I am Elizabeth Knapp and I am based in Crystal Palace, South East London, in the UK.
I love colour and have a very visceral response to colours and patterns. My When I Decorate Things creations are the products of that instinct and imagination in response to what I see and feel, honed by the skills and techniques I have developed over time to bring them to life.
I have always drawn and painted. I won art prizes through school and anticipated a career in the arts in some undefined way. However I became disillusioned with Art at A Level and didn’t know where I wanted to take it – there was no social media in those days for inspiration... So I branched off into a social science degree, followed by living and teaching in Japan, and then a career in the financial and public sectors.
While I continued to dabble in art and crafts over the years, it was when I moved into a new home with my young son in 2013 that my creative activities moved up a gear.
The catalyst was furnishing our little flat, and the realisation that my wooden furniture didn’t actually have to be coated in brown varnish as I had always, on some conformist subconscious level, assumed it had. I fell in love with the brightly coloured and decorated furniture I had seen in magazines and on burgeoning social media. I bought a lovely little green and yellow Indian chest of drawers, with a hand painted floral pattern (which I still have). I wanted more such colour and pattern in my life and realised that such pieced were out of my price range. So I decided to try upcycling, revamping and decorating some of the brown furniture that I already had.
While I had limitless ideas about the kinds of things I wanted to create, much research and practice ensued to acquire and develop the technical skills to support that and create pieces I was happy with. So there was lots of experimenting and learning – and that continues to this day. After some time, having painted, decorated and decoupaged most of the furniture in our home, I moved on to upcycling pre-owned smaller wooden pieces to given them a colourful, vibrant new lease of life. And so When I Decorate Things was born in early 2017.
For the first couple of years my work focused almost exclusively on wood. Then I gradually had an inkling which became a calling to also create colourful shiny things with epoxy resin. And so ensued more studying, more research and more experimenting and practising. And I gradually added resin art pieces and jewellery to my When I Decorate Things creations.
The upcycling theme continued with my resin work as I love incorporating salvaged materials into my pieces – for instance using old vinyl records (particularly records I have an aversion to) as ‘canvases’ for my resin art; and embedding things like foil chocolate wrappers and old necklace chains into my jewellery, for extra depth, shine and interest.
In early 2021 I picked up a picture-painting paintbrush again, prompted mostly by a spark that was reignited by the coronavirus lockdown series of Sky’s Portrait Artist of the Year, and Channel 4’s Grayson’s Art Club. And I am now developing my picture-painting practice alongside my resin and wood work.
While I work in a variety of media and creative a range of items, there is a thread of related values running through my pieces. The first value is of course colour – for me more is usually more, and I love experimenting with surreal colour palettes. The second value is happiness – I aim to create pieces which are quirky and joyful and brighten the viewer’s day whenever they see them. (I am drawn particularly to animal and plant designs, and spirals.) The third value is probably best described as ‘fostering being in the moment’, with my wish for viewers to pause for a moment while they look at my work, to create a little breathing space from the hecticness of daily life.
I have been a member of the House of Upcycling, the UK and Ireland's leading authority on professional upcycling for interiors, since 2017. I took part in the first and second Crystal Palace Artists’ Open House events in 2019 and 2020, and I am a founding member of the Crystal Palace Exhibit 12 artists’ collective.