I first met Jenny at the Sheffield Artist Book Fair last autumn and was immediately smitten by her and her books. Despite their diverse subjects, they share a common aesthetic: many have a concertina as the basic element, lending flexibility and movement to the structure, with abstract collages in a calm colour palette and no text on the pages.
I was very happy to be invited into her home for this interview.
Hilke: (looking around in the room) I am always interested in biographies, how the places we find ourselves in, literally as well as figuratively, shape what we make. And how sometimes just everything seems to slot into place.
Jenny: Yeah, definitely. I sometimes wish I had my own studio somewhere. But working in the house currently works best with the family situation I find myself in. My children are 3 and 7 years old, and mostly I work while they are away in school or preschool and while they are asleep.
Surprisingly, however, I found that working like this, I get more work done than ever before.
Hilke: That’s amazing! Most parents seem to complain about the lack of creative time. Why do you think it’s different for you?
Jenny: Before the kids, I worked as an art technician at a secondary school. My work gave me a sense of achievement and it satisfied my need to be creative. I still made my own work, but very slowly – there was always time to finish tomorrow.
After I had the kids, I gave up the job as a technician, and it became so much more important to do something for myself.
It is in the small time slots when I am alone or they are asleep that I get my table and bench out, unpack my materials, and become very focussed on what I want to achieve.
Hilke: I see. How would you describe your books and how you work?
Jenny: I love to work with different layers, textures and combine them all. In my collages I bring together my own material from sketchbooks, mixed media layers and mark-making experiments, and I combine those with carefully selected elements from magazines to form an organic whole.
Hilke: What is it about the book format that appeals to you? Why not make stand-alone collages?
Jenny: Books appeal to me as fairly small and handheld artwork. They are intimate and playful. The viewer holds it in their hands, and is able to experience it at their own pace. And I like how in a book the elements move, bringing the different collages into relation to each other.
Hilke: How do you approach a new work?
Jenny: I use mind-mapping to choose my theme and then gather research: other artists who worked with similar elements, drawings of the subject matter, markmaking in response to the theme and I make notes all the way through.
I also glue in paper samples, a trial collage at a later stage, maybe. – I always think through the concept of a piece. Recording my thoughts and research helps me to think and later to talk about my art. And by the time I start with the first collages, I have a clear idea of what book structure I am going to use, and what kind of feeling I want to portray. I create more collages than I need for a project so I can choose which will work best in the book and which relate well to each other.
Hilke: Moving from one collage to the other, what drives you on? Are you dissatisfied with the collage you just made, and try to make it better?
Jenny: Making collages with found paper has an exciting element for me. I’m thinking for example: How can I turn that image of a lampshade into a reflective part in a window? or: How can I cut out this bowl of soup, change the context and change how the viewer sees it.
Rather than being dissatisfied with what I already have, I’m still curious to see whether I can catch the same emotional content, picture the same atmosphere, once again now that the snippets I used in the last collage aren’t available anymore. – Once I’ve used a piece, it’s gone, and I can’t use it again.
Hilke: So scarcity of material is important for you work?
Jenny: In a way, yes. But I do use photocopiers in all stages of my work. I might photocopy a drawing, sometimes onto acetate and then cut from there. I also might photocopy a finished collage and then keep working with it.
Hilke: Do you have an overarching topic in your work?
Jenny: I like to discover the story in a place, maybe its history, the feeling of visiting it or how people live. Windows are a recurring theme – they offer a glimpse into someone else’s world. I’m also inspired by all the texture, detail and angular lines in buildings. I find that the imagery I work to, and the way I interpret a topic has a clear personal style and I often use the same materials and colour theme in my work.
Hilke: Mhm, yes, I can see how many of your books have a strong architectural element to it. Some remind me of technical drawings. Architecture often is bold and big. – What is the biggest book you made?
Jenny: I’ve always loved working small – I must take after my Dad, he’s a modelmaker. I experimented with larger work at Uni but I always bounced right back to something handheld.
Hilke: Where would an interested reader be able to see your work?
