Ros Freeborn, creator of Papershades and paper artist, talks to Obby about how she got started in paper, her love of teaching, and how Obby has helped her find success.

Learn to make a lampshade with Papershades and Obby

Meet the maker, creator and artist behind Papershades "the power of paper", Ros Freeborn. Using an innovative technique, Ros turned her paper collage work into something that can be experienced and enjoyed by all.

Here at Obby, we wanted to sit down with Ros and find out more about her story, her process and how she started.

So in a nutshell, what you do and what do you teach?

I’m a paper collage artist and I found a way to turn my paper collage art and designs into paper lampshades.  I run workshops, mainly in my studio but sometimes at events, showing people how to use paper collage to create their own design. I then print each person’s design, on the spot, onto special Papershades paper and everyone goes home with a fabulous and totally original paper lampshade.

Ros and her work

What drew you to working with paper?

I’ve always been fascinated by paper. As a child I was forever making paper mâché creations, drawing on scraps of paper and finding interesting uses for cardboard boxes and old packaging.  

I finally made it to art school as a grown up - I studied fine art and was particularly interested in becoming a portrait artist.  I did become proficient with oils but the paper kept creeping in.  My tutors would puff their way up the stairs to my little space and ask me why I kept adding paper to my works on canvas. I couldn’t really explain, I just loved the feel and scope of paper.  

After I graduated I set up my studio at home and decided to ditch the oils and ‘paint’ in paper.  At a distance my work looks like it's been painted, but close up you can see that I’ve used thousands of fragments of all kinds of paper.

Ros brings peole together to discover and learn the benefits of working with paper

How did you get into teaching and what made you join Obby as a teacher?

The founding of Papershades came quite a while after I’d been developing my practice.  At a show for my large canvas work I was asked: ‘Are you going to make cards or posters from the art?’  I thought, no, I want to create a thing. It took a good year of messing around with paper in my studio before I worked out how to create a self-supporting lampshade.  I’m not a designer but I understand the properties of paper and how strong it can be when folded and rolled.  I exploited this strength by reinventing the wheel - twice - and created two perspex ‘wheels’ with grips at the end which hold the panels in place.

A few months after launching Papershades as a place to sell my lampshades, I invited friends over and introduced everyone to my world of paper. I watched with delight as everyone took to it.  I realised that paper collage is something which anyone can do. I gave everyone the freedom to hunt through all the boxes and piles of paper in my studio and select the papers they were drawn to.  No two people chose the same paper and every single design was so different.  I was thrilled.  I realised that running workshops really could be part of my new venture.

I then discovered that Obby had set up and I was delighted to be invited to be a teacher.  We all seem to riding a wave of creativity, a zeitgeist of craft and making which has grown stronger and stronger over the last few years.  I think people really relate to the making process and love the prospect of going home with something entirely original and which reflects their style.

Where do you find inspiration and where do you encourage your students to find it?

I find inspiration in so many places.  In my studio I have loads of books - picture books, history books, maps, guides, catalogues and comics - and I collect all kinds of magazines, wrapping paper, tissue paper, wallpaper and packaging.  I’m very happy when my students bring along paper which they like but mostly they abandon the paper they’ve brought along in favour of all the new and inspiring paper they discover in my studio.  

The workshops last about three hours. I always regard the first hour as discovery and thinking time, then the design process follows and in the last hour everyone’s design will be printed and the panels cut out and assembled using the Papershades wheels.  I love that moment at the end of a class when I put them all onto lamp stands and everyone stands back to admire their handiwork.

Ros' work on canvas gives the impression it's been painted

What’s your favourite type of paper to work with?

I love all paper so it’s hard to find a favourite; however, I do love tissue paper.  I have boxes and boxes of different coloured tissue paper and I also print my own designs onto tissue paper which can also be torn up.  

How does Obby make your life easier?

Obby is a wonderful organisation for creative people.  The team knows how we work and how we think. It’s great to know that there’s an organisation out there which understands what it’s like to run a workshop (especially when it’s in your own home).  

Whilst it’s great to have set times, life isn’t always predictable, and I really appreciate the way people can get in touch, suggest dates and we set up a workshop on a day which suits everyone.  I do love having a table full of people who’ve never met before and Obby is good at putting the word out and getting a group together.

Want to learn more?

Check out more blogs featuring Obby teachers and their stories below: