fbpx

Woman Crush Wednesday: Suze Riley, Papercut Artist

I’m so excited to continue with my Woman Crush Wednesday series! And I have such a fun Q&A lined up today!

Today I’m chatting with Suze Riley, who I met at Alt Summit last month (right before shit really hit the fan with Coronavirus). Suze was one of the very talented artists at Alt making art for attendees, and her incredible papercut portraits were naturally very popular. She was so kind to squeeze me into her already jam-packed schedule and as we were chatting while she sketched me, I knew I had to interview her for WCW! 

Between receiving my papercut portrait in the mail and chatting with Suze over the phone (we were supposed to meet for coffee but you know, #quarantine), connecting with Suze and hearing her story has been such a bright spot during this tough time. 

And I’m super excited to share that Suze is giving away custom papercut portraits to three What The Fab readers! Her portraits are so special and unique—receiving one in the mail will absolutely make your day. I have mine sitting on my desk and I just love it. You can enter via my post on Insta.

Photographer: Christine Hanks

You’re very artistic and talented—what different art forms have you done over the years, what did you go to school for, and how did that translate to what you do now? How did you get into papercut art?

I studied English, Math, and Art for A Level (A Levels are the exams you take before college in the UK). I got really into oil painting and I would ask friends to pose for me—I’d do these large paintings that would take me weeks to complete. I ended up going to college for Illustration, and around that time I started doing papercutting. I had a tendency when I was drawing to put too much detail in, so papercutting was a way to force myself to focus on the elements and not overwork things. At college, life drawing was a constant thing. I think studying the human form in so much depth back then gave me the grounding for what I’m doing now. 

I’ve always been interested in form and composition and the idea that what you leave out is more important than what you leave in. I ask myself, how much can I strip a picture down to the basic elements that still give the unmistakable look & character of my subject?

I took a scroll through your Instagram and it looks like when you first started doing papercutting, the subjects were a lot of candy, beachy vibes, motels—so fun!! How did you transition into incorporating people? What was the spark for you?

I used to love visiting random English seaside towns and drawing the people walking by, quirky arcade machines on the pier, women in old fashioned swimsuits and hats. I’ve always had this thing about old fashioned seaside-y places and retro signage. The nostalgia of happy times, holidays, and families. When I moved to America, I was like a kid in a candy store with all the neon signs and 1950s motels and diners. That has been one of the main sources of inspiration for my art.

I think people have always been at the heart of my work, but I had this long stretch of time where I was working on other things and lost touch with that. When I had my first daughter I started doing silhouette portraits of my friends’ kids and ended up selling them. But a lot of people make silhouette portraits in that classic black-on-white profile style, and I felt like there wasn’t anything about mine that made them stand out.

Then three years ago, some good friends of mine got married, and I made a minimal papercut portrait of the two of them in their wedding outfits. The lovely reaction I had to that portrait felt different from the reactions to other work I’d been doing. I started doing more portraits in that style and last September decided to pitch to be an artist at this year’s Alt Summit. I wanted to perfect my craft of making the portraits, so I started a 100 days project, doing 5×7 size portraits of women as gifts for people all over the world. And that led to my project at Alt. 

How was Alt Summit for you? You were very popular! But it also must have been a bit overwhelming!

Alt was crazy and I was not expecting that! I was worried no one would come to get their portrait made by me because there’s so much going on and people’s time is so precious. I was just blown away by how many people came by. On the second day I came down to my booth, there was this huge line and I thought, “What are those people waiting for?” And then I realized they were queuing up for my sign up form to open! It was this amazing moment and realization that they were there for me and my work. It was such a lovely compliment. 

The other incredible thing was the conversations I had with people while I was sketching them. It’s quite a vulnerable thing to open yourself up to be drawn and seen in that way. People don’t know me and they’re putting their trust in me to make a representation of them. And it’s vulnerable on my part too, because I’m creating a piece of art, representing how I see you, and I’m offering that up to you to be judged. 

I think it was this mutual vulnerability that led to some really deep conversations with people that were so special and fascinating. People shared their hopes and dreams with me, their grief, insecurities, shame, worries. It was a really overwhelming human experience, and a deep connection that was so special on many levels.