Jenny: I’m going to be at the Turn The Page book arts fair in Norwich in May 2020, and my book ‘Cut Across’ will be included in the exhibition 2020 Vision: Magellans Voyage in Liverpool Central Library.
Hilke: Thank you for taking the time to work on this interview with me!
All images in this article are used with kind permission of Jenny Stevenson.
Clare and I first met at the Derby Print open in May this year. When I entered the front room at Banks Mills Studios together with the rest of my family, it was she who greeted us, made us feel welcome, and helped us around.
Her work is as inviting as she is, her prints burst with colour and action. They show women jumping, falling and dancing. At first glance I took them for line etchings or lithography because they had this hand-sketched feel and look. When I asked, she was more than happy to explain her process, and it turned out I was looking at photo-exposed screen prints.
Once I got aware of her work, I saw her prints everywhere in Nottingham. It didn’t take long for me to ask her for an interview and for her to say “yes”. We decided to meet at Green Door Printmaking Studio an open access print studio where she is a member. When I arrived she was busy hanging her prints for an upcoming exhibition.
Hilke: Hello Clare, thank you for taking your time to meet me again, and for being open to my questions!
Clare: Of course! I am glad you came.
Hilke: Do you exclusively work here or do you also have studio space somewhere else?
Clare: I feel so lucky to have my own little space at home, hidden away in the attic – even if I can only stand up in the middle of it. [laughs] That’s where on Sundays I draw, develop colour ideas and prepare acetates ready to expose my screens. On Mondays I then come to Green door studio here at Banks Mills and print. The rest of the week I am dedicated to being a teacher at a secondary school in Nottingham.
Hilke: [looking around at the prints Clare is hanging] Preparing for this interview, I of course read what you write about yourself and your art on your website. I can indeed spot circles in almost every one of your prints. – You mention that they are related to your medical history. Can you tell me more about that?
Clare: I first introduced them when I wanted to illustrate the bubble you can feel like you are in when you are seriously ill. You can become quite locked out when people feel they don’t want to bother you with their worries.
I used circles to separate the main subject from the rest of the image. It [the circle] is also about protection, and growth.
Hilke: May I ask what kind of diagnosis you had? – And are you alright now?
Clare: Yes. I had non-hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I am very open about it and now volunteer for Lymphoma action which is a charity that really helped me through. I had a donor stem cell transplant two years ago after getting into remission through a regime of intensive chemotherapy. The transplant is to give me the best chance of staying disease free. It is amazing that this kind of treatment is possible, and I am so thankful that my donor joined the Anthony Nolan bone marrow register. It really has given me a restart. For two years now I have been cancer free.
In the process of diagnosing my Lymphoma, it also became apparent that I had a rare immune disorder called CVID.
When you have something like that from an early age, you kind of assume that it’s normal to feel so tired and have repeated infections. Now that I have treatment I feel more energetic and healthier than ever before.
Hilke: So you have done all this work in the past two years?!
Clare: One and a half years, really. [laughs] It’s maybe a bit surprising, but that’s just how I am. During treatment I only stopped my job for as briefly as possible. During chemo, I kept on working, even through the hairloss. The students were great and loved the headscarves. Working helped me to not focus solely on being ill.
But I couldn’t do art during that time.
Hilke: Was there a definite moment, some kind of trigger that got you going again after?
Clare: At some point during treatment I was forced out of school because the risk of infection was too high, and I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands. I went to a portraiture session to draw from a sitter, and that experience changed something for me; I regained my enthusiasm for creating.
As my future started to feel more certain, I felt this was the best time to embark on a body of work to reflect on my experiences and hopefully create something positive to leave in the world – almost like a legacy.
Hilke: And you also picked up teaching again. You mentioned you are working in school right now.
Clare: Yes, I am a passionate teacher. I love my work at school!
I don’t keep a sketchbook[…], all is experimentation.
Hilke: You said you kept on working through cancer treatment. – You really must love your work. But I am curious how you do it! From talking to others I know I am not alone in feeling that planning lessons is consuming all my creative energy. And then there’s the marking and all the many small things a teacher does for their pupils… How do you cope and keep on working on your own projects?
Clare: I made the decision to work part time on my return and to reduce responsibilities in school in order to find better balance and nurture my reignited passion for creating. Being a teacher can easily be all consuming. When I am in school, I give my pupils 100% of me, and I love it. But when I am out of school, there is this switch in my head – and I am off work and can work on my art.
Hilke: Do you feel your pupils and the work in school give you something that then manifests itself in your prints?
Clare: No, not really. I think it is rather the other way around: Because I am active as an artist, I have a better feeling and understanding for what I ask of my students. They profit from my practise that way in the end.
You know, it’s a bit funny but, although I require that from my students, I don’t keep a sketchbook or something similar. I turn my sketches right into screens, use ink to paint directly and intuitively onto acetate. There’s no in between stage, all is experimentation.
So although my students have to do that to document their progress, my work gives me that understanding that free practise and experimentation is something that has to have its place, too.
We can be broken, taken apart, and then reassembled. And […] there is beauty in that.
Hilke: Let’s talk a little more about your art work again. You said your practise changed from before the diagnosis. Do you see development in your prints since?
Clare: Yes, definitely. I can see three connected series of prints. In the beginning when I picked up my work, all my figures were falling to illustrate the lack of control and uncertainty. They explode with colour as I see opportunity for growth in embracing change. Their bodies are not whole: in motion they leave fragments behind. They show how we can be broken, taken apart, and then reassembled. And that there is beauty in that. The bright colours are integral to that concept and this is where the circles started to appear.
As time went on, as I got to a better place myself and grew stronger, my figures take more active roles: they jump and leap, taking control and radiating energy.
When I had the chance to watch a circus aerial acrobat training session, I thought their bodies might appear to fall, so I could use images from that session to develop the falling series further. But I was surprised to see how comfortable they were, sitting high up on hoops, wrapped up in the silks. The photos that I took developed into my third series: You can still see the circle, in the hoops and wrapping, but these women are no longer falling.
Hilke: Can we expect something similar from your prints in the future, or do you think you’ll choose something radically different soon?
Clare: Moving forward for me is often in little steps: I keep some elements that I like and change some other factors. I think I’ll stay with the idea of portraying women in action, but I’d like to find a different kind of motion. There are some ideas floating in my mind, but all still a little vague. I am thinking of dancing maybe, and my thoughts also linger on aspects of multiple exposure photography; definitely lots of layering and hopefully a much bigger scale!
Hilke: Oooh, that sounds very interesting. I’d love to see it when you have first results! – Do you have any exhibitions planned in the near future? Or where can we see your work?
Clare: I have some work at venues in Derby such as Banks Mills, elements café and Artcore. I will also be doing a number of open studios and art trails over the autumn, and last Friday the “Loovre” opened with my work at Surface Gallery.
To keep up to date please go to my website www.curisousinkyme.com.
Hilke: Thank you so much for your time today. And good luck with your upcoming exhibition!
Clare: Thank you!
A final tip from me, the author: If you are curious about her artwork do go and have a look at her instagram feed. There she shares work in progress, quick sketches, and newly finished prints.
All images in this post have been provided by and are used with kind permission of Clare Morgan.
How could one translate silence into imagery? We all might have an initial idea of what a “loud” image is: something with exaggerated bright colours maybe, “screaming” at the viewer. But what is it that makes a picture silent? And how do you depict silence?
Sarah Roach is a photographer and printmaker from Nottingham exploring silence in her work. Her minimalistic, often black and white prints combine crisp edges that stem from exaggerated contrast in photography with softening elements like blurring, layering or printing on a textured substrate. Her topics come from details found in nature: silhouettes of grass or trees against the sky, or the shoreline rendered black between the white sand and blazing sky. Some are almost unbearably harsh in their contrast, others are smoothened out by bluriness or layering effects similar to multiple exposure photography.
To me they not only speak of silence, but also of loneliness, of longing for the long summers spent lying in the grass as a kid, of a longing for simplicity and calmess.
Hilke: Hello Sarah, thanks for welcoming me in your studio today! Let’s start with some basic questions first: How would you say you became an artist?
