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10 Years Time Studio


A dedicated collage studio, workshop & gallery space in Folkestone. Charlie Elms (10 Years Time) creates hand-cut collages, offering a unique collection of original artworks, prints, and cards.

The serendipitous creations of collage artist Charlie Elms.


Written by Charles Purdy.


English collage artist, graphic designer, and art director Charlie Elms grew up in a family of fine artists, with parents who were art collectors. So from a young age, he was immersed in that world, and that’s where he pursued his early artistic inclinations. “I was dragged around galleries and antique fairs every weekend by my parents from a very young age, which I’m much more grateful for now than I was at the time,” he recalls.

But as he got older and it came time to consider going to university, he changed course. “For some reason, I kind of rebelled against that, and I ended up pursuing a degree in graphic design,” he says. “I thought it was a better way of having an actual career as an artist, whereas I thought that for painters, your work was valued only after you were dead — anyway, that was my view at age 14 or 15.”


His graphic design studies led him to Adobe Photoshop and into the world of digital creativity, and that’s when he began experimenting with digital collage, juxtaposing human figures and animal heads, for instance — but collage was always just a hobby, and it stayed that way after he left university and began his career. Currently, Elms lives near the seaside in Kent, in southeastern England, and is the head of design at a company in nearby Canterbury.

But collage art, which was once a hobby, started evolving into a creative passion several years ago.

Elms remembers, “My wife and I went to a John Stezaker exhibition, and I completely fell in love with him. It was his Masks series, where he places postcards over old film stars, and I think that’s what hooked me, really — the way he took two images that were completely alien to each other and found that connection between them.”


That got Elms focusing more on his own collage art, searching for connections between found images. In 2016, he began to transition from digital collage to creating his collages by hand — in part because enjoyed the challenge of being unable to digitally manipulate his source images — and joined an Instagram community of collage artists he admires, including Jesse Treece, Mizz.Design, and Mr.Babies, who also do their work by hand.

The book collector.

These days, Elms hand-cuts all of his collage elements — and he says a big part of the pleasure of collage is collecting the old books from which he takes those pieces. “It harks back to when I was a kid collecting football stickers and things like that, which I would become obsessed with,” he says. “It all came flooding back when I began collecting books…. I collect them from charity shops, and I like the idea of rescuing forgotten books and doing something creative with them — that really got me into it.” 

The serendipitous discovery of a collection of another sort provided thematic inspiration for Elms when he was first creating hand-cut collages: “A friend who’s an electrician was working in a derelict house, and he found two massive bags of vintage porno mags — old Playboy and Mayfair magazines from the ’60s and ’70s,” Elms remembers. “And he knew I was doing collage, so he gave them to me, and this really got me into a sort of pre-digital world that was just amazing: I loved the tones and the print, and this kicked off a very stylistic route for me.”


That vintage aesthetic is still often present in Elms’s work, even if he has moved on to new subjects. His collection of source material includes many old books on animals and nature — and he says he’s especially excited when he finds books about the flora and fauna of New Zealand. Many of his pieces mix a human element with something from the natural world.

“I guess I still revisit the look of the old magazines,” says Elms, “but I want to maybe create something that’s a bit classier, and as I’ve evolved I’ve found that less is more … for instance, having a picture of just a woman’s hand instead of her whole figure…. Often when I’m working on a collage, the more I remove, the better it comes out.”


A perfect match.

As he has become better known and gained followers on Instagram, clients have sought Elms out to create collages for them — but for now he prefers to keep collage work on the side and remains happy with his “nine-to-five” design work and the collaboration and teamwork it brings. Collage is a more solitary pursuit. “It’s done at night, once the kid’s in bed … I can relax and have a glass of wine and get lost in a book.”


When Elms finds an image he likes, he’ll often cut it out and set it aside for potential future use. When asked, “Which comes first: Does an image inspire a creation, or does an idea set you searching for the right image?” He answers, “It changes. I do sometimes want to do something specific, which sends me to search my books, and that can be quite difficult…. But other times, when I’ve got an evening free and I’m just doodling along, I’ll pick up a book, and when I find an image that jumps out at me for whatever reason — a beautiful color, a lovely subject, or just an amazing whatever — I’ll cut that out, and it’ll go in my collection of cutouts.”

From the beginning, Elms has used a small blade and a cutting mat to do his cutting, a process he enjoys. He says it feels like the type of tracing he liked to do when he was drawing as a child. He also uses two types of spray glue: a temporary one and a permanent one — applying the latter only when he’s very sure about a composition.

The search for the perfect images and the perfect juxtapositions is what keeps Elms fascinated with collage — and that’s part of the reason he sticks to a non-digital process. “I think my favorite collage of all time is probably one where the two pieces from different places just fit together so well,” he says. “It’s a photo of a woman holding her arms a certain way, and I found a bird that fits in them perfectly … that’s the sort of thing that really gets me.”