Su Mwamba creates beautiful eye catching collage notebooks, journals and brooches by upcycling old unwanted postage stamps. The results are beautiful! Read on to find out more about Su and what led her on this creative path …
What inspired you to start?
I grew up in Wigan, in the Northwest, where I forever had my nose in a book. I was probably more of a writer than an artist when I was young, although I was always exploring creative ideas. I studied art at A-level, then moved to Derby for university, where I studied creative writing. My craftiness has been mostly self-taught, picked up from various sources along the way. I’ve done a lot of embroidery design, tapestry weaving, experimenting with print techniques, not to mention fairytale newspapers! I became very interested in mail art and faux postage, which ultimately led to an increasing fascination with real postage stamps, and my world of collage was born. What else to do with my accumulation of ephemera?
What do you create?
I make collages using upcycled vintage postage stamps (from early 20th century up to the 1970s). Initially I was just playing with colour and colour combinations using the classic British Machin (queen’s head) stamp, with very geometric results in strong, bold colours. I could see lots of possibilities, but lacked the inclination to explore them. Instead, I started working with stamps from a wider range of countries and periods, and found far more satisfaction in the subtle blends and natural colour progressions through which ‘imaginary landscapes’ seemed to grow unbidden. This accidental discovery has become the focus of my more recent work.
Although I do sometimes make framed pieces, I seem to have a natural inclination toward collaging on notebooks – something with a practical, functional use, and which will continue to evolve. The stamps themselves are like little fragments of history with so many stories hidden in their own histories, and I like to think my collages are just adding a little to those stories, and then the person who writes in one of the notebooks adds their own little twist. It makes it all a little more personal, and gives the artwork a sense of continuation.
How environmentally friendly?
Postage stamps are ephemeral, disposable, disappearing into the past. Although there are of course still lots of collectors, the stamps I use are often a little creased or torn, heavily postmarked, or just too common for collectors to be interested in. Ultimately, they would be lost in time, so I am simply rescuing them. I use recycled notebooks, too.
Which is your most popular creation?
Always the rainbows!
Do your undertake commissions?
I do, and I love it! There are particular colour combinations that I’m drawn to personally, but I love the challenge of creating something based on somebody else’s preferences, or of using a more limited palette based on stamps available from particular countries. I’m very often pleasantly surprised by the results.