Sarah: I don’t remember to ever consciously make a decision to be an artist. I always enjoyed art and the process of thinking about things, having ideas and creating but I was never your traditional artist. I was about 15 when I realised I wanted to study art. I started as a painter but it was never just straight painting with me, there was always another dimension to it. And even while I was painting I also made things.
You mean like taking photos?
The photography came much later. After my fine art degree, around 1999, I was living in very small rented accommodation. I was working full time then, but to keep my creative side happy I did a photography course as I thought it was a way of being creative that didn’t take up much room.
Was that when you started your current practise?
For a while I took photos but didn’t really do anything with them. It was my partner who made me realise I should do more with my photography and with my creative side. He told me it made me happy – it’s funny how sometimes you don’t realise that by not doing something you’re making yourself unhappy, until it’s pointed out to you.
Quite a few years later I had the opportunity to study for my Masters while working part time. It was then that I started with printmaking, and developed my current style of work.
On your website you call yourself a “photographer and printmaker”, and you also bind some of your works into books. All three of them, photography, printmaking, and bookbinding have this craft-aspect to them and can be very technical. How do you see this navigation between art and craft?
I don’t see a dividing line there. To me it’s all part of the same thing – a way to express ideas and be creative. It doesn’t necessarily need to be defined as anything other than art.
The dividing aspect that is important to me and my practise is how abstract a process is, how removed you are from your subject matter.
I mentioned before already when I was a painter there was always another aspect to my work. I like to do things with my hands and I like to make things. With photography (especially with digital photography) I often felt a bit removed from the subject and ideas, and once you had printed the photograph that was it. I always felt slightly dissatisfied with that.
That’s where it becomes important to me to develop my photos further, and add a more hands-on process to it. I work with photographic etching, and the making of the plates and the printing of the images is very close to working with analogue film, but you get the added loveliness of the textures, the ink, and the edges created by the plate. You get inky hands, the whole of you becomes part of the work.
The techniques I use in printmaking make me look at photography differently and it helps me experiment more – they feed into each other, which makes me think beyond the photographic image – the photograph almost becomes just a step in a journey.
The book making really came about through my love for books and paper. Binding semi-transparent pages with my prints allows me to build up a work through means of layering. There are several aspects to this that I like: the building up of an image, but also the blurring and softening that comes from not looking at one print directly but through additional layers of paper. I screenprint on thin paper, too, and often I like the backside of my prints better than front.
But mostly I like books, and I like my work to have a tactility about it – and what’s more tactile than a book?
I guess that can be seen as related to craft – that you can touch someone’s work.
In your statement you write: “I am fascinated by silence and its relationship with sound and the world around us.” Could you please explain that in more detail? It sounds very poetic, but I don’t really understand it. How do you photograph silence?
I’m naturally a very quiet person and I enjoy time away from a lot of noise. Walking and spending time outside in nature is often where I can experience feelings of calmness and stillness and I think that is what I was always striving for in my images.
So that’s why most of what you photograph is nature?
Yes, I like nature and the landscape, especially grasses and stones, and I photograph what I like. I just love grass. There’s so much variety to it, and it can look like branches and even trees when blown up.
I also like trees, but they are hard to photograph without background, and a discernible background is like adding noise to me.
I sometimes photograph grass in situ. I then use overexposure and play tricks with light to isolate my motif from the background. I also have a collection of dry grass and stones at home that I simply place on a white surface to photograph.
I can perfectly see how a minimalistic image of a single blade of grass or a single pebble is “quiet”, and a bright, colourful painting might be loud. But the tangible connection you seem to feel is remarkable.
Silence is important to me.
It took me a while to realise this, but when I did, it opened up a whole new world to me. I began to read about silence (I know it sounds boring but you wouldn’t believe how fascinating it is) and what I did realise is that you can’t have silence without sound – how would you know what silence was without sound? Then the big thing – that silence doesn’t actually exist.
