The beauty of craft is its ability to evolve and respond with time

22 July 2020

Earlier this year, Sanlam was the lead sponsor of the prestigious 2020 Collect Open Award at the International Art Fair for Modern Craft and Design. In the fourth of a series of interviews with exhibitors, we talk to Paula Reason – an architect and artist by trade, who uses contemporary textile art to bring to life the stories that inspire her.
Paula Reason has had a love of textiles since she was four years old. Her emotional connection with fabric started when her grandmother allowed her to play dress-up in her silk wedding dress. It was the only item she had left from the war, when everything else that was precious to her was destroyed. Paula remembers the smell and feel of the silk to this day, and it has become her fabric of choice in many of her designs.
But it’s also Paula’s background as an architect, and her recent Masters in textiles, that influences her work today. She creates portraits that tell a story – usually in the form of a space and its contents. For example, her exhibition for Collect Open told the story of three artists and their life behind their craft. Her work depicts the often-hidden world of an artist’s workplace.

Everything starts with a drawing

When creating her masterpieces, Paula’s starting point is always her drawing. You could argue this is merely part of planning the finished design, but really, it’s the most important part of the process and where the beauty of her craft is realised. This method stems from her architectural training. After all, the most beautiful buildings in the world started life as a drawing.
Paula said: “Finding the essence of the subject you’re looking for can be complex. I have to thoroughly research my idea and will spend a lot of time drawing and writing about it, so that I can ensure I’ve properly captured my response. This can take weeks depending on the subject.”
It’s this meticulous approach to understanding the context and the environment she is communicating that ensures Paula creates something that also resonates with others.

Above - Paula Reason,  Four by Four 2018, Fabric, print, stitch. A set of four pieces, investigating how we percieve the world around us. Each piece can be rotated four times to make images that our minds will find convincing. 

Bringing her ideas to life

As with buildings, it’s only when the materials and craftmanship come together that her creativity and artistry can be fully appreciated. Her drawings and research are interpreted, refined and eventually evolve into stitched pieces of fabric. They can be large, small, two or three dimensional. Importantly, Paula allows this stage in the process to be as fluid and creative as it needs to be so that she can bring life to the story she is trying to depict.
Paula continued: “As a textile artist my craft is primarily the thread, the cloth, and the stitch. I use this medium to explore our relationship with the built environment; how we make it, and how it makes us and reflects our thoughts.”
She said: “I tend not to over-plan the result because the process can be unpredictable, and I don’t want to stifle my creativity. I try to remain open minded – especially when I draw. The beauty of craft is that it can evolve and respond as you go.”
Her ability to allow the story to unfold, while never losing her attention to detail reminds us of our own work as Wealthsmiths. Life can be unpredictable, but when you know your craft, you can adapt and deliver the right result, regardless.
The worlds of art and wealth management are surprisingly similar. We set out to craft something meaningful and of real value that lasts for generations to come. The same spirit that guides and inspires artists to create cultural wealth is what drives our wealth managers to grow and preserve clients’ wealth. The traits and characteristics typically associated with artists, such as inspiration, innovation, hard-learned skills, comprehensive experience, care and patience – even the need to take calculated risk at times – rings true for portfolio managers and financial planners and reflects our brand proposition, Wealthsmiths.
For more information on Paula’s work, please visit

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