Would you say your degree in Printed Textile Design informs your art practice?
Yes, I originally studied Printed Textile Design, and I was really interested in fine art printmaking processes on cloth, e.g. block printing, monoprinting, dry point and etching, and different approaches to dyeing. It was difficult to explore these ideas in an environment which at the time favoured digital approaches to design. Over the subsequent decade or so I came back to textiles and printmaking on and off, but in 2023 I've (unintentionally) focused solely on printmaking and rediscovered my love of the process, and it seems I’ve come full circle from where I began.
You speak of 'repurposing baby bottles, family cloths, children's paints and cleaning products and plants'. Can you give us examples of how you use these materials in your work?
My work life and my domestic life are completely enmeshed, as I imagine is the case for a lot of parents: I work between a shed and our kitchen table, works in progress pinned on the wall next to the family calendar and toddler drawings, paints and brushes propped on the kitchen windowsill. My work is a true expression of my life in that moment, so it makes sense to me to look to my surroundings for tools and inspiration, coupled with a great delight I have always had for diy tools! So, for example, I use bleach from the bathroom to paint on textiles, an old baby bottle to apply the bleach for the effect I want, or I use a friends over-expressed breast milk as a mordant in dyeing. Because these tools come from the domestic sphere, they also take on a political meaning.
I like to sit and paint with my 4 year old (if he has the patience) and use his art materials as we work together. I often take inspiration from playing with poster paints, paint blocks, coloured pencils etc and sometimes these feature in my paintings on paper. I do reciprocate and let him use my art materials too, and sometimes let him help with printmaking. In the documentary about artist Paula Rego’s life, she mentions that her children were never allowed near her studio or to touch anything, which is interesting to me and makes me wonder how different my work would be if I had the same boundaries.
What's your favourite material and why?
This is a difficult question! I have a tendency to hyperfocus on a material/process/colour for a while and then it changes. So my answer at this moment would be different in a couple months time. But currently my favourite material is probably oil paint, I love the richness of the colour and how well it works with printmaking, I use a combination of oil paints and oil based printing inks in my work currently.
Mastrescence is a theme explored in your work. How did becoming a mother affect/inspire you and your practice?
Yes, matrescence is a fairly new concept that attempts to understand the psychological and physiological process of becoming a (m)other. It is said that there is no other transformation as seismic in a person’s life other than puberty, yet it’s not widely spoken about, acknowledged or represented in art. Everyone’s experience is different and people come to (m)otherhood in many different ways, and for me, the process of a traumatic pregnancy, birth and the accompanying emotions while raising my child had and continues to have a huge effect on me. It changed me physically and psychologically, and the best way I know how to process and understand this is through art. The maternal experience can be very silent and unseen, and I want to understand this, bring light to it and reflect on the experiences of others. The themes of grief, sorrow, joy and beauty often appear in my work and I think of these works as being viewed through a ‘maternal gaze’. I’ve just ordered a copy of Lucy Jones’s new book Matrescence and I’m really excited to read it and discover the examples she draws upon from nature to understand the maternal shift and identity.
Is there a process you like to follow?
I like working from photographs and from life. An idea for a new work or series might come from a small moment in a photograph, from a sketchbook or even from working in the garden and growing plants, something I find a kinship with and a parallel between growing plants and growing children. I store a lot of ideas in my head so the process becomes intuitive, and I work from one piece to another not necessarily knowing what will come next. I will sketch out a rough idea for a print or painting beforehand but I like to apply paint directly without a predetermined layout, and again work with colour in the same way. I tend to have a few projects or series on the go at the same time.
Are there any artists (contemporary or historical, or both) you take inspiration from?
I’m drawn to artists who capture the different moments of everyday life and family dynamics, for example Milton and March Avery, Alice Neel, Catherine Repko, Norman Gilbert, Pierre Bonnard, Chantal Joffe. I’ve also always had a soft spot for German expressionist printmaking. I recently discovered the work of Rosa Loy, and I love her use of imagined symbolic landscapes and figures interacting with the earth.
Tell us what you're working on right now?
I have just completed a small series for a gallery so I am currently planning on what I will be working on next. I have a long running series which I am going to return to, focusing on my mother, my relationship to her and the different phases of her life. I am also planning a new series on cloth reimagining the birth of my child, picked up from drawings I started a year and a half ago. Finally I’m also currently working on a tableware commission for a local bakery; I enjoy making ceramics as a hobby and this is a lovely opportunity to explore that more. That’s enough to keep me busy for now I think!