Interview: Laura Redburn on Cardboard Cities, Collages, and 'Selling Yourself'

12:00 pm


When I first got into reading blogs around 2013-4, there were a small handful that I was completely dedicated to and would check up for new posts every day. Laura's lifestyle blog for Cardboard Cities was one of them, and I'm still in love with her work today! I would really urge you to look at the wonderful collages and illustrations she creates if you're on the lookout for custom designs for any reason. In our interview we chatted about working in different mediums, 'selling yourself' online, and formally studying art, so take a look below for some creative inspiration!


Magic & Musings:

Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Laura! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, tell me a little bit about yourself. 


Laura Redburn:

I’m a collage illustrator living in Cardiff and go by the name ‘cardboardcities’. I love colour, nature, photography, charity shops, vintage things, good design and chocolate. I also have a creative lifestyle blog where I share my work, photography, creative book reviews and a bit of home decor.


Magic & Musings:

If you could describe your designs in three words, what would they be?


Laura Redburn:

Colourful, feminine and …hmm. Unique(?!) ..perhaps reaching with that last one. Any ideas?


Magic & Musings:

When did you first get into design? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby? If you did study it formally, would you say this was a good or bad experience regarding allowing your creativity to flourish?


Laura Redburn:

Bit of a cliche answer here, but art and creative things have been a part of my life since I was a child. My dad is/was an artist (and painter/decorator) and a lot of the people on his side of the family were too. Apparently, I’m distantly related to John Everett Millais, who painted the wonderful ‘Ophelia’ amongst other things. I loved art in school, and when I went to college I studied Graphic Design, and then later Illustration in Uni. 

I loved college, but I think that was largely down to my tutor. We had very similar tastes and got on well, so having someone I identified with on some level helped me want to be the best I could be. To be perfectly honest I wouldn’t say I actually learned much from college or universtiy. Either I knew various things already, or just got on with it and figured things out for myself. College is where I discovered my love of collage though, so I will always be thankful for that.

I’ve always been that kind of person that prefers to learn by doing and teaching myself, so I don’t really think education (in the academical manner) was or is necessarily right for me, but for some people it’s perfect and really pushes them. If you can, try and figure out how you learn best, and see if that aligns with university etc, or if you feel you’d be better off going straight into some work experience or working for yourself.


Magic & Musings:

When did you first start selling your design services and did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place?


Laura Redburn:

I honestly can’t remember! I suppose more on a ‘proper’ scale, in 2009 or so? Back then I was mostly selling paintings and doing the odd commission. It’s not really been until the past 5 or so years that things have ‘taken off’ a bit more. I would say I’m far from being in demand though. With self confidence, I think it’s an ever-evolving thing. It’s hard to ‘sell yourself’ at the best of times, and I think the internet and social media has helped a lot on that front, but talk to me in person about my work and I’m a gibbering mess.


Magic & Musings:

On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?


Laura Redburn:

Caitlin Shearer has been a favourite of mine for many, many years. I’ve followed her since ‘the Livejournal days’ and we even used to write to each other and send each other art from time to time. In terms of more well known artists, I love ladies such as Gunta Stolzl, Maija Isola, Wangechi Mutu, Mary Blair...too many to think of to name, and so many wonderful and important women in various artistic fields. For more contemporary, I follow some amazing creatives on Instagram!



Magic & Musings:

Of all of your projects, which are you the happiest with and why?


Laura Redburn:

I really enjoyed working on the Toni & Guy collages. I actually got to go to London when they were doing the photoshoot, and it was great to actually see it coming together. It really helped me get into the feel and vibe of the project. Hope I get to do that sort of thing again in the future!


Magic & Musings:

This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 


Laura Redburn:

I don’t have a proper office space...I don’t even have a desk. But in the front room of our flat I find I work best. It’s the only room with lots of natural light, the noise from the traffic on the road distracts me from my tinnitus, and my cat loves being in there too, so she’s a lovely calming presence.

I actually prefer to work in silence, or to listen to instrumental music (of different genres) if I really need to get ‘in the zone’. I find anything too familiar, or things like talk radio, podcasts and TV too distracting.



Magic & Musings:

What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?


Laura Redburn:

Go for a walk. Take photos. Watch a film. Make something different to what I’d usually make. Give myself a time limit to make something. Look at Instagram and Pinterest. Engage with people.


Magic & Musings:

What are your favourite tools you use to create your designs? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?


Laura Redburn:

My trusty sharp embroidery scissors. Vintage magazines. Handmade textures.

When it comes to books, nothing in particular. Very fond of Creative Block from Danielle Krysa of The Jealous Curator though. I don’t really read or look at books ‘about’ creativity that much, and prefer to tell people to find what inspires them and go with that.


Magic & Musings:

Have you ever explored working in another medium?


Laura Redburn:

I used to screenprint and paint a lot, but not so much anymore. Definitely things I want to bring back into my work, as I love them. Also, I only combine this with my collages a little, but photography is a big love of mine.


Magic & Musings:

What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?


Laura Redburn:

I wouldn’t say greatly, ha! But social media and the internet in general has really helped me. I’ve found some fantastic like minded people over the years, have been featured on a few well known sites and love networking and engaging with fellow creatives. 

I feel like I should ‘sell’ myself more, but I (still) need to find the right flow for doing this. I see some people do it amazingly though!



Magic & Musings:

What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?


Laura Redburn:

That as much as you think you’re ready and able to persevere, persevere harder (or, more?). You can work hard and do everything you’re ‘meant’ to do, be innovative or not...but never expect work to just come to you. 


Magic & Musings:

Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 


Laura Redburn:

Going to be completely honest here, haven’t read a ‘proper’ book in a while! A recent book I’ve gotten and loved though was ABC by Alice Patullo. I love ABC books, and her illustrations are absolutely fantastic.

Film-wise I often rewatch two of my favourite films, both by the same director actually. Local Hero and Housekeeping.



Magic & Musings:

Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? 


Laura Redburn:

Here’s where you can find my work:

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