Inside Sarah Matthews’ papercraft world
Author: Issariya Morgan
This Christmas, we collaborated with Sarah Matthews, a paper engineer and designer based in Sheffield. Sarah created the props for our Christmas brochure: sumptuous green and gold Christmas trees, paper stars and an original Berry Bros. & Rudd delivery van. We speak to her about her work, her inspirations and her experience collaborating with us.
From bold, sculpted poppies to delicately winged moths, Sarah Matthews’ papercraft world is filled with intricacy and imagination.
She speaks to me over Zoom from her “studio” – the spare room in her house in Sheffield, where she lives with her partner. It’s an ordered and minimalist environment, and her current projects lie neatly behind her on a big worktop: a fitting environment for the detail-oriented work that Sarah specialises in and enjoys most.
“I like to work with a variety of different scales and projects – they each bring different challenges, which keeps it interesting. But the projects I love are the ones where I can add a lot of detail,” she says. “I get most excited about creating things that are a smaller size – roughly about 30 centimetres in width. Although they tend to be more labour-intensive, they’re my favourite kind of projects because it means I get really creative.”
So why paper, I ask her. “Paper is neat, it’s graphic. You can create textures, make it smooth and clean, or make it rough. It can be 2D or 3D, it can be anything you want it to be. It’s full of possibility – I love it.”
Sarah’s is a world of familiar images, rooted in the everyday. “I often find inspiration in nature: in animals and flowers; or from walking around and taking in influences from architecture, shapes and forms. When I lived in London, I used to visit the Natural History Museum and take a quick photo on my phone of something that sparks an idea in me.”
Her observational sensibility and love of detail lent themselves perfectly to designing the props for our Christmas brochure. In our signature colours of dark green and gold, she created a beautiful ensemble of pine trees, holly and ivy and crackers – and even a Berry Bros. & Rudd delivery van to complete the scene.
“The delivery van was one of my absolute favourite things to work on,” she tells me excitedly. “I was sent a photo of the original delivery van and asked to create a paper version of it. It’s my favourite size, and I loved being able to put all the detail into it. I’m so excited to share it.”
“Paper birds are a real labour of love, involving hand-gluing hundreds or even thousands of individual paper feathers, but there’s just something so satisfying about the tactile texture created by them, so it’s always worth the hard work in the end. They’re a true test of patience but always end up being some of my favourite pieces.”
What Sarah does so effectively is tap into our seasonal memories, creating an air of enchantment and storytelling – something that, while not immediately obvious, becomes clearer the closer you look.
That blend of familiarity and enchantment is particularly pronounced in the figure of the Nutcracker. Quietly regal and exquisitely detailed, his figure evokes the mystery of Christmas Eve and gifts waiting to be unwrapped.
“I’ve always loved Christmas – it’s my favourite time of the year,” says Sarah, “It’s usually a creative time. It’s when a lot of brands will spend money putting together a campaign, so I’ll be busy working on briefs for clients. But it’s also a time when I’ll do a lot of things for myself, like my annual Instagram challenge.”
I ask her what she’ll be giving loved ones as gifts this year. “I usually give people handmade gifts – things I’ve made myself. Because I’m so immersed in my craft, it can sometimes seem quite mundane. But when you give someone something you’ve made yourself, it’s always much more special to them than you realise.”
Perhaps what Sarah’s alluding to is the everyday enchantment of giving – and creating. We’re delighted that she’s helped us tell the story of a Berry Bros. & Rudd Christmas so beautifully.
“I think this is one of my favourite designs. It was a self-initiated project – I’d had in my mind that I wanted to make a Nutcracker for a couple of years and when I finally got round to it, I was so happy with how it came together. My favourite projects are ones where I can get carried away with the detail, just like this one.”