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HOW KRISTJANA WILLIAMS MADE COLLAGE COOL

With bursts of colour and detail, the work of west London-based Kristjana Williams is hot right now in the interiors world. Here’s how her ingenious collages caught the imagination

Words: Emily Manson

Kristjana Williams is an artist whose creations make you want to delve inside their minds. For the outside observer looking at her work, it seems like there should be swirls of colour wrapped up in winding forests while jumping in and out of old paintings.

Williams’ artwork has hit the zeitgeist and is some of the most trend defining in London. The Icelandic born artist, who has lived in London for the last 20 years and has just moved to a new studio in Brentford, has seen the demand for her work snowball recently. ‘I’ve seen peaks and troughs before,’ she says, ‘and I keep waiting for the work to dip again, but so far it hasn’t.’

Commissions started with Liberty and were swiftly followed by centrepieces for The Connaught and The Shard, and last year she was commissioned to redesign Fortnum & Mason’s Christmas window displays and design a product range.

It’s an A-list of clients to be sure, most recently adding Alexander McQueen and Louboutin to her roll-call, art for the Shangri La hotel in Sri Lanka and a collection for Penhaligon’s, as well as designs for the Brazil Olympics including light displays projected onto the famous Copa Cabana hotel. With commissions coming fast, she’s clearly an artist on the brink, not just of success, but of stratospheric ‘IT’ status. A modern day icon in the making.

Her new studio on the Great West Road feels genuinely exciting. With a double height ceiling, the bright space is an artistic assault on the senses, a treasure trove crammed with her trademark butterfly cut outs, animals and woodland scenes as well as shelves of prints, cushions and other products nestled alongside books, maps and more prints. It is the epitome of organised chaos and an escalation of her journey from St Martin’s College of Art.

Iceland is one of those countries where nature is in charge, and I feel quite humbled by it. While growing up I would look out from Iceland, disappointed that we didn’t have palms and butterflies. I longed for that growing up

So how does she come up with her ideas? Referencing Iceland, she says: ‘It’s one of those countries where nature is in charge, and I feel quite humbled by it. While growing up I would look out from Iceland, disappointed that we didn’t have palms and butterflies. I longed for that growing up.’
She adds: ‘I love the symmetry in nature and amalgamating them into other living things. Collage is a brilliant way of expression – I’m fascinated with the incredible variation that’s possible.’

Kristjana Williams at work in her studio

Kristjana Williams at work in her studio

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The process itself is fascinating. Engravings of her mystical, magical backgrounds are overlaid with brightly printed animal cut outs. ‘I love creating a whole new landscape from lots of different engravings, then creating the world from that. For me things are quite magnetic and sync together with other things. I look at things curiously and differently.’ The butterflies, creatures and swirls are then pinned with entomology pins and will remain vibrant forever.

Of course there’s also her products – from cushions to globes and larger pieces, these are providing an antidote to the UK’s ongoing obsession with Scandi-style. ‘People care about craftmanship and like to see the narrative inside the work. My work isn’t collage in the traditional sense, each bird will be made out of a hundred different elements, there are lighter notes, silliness and deeper elements and people get something individual from their interpretation.’

She’s created three new limited edition prints for the V&A, a line of perfume and candles for Penhaligon’s, an A/W collection for Liberty and is about to start working with concrete and marble. ‘It’s like a really big ocean with thousands of little notes floating past,’ she says on her thought process. ‘Sometimes things gather together in a pool or they’re floating miles away. I’m just lucky that the elements have come together!’

Find out more at kristjanaswilliams.com

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