Tell us about your former job in the corporate world working as Head of Digital Marketing at Penguin Random House in the UK, leading marketing campaigns for books like The Girl on The Train.

I’d worked a few different jobs after graduating before getting my first marketing job at Random House, which was a dream come true because I loved writing and words as much as I loved art. I feel so fortunate to have met such wonderful people through working in publishing, colleagues who’ve become lifelong friends, incredible authors I worked with for years like Lee Child and Sophie Kinsella. The Girl on the Train was one of those books that straight away everyone thought was special and I was so lucky to land it as one of my marketing titles to work on. To see where it has ended up since those early days has been one of the highlights of my publishing career, to think I played a small part when it first came out. 

How did you decide to leave your corporate job and launch your art business full time? What led you there? 

I was on maternity leave and remember it took me about six weeks to stop worrying about work. It took stepping away completely for me to realize how anxious I had been, and question whether I wanted to go back to that. My husband is American and we’d always talked about moving to the States at some point. An opportunity came up for us to move to New York, I’d always dreamed of living there, and we decided to go for it. 

It was a hard decision to leave my full-time job. Aside from the financial security, I was also worried I would lose a big part of my identity because I’d tied it so closely to my job title and the company and authors I worked for. I guess I had attached my own sense of being interesting, success, and validation to those things. When I look back on that time I see I was chasing the goals of the institution and the goals of other people, rather than goals that were inherently my own. 

Soon after moving to New York, a friend gave me a copy of The Artist’s Way. I reached the point where Julia Cameron talks about the shadow artist, a creative person who is working in a career close to the life they would like to have, but that they are afraid to pursue themselves. And I realized that’s exactly what I’d been doing. I thought, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life marketing other people’s work and leaving my own dreams unfulfilled because I was too scared to put my work out there. Now, over 15 years after graduating art school, I finally feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to be. 

Photographer: Christine Hanks

What’s your best advice for someone who wants to turn their creative passions into a career? 

Testing your proof of concept as a side project to your current career is a great way to start. That gives you the freedom to explore your passion and get really good at your craft, without putting the financial pressure on your creativity to pay the bills.  I love how Liz Gilbert talks about this in Big Magic. It’s a beautiful thing if you can take time to play and experiment, to try out different things and tune into what people connect with. 

I was fortunate to be in a relationship where, between us, we agreed I could step back from earning a regular salary to focus on building my work as an artist. I have had another baby since then, which of course shifts the amount of time you’re able to dedicate to growing a small business. 

It’s also so important to value your time and work. At events, I’ll have people come up and ask how much my art is, and some will be like, “Oh ok, no thanks.” And then others come up and say, “That’s ridiculous, you’re undercharging!” You have to trust that your true customers will find you and will be happy to pay for it at the price you believe is right.

As women we can undervalue ourselves—if you identify with that, and worry about what people think of how much you are asking, I find it can help to think of it as something you’re doing for other women as well, not just yourself. That, by charging an amount that truly reflects the time and skill you’ve put into a piece, you’re encouraging other women to value their own work more highly too.



Okay, how awesome is Suze?? You can find her on Instagram @suzecutspaper, and see more of her beautiful work on her website!

Have a suggestion for the next boss babe I should interview for Woman Crush Wednesday (or want to toss your own name into the ring?)? Shoot me an email at: elise@w-t-fab.com.

Submit a Comment

The Best Hikes in Joshua Tree

The Best Hikes in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park is one of California's most famous National Parks, thanks to the unique look of its namesake, the Joshua tree. But it's not simply a case of rocking up and getting out of your car to snap a photo. Joshua Tree is all about getting out into...

Best Restaurants in Cinque Terre

Best Restaurants in Cinque Terre

We had some seriously delicious food in Cinque Terre, but we also went to a couple places that ended up being touristy and bland (with crappy service to boot). You won’t find those places on this best restaurants in Cinque Terre list, and frankly we were led there by...

The Best Joshua Tree Airbnbs

The Best Joshua Tree Airbnbs

If you're having a California vacation and feel like visiting Joshua Tree National Park, then you should spend the night in some of the most amazing Joshua Tree Airbnbs. Here is a list for you!! There are so many cool Airbnbs in the area that it can be difficult to...

What to do in Copenhagen: A Complete Travel Guide

What to do in Copenhagen: A Complete Travel Guide

I’ll be honest, I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Copenhagen. It was the last leg of our Eurotrip, and kind of a random pick for us. Copenhagen wasn’t necessarily a place that had been on my bucket list, but we were looking for one last city to...

Gal Meets Glam Dress

Gal Meets Glam Dress

It's officially summer but it was still a bit gloomy when I shot these pics in SF. That June gloom... I'm still pulling out some of my favorite dresses, even if I'm stuck at home and have no where to wear them out to. I've been receiving some DMs on Instagram asking...

When in Rome

When in Rome

I can't believe these photos are over a year old! I shot them in May last summer when I was with my family in Rome. Looking at these photos makes me both happy and sad at the same time. Happy because we had such an awesome trip in Italy together and it's a really...

The Best High-Waisted Bikinis at Target

The Best High-Waisted Bikinis at Target

Last week I was in the mood to do some shopping for new swimsuits, so I hopped on over to Target to see what new arrivals they had online! I love Target's swimwear because they always have cute, trendy pieces that last me for years, and of course at super affordable...

Coffee Break

Coffee Break

I cannot wait to start putting out some of my Cinque Terre content!! It's seriously one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Until those travel guides and other Cinque Terre posts are ready to go later this month, here's an outfit look from one of our days...

Pink Snakeskin

Pink Snakeskin

It's been a minute since I've shared an outfit post! I had this one sitting in my drafts from the beginning of the year. The pink snakeskin bodysuit and paper bag pants are both from Revolve, and I love this combo of a tight and edgy bodysuit + loose and chic pants. I...

Clothing Packing List for Europe Summer Vacay

Clothing Packing List for Europe Summer Vacay

I just got back from spending a month in Italy and even though it was just barely into June by the time I left, Europe was getting HOT! ? Today I'm partnering with Ibotta to share a packing list for Europe and all the clothes you'll want to pack in order to beat the...

6 Cheap New Years Dresses on Amazon

6 Cheap New Years Dresses on Amazon

Love a good sequin moment for New Years! It's that time of year where you emerge from the holiday fog and think, "Oh shit, what am I going to wear for NYE??" I've got you covered with this list of cheap new years dresses that you can quickly order on Amazon Prime! I...

Tieks Shoes: My go-to flats for traveling the world

Tieks Shoes: My go-to flats for traveling the world

Wearing my Nude Lace Tieks while on a helicopter ride in Maui Whenever I’m packing my bags, no matter where I’m going, you can always count on there being at least one pair of Tieks shoes in my luggage (but usually two or three, because you know…a girl’s gotta have...

Why You Need to Shave Your Face: How to Dermaplane at Home

Why You Need to Shave Your Face: How to Dermaplane at Home

I recently shared on my Insta Stories my latest beauty find: Michael Todd's Sonicsmooth. It's a tool you use for dermaplaning. And yes ladies, I'm talking about shaving your face. Today I'm diving into why you need to shave your face, and how to dermaplane at home....

Taiwan Beauty Products

Taiwan Beauty Products

Taiwan Beauty Products When I was in Taipei recently, my friend Francesca was showing me some of the Taiwan beauty products and other Asian beauty trends that are popular there. I love checking out new beauty products and trends, especially ones that we can’t get here...

Skincare After 30

Skincare After 30

My journey with my skin has been a bumpy road ever since my teenage years. Lately, I've noticed some major differences in my skin and have found a routine that's really working for me. Enter: Skincare after 30. Skincare has always been something I've put a lot of...

How to fix damaged hair in a snap

How to fix damaged hair in a snap

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Pantene. The opinions and text are all mine. This winter's harsh weather, combined with lots of heat styling for holiday parties, events, and photo shoots has done a number on my hair. Whenever I have dry...

The Best At-Home Manicure: imPRESS Nails Review

The Best At-Home Manicure: imPRESS Nails Review

Y'all have been asking me about these manis on Insta so here we go—my full imPRESS nails review! I don't know if you've noticed, but a few months ago press-on nails became super popular. It was perfect timing too because now that all the nail salons are closed and...

