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Fulltime visual artist, Sue Codee makes artworks, woodcuts, jewellery and homewares depicting the beauty of nature and life from her courtyard studio in Albany Western Australia.

26 June 2020

Designer Spotlight: This Papercut Life

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Professional visual artist walking her own path, Sue: ‘This is an enormous freedom in life when you can walk your own walk, and create from your own place of being

My name is Sue and I am an artist/ designer located in the beautiful and historic town of Albany on the south coast of WA, where I live in a creative household with my musician husband, 13 year-old daughter, and two adored ragdoll cats.

Sue Codee’s Albany Surf Life Saving black papercut artwork being held up against a backdrop of Albany’s beautiful coastline

For over 30 years I have worked in the arts industry in various capacities ranging from public art projects, art workshops and consultation, to community arts, international residencies, and curated exhibitions. After a breast cancer diagnosis ten years ago my focus has been “This Papercut Life”, a creative studio business based from home that has increasingly- and creatively- flourished.

 Fulltime visual artist, Sue Codee makes artworks, woodcuts, jewellery and homewares depicting the beauty of nature and life from her courtyard studio in Albany Western Australia.

I design and create a range of artworks, woodcuts, jewellery, and homewares including bowls, clocks, coasters, trivets, and light boxes, plus I design for public art projects and corporate commissions.

A custom order family tree woodcut by Sue Codee of This Papercut Life

As well as stocking many shops and galleries around Australia, and sending work internationally, I am also commissioned to create family trees from paper and wood as special family keepsakes- something that brings great joy.

A collection of Sue’s lasercut timber bowls: ‘I was commissioned to create my Jarrah Amoeba bowls for the new QT Hotel in Perth, where you will find one featured in every room

I love creating for corporate commissions and last year I was commissioned to create my jarrah Amoeba bowls for the new QT Hotel in Perth where you will find one featured in every room. I also recently completed a public art project for the state of the art MYVISTA residence in Perth, which saw 12 of my artworks commissioned for public spaces within the building.

Visual artist, Sue Codee in her home studio in Albany on Western Australia’s south coast

I work from a courtyard studio, which is at the rear of our 130 year-old house located in Central Albany overlooking the beautiful Princess Royal Harbour. It’s so wonderful to be able to walk out of the house, through the Balinese inspired sanctuary of the courtyard garden, and into the studio to work each day. Self-employment and walking your own path has created a lifestyle of freedom, which enables creativity.

A collection of Sue’s handmade jewellery and Jarrah Amoeba bowls: ‘My studio is absolutely filled to the brim with stock, creations, materials, machinery, and creative resources’

I design all my work by hand and then transfer designs over to computerized vector designs in order to be able to cut them using a lasercutting process. For this purpose I own two lasercutters- one small- and one enormous (which took a crane and a football team to get it into the studio) and these are my essential tools that help me to make and construct many of my artworks and designs.

Visual artist, Sue Codee in her home studio in Albany, adding white ink details to her black laser cut art works; ‘It’s a space so dear and close to me that I always greet it warmly like a friend’

My studio is absolutely filled to the brim with stock, creations, materials, machinery, and creative resources, the result of many years of collection and practice. And it’s a space so dear and close to me that I always greet it warmly like a friend whenever I enter the door for the day!

A series of small works in progress – 3-dimensional layered papercut scenes in sardine tins

Nature, travel, beauty, and life are my inspirations, and here in Albany we are surrounded by incredible pristine natural beauty. I do a lot of nature walking and am inspired by the beauty of nature in all its myriad forms, patterns and shapes, and this inevitably seeps into my work.

A collection of finished tiny 3-dimensional papercut nautical themed artworks layered into sardine tins

My designs are graphic and stylised in nature, adopting a predominantly black and white or monochrome style- sometimes with a flash or red or another colour. I do actually love colour and my house is the opposite of my work and filled with colour- but I prefer a more stylised and graphic mode to my artwork. The simplicity of working this way enables my messages and ideas to come across more dynamically.

A black papercut artwork depicting two cockatoos perched in a tree; ‘While in lockdown I spent much time exploring and revisiting the beauty in my home town’

Pre- COVID, we as a family traveled overseas extensively and regularly which was something that also inspired and fueled my work, but while in lockdown I spent much time exploring and revisiting the beauty in my home town, reminding me of how wonderful home is. We have it all here plus more.

