would like.
4. What’s one thing you want to share with others about your art and/or process?
That’s a tough one. Maybe an appreciation of the level of detail and the craftsmanship? I’m very fussy and detail-oriented and it’s one of the things that sets my work apart from a lot of other folks working in similar mediums. Also the fact that I am using real, vintage materials rather than scans or digitally-produced ‘age.’ I mean, I do some of that too, but my real love are the pieces that truly are vintage — although even as I write this, I realize I’m shifting away from this a little bit. Finally, maybe the slight ‘offness’ of the subject matter: Things that other people might find repellent often show up in my work: insects, snakes, morbid anatomy, dead flowers…what I think of as strange beauty. That’s more than one thing, isn’t it? I’m not good at following directions.
5. What advice would you give to your young artist self?
Enjoy the process.
Be true to your self.
You have nothing to prove to anyone. Not even yourself.
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