Sunday Funday

Sunday Funday

Flamingos make everything more fun, amirite? Last weekend before I headed out on a biz trip to Canada Omied and I had a little Sunday Funday date day in the city together. I'd been dying to check out a new Cuban place in the Mission, which is officially the most...

Turning Point Spa

Turning Point Spa

Getting regular facials and have a great aesthetician (or two!) that you can rely on is a super important part of your skincare routine. I recently got to visit Turning Point Spa in Marin, and had such a lovely experience. The owner, Laurence McKee, is a...

Très Sleek: Smooth and Brilliant with Revlon Hair Tools

Très Sleek: Smooth and Brilliant with Revlon Hair Tools

This post was sponsored by Revlon Hair Tools as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own. Très Sleek: Smooth and Brilliant with Revlon Hair Tools: I’ll be honest, I’m good at many things, but doing my own...

Skincare After 30

Skincare After 30

My journey with my skin has been a bumpy road ever since my teenage years. Lately, I've noticed some major differences in my skin and have found a routine that's really working for me. Enter: Skincare after 30. Skincare has always been something I've put a lot of...

Date Night Makeup: Pretty Fall Neutrals

Date Night Makeup: Pretty Fall Neutrals

Today I’m sharing my go-to makeup look this fall for a night out. Whether it’s a date night with my hubby or my girlfriends, these are the products I keep reaching for and the earthy neutrals I’ve been incorporating into my beauty looks. And to make things super...

Three self-care skincare routines you haven’t tried

Three self-care skincare routines you haven’t tried

This post has been sponsored by Cetaphil®. All thoughts expressed are my own. Skincare has always been something I’ve had to spend a lot of time (and money...and trial and error) on. My teenage years were spent being acne-prone, while my twenties involved a lot of...

No Heat Beach Waves Hair Tutorial

No Heat Beach Waves Hair Tutorial

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BeBeachBlonde #CollectiveBias People always ask me how I keep my long hair so healthy. My biggest tip is that I rarely use heat on it. My hair dries...

How to fix damaged hair in a snap

How to fix damaged hair in a snap

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Pantene. The opinions and text are all mine. This winter's harsh weather, combined with lots of heat styling for holiday parties, events, and photo shoots has done a number on my hair. Whenever I have dry...

Bridesmaid Makeup

Bridesmaid Makeup

I spent this past weekend in North Carolina for my beautiful cousin's wedding. It was such a fun-filled weekend and I'm missing all the family time already! I was honored to be a bridesmaid, and I brought along my new EcoTools hair and makeup brushes to keep my...

Taiwan Beauty Products

Taiwan Beauty Products

Taiwan Beauty Products When I was in Taipei recently, my friend Francesca was showing me some of the Taiwan beauty products and other Asian beauty trends that are popular there. I love checking out new beauty products and trends, especially ones that we can’t get here...

Wedding Wednesday: Vegas Bachelorette Party

Wedding Wednesday: Vegas Bachelorette Party

This Wedding Wednesday I'm sharing a bunch of photos from my Vegas bachelorette party weekend! My sister planned an amazing trip and I feel so lucky to have such wonderful friends in my life. The recovery at work the following Monday was a little rough (I can't party...

Navy Counter Stools + Affordable Bar Stools

Navy Counter Stools + Affordable Bar Stools

Slowly but surely, we're starting to get furniture deliveries at the new house! We needed some bar stools for the kitchen island, and these faux leather navy counter stools from Wayfair were blessedly fast to arrive (compared to some of the three-month shipping delays...

How to Make Flower Ice Cubes

How to Make Flower Ice Cubes

Flower Ice Cubes If you're looking for a way to jazz up your drinks this summer, this is it! Because let's be honest, what’s more adorable than miniature roses floating in your rosé? I know it sounds simple—even the most culinarily-challenged can execute perfect ice...

Cycle Tracking: Ava Review + Ava Bracelet Discount Code

Cycle Tracking: Ava Review + Ava Bracelet Discount Code

Earlier this year (back when we could travel and attend events), I went to a talk at Alt Summit titled: Women are Magic. It was all about period/cycle tracking and journaling, and using this as a way to get to know your body better. The talk also went into using the...