A more colourful work than Sue’s usual monochrome, this papercur piece depicting a couple in a try with the sunset and mountains in the background and a cat and dog at the bottom of the tree with a vibrant blue river flowing past

Having a studio at home means going to work is easy and I start the day with meditation, a walk around our beautiful harbor, and yoga at home before entering the studio for the day.

A collection of lasercut timber pendant necklaces awaiting completion on Sue’s work bench

I have always loved art. It’s in my blood. I grew up on a farm in what was a very creative household with my mother being a contemporary artist. Her studio was just off the kitchen so between cooking and painting- she would have a paintbrush in one hand and a spoon or knife in the other. This was a big influence on me as a child- as were all the exhibitions she took me to.

Sue holding one of her large lasercut timber Nautilus bowls; ‘I have always loved art. It’s in my blood.’

Growing up on a farm instilled me with a sense of independence and resourcefulness. As a child I was always drawing, or making imaginary worlds in the bush on the farm. Lots of space and nature fueled my world.

A framed black family tree papercut featuring lots of farm animals

In high school I had a little business where I would collect shells and driftwood from the local beaches and create elaborate shell mobiles, which I would sell in the local craft shop, and which gave me a sense of business and financial independence from a young age.

A collage of an array of Sue Codee’s lasercut pieces from personalised Christmas ornaments, to a wall art trilogy, printed t-shirts, coasters, clocks, pendants and more.

In 1988 I completed a degree in Fine Arts at Curtin University in Perth and have been working in the arts ever since- in all kinds of capacities- from exhibiting my then paintings (including an exhibition of West Australian Artists in New York in the early 1990’s); to community arts projects and residencies (in which I have travelled to communities in the Philippines, Tibet, and central Australian remote Aboriginal communities); to curating exhibitions; and various consultation and arts administration jobs, including the development and set up of the Open Access Studio- a specialized art studio for at-risk young people in Albany.

A woodcur of a girl sitting at the top of a ladder with a bird in her hand: ‘In 1988 I completed a degree in fine arts… and have been working in the arts ever since.’

My current style and medium evolved primarily from a 14-month period of my life some ten years ago, which I spent dealing with the diagnosis of Stage 2 breast cancer and its treatment. That life-changing experience refocused my outlook on life and subsequently my artwork, as previously I was a contemporary painter.

A woodcut of a coffee cup sprouting delicate vines with birds depicted with hearts coming from their beaks; ‘My current style and medium evolved primarily from… the diagnosis of stage 2 breast cancer’

I found the medium of papercut a more manageable and gentler art form in such a fragile and energy depleted state. Returning to design basics assisted greatly in the process of expressing the challenges and lessons of my own journey during that time.

A collage of Sue Codee’s timber lasercut artwork, jewellery and homewares

Handmade is simply what I do, and what I have always done. I have always created in some form and can’t imagine doing anything else. As a result I have always been able to market and place a monetary value on my work, which I knew I had to do to enable me to make a living from what I loved doing. I didn’t want to rely on government support or have the distraction of having to work in some other field to earn enough to live on. That was my choice.

A stack of blue lasercut lightboxes featuring animals in trees in Sue’s signature style

I have had my Madeit shop for 10 years. Originally I was looking into starting an Etsy shop way back then- but I decided that I wanted another alternative and Madeit appealed to me as it was Australian and I could be a part of an Australian handmade community, which seemed a lot more personalised than a vast US platform. Plus, it was a very easy platform to work with: it looked great, and linked perfectly with my website. I haven’t looked back and still recommend Madeit to other creatives who are starting up their businesses.

A black lasercut artwork depicting a girl on a boat with a bird in her hand, the words Savour the Journey on the sail of the boat; ‘I encourage those who have that burning passion inside, to explore the self-employed creative path’

Over the years I have seen the handmade movement develop and flourish and there is some truly inspired creativity within this community- especially in Australia. I encourage those who have that burning passion inside, to explore the self-employed creative path.

A unique lasercut timber layered display bowl in the shape of a nautilus shell by This Papercut Life

It’s great to see women creating their own independent paths, and running their own home based businesses. This enables one to still be a mum, to collect a sick child from school when a phone call comes, and to run a household without the pressure of having to work for someone else or be somewhere else. This is an enormous freedom in life when you can walk your own walk, and create from your own place of being.



Visit This Papercut Life to find more lasercut paper and timber artworks, homewares and more: thispapercutlife

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