Image 1 from ‘A forager's manual' - a collaboration between artist Estelle Woolley and photographer Jaime Molina (1)

An internationally-acclaimed artist from Nantwich whose projects include facemasks made from foraged natural materials is returning to her roots as part of a UK initiative nurturing creative talent.

Visual artist and University of Chester graduate Estelle Woolley is returning to work with the university’s department of art and design thanks to the AA2A (Artists Access to Art Colleges) scheme.

The university is one of 12 Higher and Further Education host institutions across England in 2021/22 offering residencies for visual artists and designer-makers, to develop their work and share their expertise with current students.

Estelle, a graduate in Fine Art, is extending her series of self-portraits, featuring masks made from delicate natural materials, including flowers and plants.

She returned to the family farm in Nantwich and found nature therapeutic – and also inspiring – in such a challenging time.

Her inspiration for such masks began, and Chester Virtual Bandstand commissioned her to create a series of them.

Since then, her work has been highly commended in The Sustainability First Art Prize and published in Wales Arts Review; New York Magazine and the Danish newspaper Politiken, and won the Ty Pawb Open People’s Prize, to name a few accolades.

Image 3 from ‘A forager's manual' - a collaboration between artist Estelle Woolley and photographer Jaime Molina (1)

She is currently working with a photographer in Edinburgh, Jaime Molina, on seasonal portraits involving other models in the natural landscape to develop the project, called “A forager’s manual – How to get lost during a global pandemic”.

Estelle has also been approached by Cheshire West and Chester Council to work on a project exploring Chester’s heritage.

She said: “The resources within the University will enable me to develop my work in ways in which I am limited in doing independently, but more importantly the shared environment, ethos of creativity and networking opportunities will be very beneficial.

“A close engagement with the environment is at the core of my research.

“The act of closely looking at the world around us is pertinent to the philosophy of Heidegger; the idea of paying attention to the things that we might normally disregard.

“I am interested in ways that we work with or against nature; how we react and intervene, and how nature responds back at a domestic level and beyond.

“By subtle manipulation I hope to renew a sense of curiosity, while always highlighting the beauty inherent in the forms used.”

The AA2A project is a national set of schemes, providing visual artists and designer makers with the opportunity to undertake a period of research or realise a project, using workshop and supporting facilities in Fine Art and Design departments of Higher and Further Education institutions.

To find out more about this year’s AA2A artists at the University of Chester and for further details about the scheme, visit

Image 2 from ‘A forager's manual' - a collaboration between artist Estelle Woolley and photographer Jaime Molina (1)

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