What to wear to an Indian Wedding

What to wear to an Indian Wedding

Last month a dear friend of mine from grad school got married. Both the bride and groom are Indian, and since we'd been to an Indian wedding before we semi-knew what to expect—beautiful, colorful outfits, a morning ceremony and evening reception, and tons of delicious...

Tropical Home Bar Mood Board

Tropical Home Bar Mood Board

One of the areas of our house that I'm super excited to style is our wet bar! I never imagined I'd have a wet bar lol but here we are! While the rest of our first floor is going to be more neutral, we've decided to have fun with this space and update it with tropical...

At-Home Mimosa Bar

At-Home Mimosa Bar

AT-HOME MIMOSA BAR Mimosa season has arrived! Since we're not going out to brunch right now, here's how you can build your own mimosa bar at home! Jazz it up with a few fun, unexpected twists: flower ice cubes, fruit peel cut-outs, berry skewers, unicorn sugar rims,...

Woman Crush Wednesday: Kara Harms, Founder of Whimsy Soul

Woman Crush Wednesday: Kara Harms, Founder of Whimsy Soul

I'm so excited to be continuing with my Woman Crush Wednesday series, where I'm interviewing and featuring bad-ass boss babes! Today we're chatting with Kara Harms, the founder and editor behind the travel and lifestyle site, Whimsy Soul. When Kara and I first met...

July, Instagrammed

July, Instagrammed

July legit flew by! Our weekends are filled with house projects, and it's hard to believe we've been in our new home for a whole month now. So happy to see you guys have been loving the BTS home content, because that's all I've got right now with quarantine! Find me...

Wedding Wednesday: Menguin Review

Wedding Wednesday: Menguin Review

  MENGUIN REVIEW & UNBOXING VIDEO   Back when we were planning our wedding (which was already 8 months ago! I can’t believe it.), I did a Menguin review post, which was the online tuxedo rental company we were using for our groomsmen’s looks. Our groomsmen looked...

Makeup Vanity Organization

Makeup Vanity Organization

Our master bedroom is 0% set up in terms of decor and a new paint job, but at least I've got my makeup vanity organization situation on point! Besides our bed, this was the first piece of furniture I got set up and I'm loving having a dedicated space to both store and...

Fourth of July Champagne Bucket

Fourth of July Champagne Bucket

Fourth of July Champagne Bucket I adore the Fourth of July—of course for the festive red, white, and blue outfits—but also because it provides an excuse to hide teeny sparklers everywhere. You won’t have trouble finding red, white, and blue appetizers, or even star...

Woman Crush Wednesday: Lindsay Kinder, founder of Food La La

Woman Crush Wednesday: Lindsay Kinder, founder of Food La La

You guys!! I am SO freaking thrilled to be starting a brand new content series on What The Fab today. It’s Woman Crush Wednesday, where I’ll be sharing Q&A-style interviews with bad-ass female entrepreneurs who are paving their own way, founding their own...

We’re Moving to Napa!

We’re Moving to Napa!

I'm so excited to share some news with you guys that I've been holding in for a little over a month now. We bought our first house! And like the title of this post shares, we're leaving San Francisco and moving to Napa! I'm a glass box of emotions over here, but...

How to plan the perfect wedding timeline

How to plan the perfect wedding timeline

This post could also be titled, "How to project manager the shit out of your wedding." 😉 Over the last year while we were planning our wedding, I've had several coworkers and friends get engaged too. They've all asked for the wedding run of show (fancy event-planner...

Cloffice Ideas + Mood Board

Cloffice Ideas + Mood Board

Since it's going to take forever for things in our new home to come together and it'll be a while before I can share any room reveal type posts, I thought I'd share some design inspiration posts during the process. Starting with cloffice ideas!...

10 Homemade Summer Jam Recipes

10 Homemade Summer Jam Recipes

Summer is almost here! That means easy recipes, picnic lunches + dinners, and having fun with summer fruits and vegetables in the form of summer jams. I can't wait to start hitting up farmer's markets and taking advantage of all of the fresh produce. In addition to...

June, Instagrammed

June, Instagrammed

Oh cool, 2020 is halfway over. Some months felt like a year (March and April) and others have just flown by, like June. June felt like the blink of an eye because of a big project I've been working on, that I'll hopefully be able to share with you tomorrow! ? Until...

- powered by chloédigital