Helen Friel

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THIS CONTENT IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN INSPIRE 40  2012

For paper engineer and illustrator Helen Friel, it all began with her childhood pop-up books. “I had a lot of them, and I always loved making things,” she says. “My mum used to have a big box of toilet paper tubes and cardboard, and if we were bored she’d put it on the table and I’d make models out of it.”

After graduating, she spent a year at a greeting card company designing (naturally) pop-up cards, before the freelance world beckoned with a first commission from Tatler. Today, she freelances for a range of clients from her studio at the Papered Parlour in south London, an art space in-habited by a group of like-minded artists and designers.

One of Friel's personal projects, in collaboration with photographer Chris Turner, is a series of images exploring the art of hepatomancy — predicting the future by studying animal entrails — first practised by the Babylonians over 4,000 years ago.

Friel’s personal book projects play with our relationship with everyday paper. For example, The Imp of the Perverse requires its readers to tear and fold pages to reveal sections of the text — the things you were always told not to do to a book. Her most recent, For Matters of Life and Death, is a well-designed series of cashier’s dockets and entry tickets for surreal situations.

“I like the precision of working with paper,” Friel says. “My process varies job to job, but generally I have to see a finished product in my head before I can start anything.

” She sketches on Post-it notes and moves them around to build up her images. For editorial work she also collaborates regularly with photographer Chris Turner. “A lot of my stuff doesn’t really ‘exist’ until it’s photographed,” she says. “Things like lighting are really important. By the time I see it in a magazine, it’s quite surreal because it’s so glossy and removed from the time I’ve spent in a studio cutting up paper.”

TEXT SAM EICHBLATT PHOTO LOUISE HALL, CHRIS TURNER

Name: Helen Friel.
Age: 29.
Profession: Paper engineer.
Based in: London.
Brands on CV: Vanity Fair, Harrods Magazine, Tatler UK, Tatler Asia, Stylist Magazine, Nicole Farhi, Boodles Jewellery.
Years in profession: 6.
Education: BA in graphic design, specialising in illustration, Central St Martins College of Art & Design, 2009. Web: www.helenfriel.com

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