Anita Russell Papier Mache artist Driftwood Dreams
Exhibition Anita Russell Papier Mache at Pfizer Gallery
Anita as Dorothea Tanning
About Anita Russell

Anita started Driftwood Dreams in 2002. She had recently completed three years of training in Mexican papier mache sculpture at Richmond Adult Community College. Her tutor was a Mexican teacher, who shared her knowledge of Mexican folklore influences based on Mexico’s Day of the Dead parades and shrines. This led to her first papier mache creation ‘Antigua’,  which was chosen to be displayed at The Victoria & Albert Museum. She had won a coveted finalist’s place with the prestigious ‘Inspired by ‘ competition held by the gallery. For her, the discovery of papier mache was versatile and exciting. The fact is,  you can literally make anything. A second V & A papier mache exhibit followed in 2004 with her ‘Bird of Paradise’. She spoke of her inspiration, “My stimulation came from the fantastical birds embellishing silk kimonos, screens and garments in the Tsui Gallery.  I was entranced by these beautiful metallic birds, based on the phoenix, a bird of  outstanding importance in Chinese myth and symbolism. My bird would be even more heavenly…………Truly a Bird from Paradise”.  The sculpture course gave her the vision and expertise to let her imagination run riot and create fantasies in sculptural form.  A truly exciting turning point in her life. Following this, she wanted to expand the art form and become part of a forum of papier mache artists across the world.  Since then, over 300 papier mache commissions later, she enjoys sharing work with artists from all over the world.

Silver Surfer papier mache skeleton

Papier Mache sculptures have been exhibited  in many galleries and Anita has taught Family Learning Courses in papier mache at Richmond Adult Community College, Strawberry Hill House, Richmond Young Carers and at mental health institutions. She has created  workshops at many schools, given private lessons and given various areas of  tuition in art generally. Here is the artist in discussion:
What inspires you?
‘I was inspired by the Linares brothers in Mexico, Mexican retablos, Frida Kahlo, Antony Gormley, dioramas and the Impressionists for their use of human form, space, perspective and brightly painted backgrounds. I am mesmerised by the sea, how exciting it is and how artists portray its vibrant shades and hues coupled with its shape and texture.  I have also found the web a fascinating place enabling me to see galleries and get resources at the touch of a button. I previously worked for 10 years as an art buyer in my twenties and sourced photos and illustrations in advertising. There I discovered the art of creation as well as the nuances of marketing.’
What attracted you towards ‘the sea’ when you started creating?
‘I spent all my summers, as a child, beside the sea (and in fact still do). I still spend lazy hours collecting shells, finding driftwood, sailing, rowing and biking along the coast.  I feel most relaxed, most happy and most safe in this sanctuary where I spend weekends and holidays.  Its a beautiful place to create, to socialise and to dream. I guess it was natural I would incorporate such a happy place into my work.

A selection of questions from an interview with the artist:
Why do you express yourself through art?
I am a visual learner and have always been excited by images whether they are artworks, splashes of colour, photographs, theatre sets, vibrant exotic clothes or jewellery. I love collecting bric a brac whilst appreciating the ensemble of mixed colours, shapes and textures. I have always adored art, but had not experienced much variety at school, where there was an old fashioned approach. To go to college as a mature adult and discover mixed media enabled me to create fantastical images in my mind which I could then bring to life. I constantly have projects in my mind or in the making.  It is absorbing as I whittle away hours of my time enjoying myself. How marvellous is that.
Have you ever felt misunderstood?
No more than the average human. We all have our inadequacies and feel we could do better. However I am thrilled with this medium, its versatility and the constant discovery of its endless potential. I love sharing the skill and teaching. I always have some art to do. I am never at a loose end. Paper mache absorbs you for hours.
Do you appreciate your own art?
I feel proud of what I have achieved. When contemplating my finished pieces I feel content. The medium is very forgiving, You can go back and redo the work or repaint until you are satisfied. I believe in providing the best service  for my customers both in communication and delivery. Every piece needs to work with content and perspective, this is where doing a design helps. I know that what I do is unique and my creations spring from my own imagination which gives me pride in my work. Each artwork is original and a one off.

Truly a Bird from Paradise. Papier Mache Sculpture by Anita Russell exhibited at V & A
A great deal of careful planning, detail and resourcing goes into every sculpture, tableaux, diorama, religious gift, seascape or workshop

Anita writes,
“I am so pleased I have learned how to use this Papier Mache technique in a new sophisticated sculptural form. This vibrant, fresh approach adds to a skill which goes back centuries. I love the way this art has extreme movement and the characters enchant. The use of driftwood and natural bases alongside paper sculpture enhances my work giving the papier mache its own unique approach. Over the years, I have evolved an identity which became my own. I also acquired a taste for using a mystical range of silvery colours, jewels, collage developing a very detailed painting technique to complete my papier mache pieces, thus capturing the stuff of dreams. My aim is to make people feel a real joy in owning one of my papier mache sculptures. I want people’s senses to be uplifted, to make them smile and be happy. People tell me I have done that  which creates a wonderful feeling.”

Her Alistair Darling for Channel 5 from 2008, is now with the man himself- a gift from Channel 5.

Alistair Darling receives Anita Russell's Papier Mache sculpture
Papier mache restoration by Anita Russell at Driftwood Dreams

Anita has also done some papier mache restoration work recently, including the Donald Trump Pinata below which was badly damaged. Also, you will see below a clown puppet which was badly damaged and she lovingly restored. Still teaching the art, Anita also  loves contemplating new commissions.  Recently she has embarked on some interesting restoration projects. Any work which requires remaking or restoration please contact her. Also look at her huge collection of boards on Pinterest with over 9000 followers.

Book a workshop and learn the art of papier mache or give a voucher for a workshop or restoration

You could also buy a voucher as a gift to give a friend or relative a tutorial in papier mache for a group or individual. Sessions are based in Richmond, Surrey. Anita supports and teaches Art and English at a local outstanding Secondary School where she has worked with EHCP students for the last thirteen years part time. She has designed two installations for the school which adorn their walls. Her patience, bubbly personality and smile make any engagement with her a joy. She loves giving workshops, restoration work and creating commissions. This clown was so badly damaged he arrived without two limbs and a shoe!
You can also get a voucher for restoration work for a family member.

Papier mache restoration Anita Russell Driftwood Dreams