The next time you stop in to Water Street Coffee's downtown location for a quick pick-me-up, take a
moment to walk into the sitting area and admire the paper college portraits of 15 year-old Paige Harrison. In her artwork, she's crafted beach scenes, animals and insects, and words of inspiration.
"I knew I wanted to start collage work from magazine, and kind of just started ripping up pieces of paper and said 'Hey, this would look good if I put it altogether as a picture," she says of her discovery.
The bubbly high school sophomore says she's always been creative, but it's only been in the past few years that she got into paper art.
"I thought it was just going to be a one-time thing and that I would just make a piece of artwork, and then just put it up in my room, but then I was like 'Oh I should do another one!' and then I just kept doing them because I really liked it and it was fun."
She says she gets her inspiration from photos, outdoor walks, and from special requests from friends and family, and that it typically takes between 7 and 15 hours to complete a piece.
"It's so relaxing, and people ask me 'How do you just sit there and glue magazine pieces to a posterboard?' but I think I am inspired by every single one of my pieces of artwork, and it just makes me really happy finishing out and getting it out there," she says of her process.
“I draw it out and then I get all my colors around, look through all my magazines, make sure I have enough of every color, and then I just rip it up and then I put it together as a picture."
Her first exhibition occurred in January, when Pop City Popcorn agreed to show her work. The next month she was featured at OptiMed, and got wind from the Arts Council that Water Street was interested in showing her work in June.
Beyond being an artist, Paige has been able to create a small business of selling her work. She named it "Classy Creations," and posts updates on her Facebook and Instagram pages. During the school year, the straight-A student treats her artwork as a special treat at the end of the day, which makes it even more enjoyable to work on.
"At night when I finish my homework and everything's settled, I finish my projects 'til it's time to go to bed. In school I just want to get home and work on my art because it's so much fun for me, but I always make sure I do it last as a reward then doing it before my schoolwork," says Harrison.
Her plan is to continue taking advantage of her summer break and produce as much art as she can for the shows she’s got lined up for fall. She'd like to concentrate on art and psychology when she goes to college, and become an art therapist when she grows up. For now, she's happy to bring calm and enjoyment to herself and inspire others. "I'm 15 and I'm not very old, and I do all this work, and people should think 'I can do that too,'" she says. "It doesn't matter how old you are. I just want them to be inspired to put their art out there, and do whatever they want to do with their own art and what they make."
Her work will remain on view until the end of July.