WHEN Rosalind Freeborn looks at a magazine, a sheet of wrapping paper or an empty package, she sees beyond the obvious image.

She sees the potential for the shapes, textures, colours and print to be ripped up and made into her own form of art.

Sometimes, as she smooths out a sheet of wrapping paper, she may see rippling lines and imagine its use to create the effect of water or stippled patterns which could be used to create foliage.

And as she leafs through magazines, she might see photographs of places, building sites, industrial interiors with shapes and lines which can be torn out and used to create portraits.

Rosalind uses these paper products, along with tissue paper, newspaper and even sweet wrappers, to create captivating work.

Using cut and torn pieces she creates paper collages of scenes from parts of Britain familiar to her - Yorkshire, Lancashire, the Lake District and many more, including her home city of London. She then works her magic to turn them into striking lampshades.

Her colourful Yorkshire shade features York Minster, Fountains Abbey, Whitby harbour, Ribblehead Viaduct and the bridge at Knaresborough as well as an impression of the region’s moors and upland rock formations.

She has also created a stunning Brontes shade, featuring Charlotte, Emily and Anne with a backdrop of Haworth Parsonage and the wild moors that inspired the literary sisters.

“My aunt lives in Halifax, so I know Yorkshire well and love visiting,” she says. “I plan to produce a Shakespeare, Dickens and Austen shade too - I like a theme.”

She also plans to make one of the city of York, where one of her daughters went to university.

Designs are created from a mixture of papers which are collaged into an artwork and glued to card before being printed on to five panels of special paper which are then cut out and fixed with two Perspex ‘wheels’. The paper lampshades are sold as a flat pack to assemble at home.

The series of shades in her collection, which she markets as Papershades, also include the cities of Manchester - where Rosalind lived for a time as a child - Liverpool and Edinburgh as well as the counties of Norfolk, Cornwall and Kent. A floral and a nostalgia range are also popular as well as larger sized shades for standard lamps and bigger rooms.

The imaginative artist also uses ripped magazines, newspapers and other materials to create collage portraits of individuals.

Jeremy Paxman and Andrew Marr are among those well-known personalities she has conjured up from thousands of fragments of paper, as well as a host of Coronation Street characters, with Ken and Deirdre Barlow, Gail Platt, Dev Alahan and Betty Turpin among the well-known faces.

“I adore Corrie - it is probably to do with my having lived in Manchester - and I chose to make paper portraits of the characters in the show rather than the actors,” says Rosalind.

The subject of the distinctive portraits - which Rosalind sells through her Paperface website - can be surrounded by favourite things, creating a record of their life.

“In a commission to celebrate a wedding anniversary I used left over wedding stationery and in portraits of children I often surround them with their favourite toys.”

Last year Rosalind was among a number of volunteer artists who offered to create free portraits of NHS workers as a thank you for all their hard work tackling Covid-19.

Rosalind created a picture of Dr Anneka Biswas-Abrol, a consultant specialising in respiratory medicine who lives in Queensbury and works at Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax and Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

Using torn magazine pages and a variety of textures, the portrait shows Dr Biswas-Abrol in her scrubs, mask and a face shield, which Rosalind made using blue cellophane.

“She’s beautiful but all you see in her work environment is her lovely eyes peeping out of all that PPE,” says Rosalind. “I wanted to give the portrait context so I surrounded her with cuttings from newspapers reporting the impact of the pandemic.”

The project - resulting in a virtual exhibition at the London-based arts platform The Net Gallery - was organised by painter Tom Croft, who put the images together in a book. It raised funds for NHS Charities Together, to help support the COVID-19 relief effort.

Rosalind was in her forties, with four young children when she enrolled as a student at art school.

“It was a busy, busy time, but when you really want to do something and love it you don’t think about it.“

Her path to art school began with life-drawing classes, studying for art A-levels at night school, followed by an evening foundation course over two years. “I particularly enjoyed my foundation course - among many other things I learned printmaking, worked with fabrics and learned how to make hats.”

She went on to take a class in portrait painting at Central St Martins. “It was there that a tutor said to me ‘You are so good, so talented, you should go to art school.’

“I looked at her, and it was a defining moment.”

The tutor sent Rosalind to see the head of painting at City & Guilds of London Art School, who told her there would be a place for her the following year.

“I straight away told him that I needed to come that year. I think he saw the light in my eyes and how determined I was, and maybe I also looked a little bit scary,” she jokes, “But he said that despite there being no places I could go that autumn.”

She adds: “Three months later I was an art student. I loved it – I was introduced to all these different techniques and materials and use of different mediums. I wanted to be stretched. When you go into education as an adult you don’t waste a moment. Some of the young students used to say ‘Oh, I will just skip this class or pop out for a coffee,’ but I could never do that.

“I even went in during the holidays - I had a garret studio space of my own in the college and spent hours not only studying the techniques of the Old Masters but exploring ways of using paper in an imaginative and creative way.

“I put up a sign on the wall of my studio which read ‘The Big Push’ to spur me on. I really wanted to see how far I could take my artistic journey. I used to wear a horrible paint-spattered onesie, and would be on my hands and knees scrunching up bits of paper, messing about with ink and glue filling studio books with experiments and ideas.”

Rosalind loves the versatility of paper, its look and feel. “Even though I love oil and all the other mediums I discovered I really like using paper and art school tutors reassured me that it’s a perfectly acceptable medium. But I do use paper in a painterly way.

“I like ripping up paper into fragments which can be layered. There is something about the physical tearing that I find deeply satisfying. This is where I scan the pages of a magazine, for example, and see bits and pieces which I know will work perfectly. For example, I might see the edge of a shoe in a fashion photo and think, ‘that bit could be an eyebrow.’

Her husband Simon Battersby, a film editor, has encouraged her all the way. “He knew that it was what I had always wanted to do and was very supportive, as were my children.”

Before her move into the art world Rosalind worked in book publishing, followed by a period in marketing for the London Philharmonic Orchestra and later promoting charities such as Great Ormond Street Hospital and Jeans for Genes.

She carried on working part-time in the charity sector and also provided PR support to designers, galleries and arts organisations as she established herself as an artist. She set up her studio in what used to be the children’s playroom at home. The family realized I needed a space of my own. She adds: “My children would come in from school and there would be work all over the kitchen table and I would say ‘Don’t move that, it’s not dry yet!’ It was a relief for everyone when I had room to create my work.’

In her first art show in she made collage portraits of shopkeepers in the shops around her home in Muswell Hill, north London. “I love that theatrical moment when you go into a shop run by someone who has created their environment and really understands what they are selling. So I captured the woman in the toy shop who looked like a Madonna surrounded by children, the man in the antique shop whose hands are always moving things around, the newsagents in their small shop, who in the portrait I surrounded with papers and magazines made from real paper and magazine pages.

“The exhibition was held at an estate agents - I persuaded them to take down the pictures of homes and hang my collages for everyone to come in and view.”

Rosalind holds Papershades workshops at her home, with groups of around six people, and sometimes in locations outside London, to coincide with art events. Those taking part can design and make their own lampshade.

“It is wonderful to watch people who thought they would not be able to make anything like this create a beautiful paper collage design and leave with a lovely lampshade,” she says. “It is very rewarding.”

Suspended due to Covid, the workshops will resume when possible.

She has been very prolific during lockdown. “I feel very lucky – I know that some people felt out of their creative comfort zone, but I have produced more lampshade designs in the past few months than ever before. I have been very focused, busy in my studio with Radio 4 in the background. It’s been a great joy. ”

*papershades.co.uk; paperface.co.uk