Sarah picked up a couple of books and told me about them. People who went to the desert in a quest for silence, and – I probably shouldn’t have been surprised – a range of books about music. In the books stuck hundreds of post-its, colour coded, marking passaged to be entered into a database on her computer, so she can quickly find quotes and ideas again that struck her as remarkable.
She told me how we can hear our body when other noises are drowned out, and as a human, apparently you can’t ever experience the total absence of any sound.
We also talked about ambient sound, and how different rooms, landscapes all have their own sound. And how different vegetation generates different sound. Going to the desert to experience sound is not just to escape humans, or other animals, but also to escape the sounds of vegetation.
Did you ever go on such a trip, to the desert or elsewhere to find silence?
No, I’ve never had the opportunity, but I’d like to. I think I would love it, but I have read that some people don’t, it’s too much, that much silence.
Coming back to your art. How does it relate to sound or silence?
In my photographs I am trying to create a visual representation of the space that exists between sound and silence, the moment of stillness, of silence that occurs just before sound.
Do you have plans for future work? Do you have any work in progress you would like to talk about?
I just started printing on a range of different fabrics, and I am playing with the idea of presenting them folded up: In that manner one can see part of it, in a layered block, but a part also remains secret. I find this idea very appealing. But my thought process is not finished yet. I also played with other thoughts of how to layer them. – This might end in a new body of work.
I am looking forward to seeing what will come out of this!
Sarah, thank you so much for having me here today, and for this conversation!
All images of her work are copyrighted by Sarah Roach and were used with her kind permission.
Craig is one of the two people behind dizzy ink, probably the most prolific artistic enterprise in Nottingham at the moment.
Dizzy ink is a printing and printmaking service. What sets them apart is the use of risographs. A risograph is a machine that looks and superficially works similarly to a photocopier. But instead of toner, real ink that needs to dry is being used. The process has similarities to screenprint and gocco prints.
I first heard about them when in 2016 dizzy ink ran a successful kickstarter for Nottingham school of print.
Craig at The Carousel, putting up the sign just in time for its launch on Saturday March 30th.
At the beginning of this year Dizzy Ink founded together with Farida Makki , and Martin Rayment a new artist workspace in Nottingham called “The Carousel”. The official launch took place just last Saturday. – Understandably, Craig is very busy. And so I am especially glad that he found time for this interview.
Hello Craig, thank you for taking the time to talk with me!
You do so many different things. How do you label yourself? What does your business card say where the job title is going?
Ah, straight in with the difficult questions! I couldn’t put just one title on what I do! And, to be honest that’s the way I like it! Every day is different. One day I will be slogging through a huge print run, the next I’ll be researching a topic for an upcoming lecture or specialist workshop. Or I’ll be up a ladder painting.
I love being my own boss but I would never want to step away from the craftsmanship that goes into making prints and books.
You are referring to your work with dizzy ink, right? Maybe we can talk a bit about that. What makes dizzy ink different from a copy shop or one of the big print-on-demand services?
We are not just printers, we are artists and creatives, and we meet a lot of people, and we genuinely care about your print project.
There is a definite skill to Riso printing. We help with the choice of paper, file set ups, ink choice, driver control, print order, registration. It all plays a part!
We have always been interested in teaching, too, like to help people with their projects and run workshops.
And you also still produce your own work…
Yeah I make bits and bobs. I’m really looking forward to having screen printing back in my life once it is set up at The Carousel, as I tend to use a lot of scale. Whenever I’ve had exhibitions I’ve challenged myself to make something bigger! For the 3 Months On exhibition at Derby’s QUAD I lined the entire staircase of the building with a transcript. This was all made on an architectural printer which prints on a roll.
I also started making different things with a lasercutter as well. I tend to get excited by links between process and machinery. I also like learning new things so I would class myself as an experimenter rather than having a particular style.
Do you have a personal website, is your art available to buy or look at online somewhere?
I’m not that much into putting stuff online. My work exists on real walls. But you can see and buy some of my design work on the Dizzy Ink website! – Or commission me directly for something extra special.
And you are also involved with NottsZineLibrary…
Sure am! I’m running the residency at Nottingham Contemporary. Not me alone but I’m leading on it.
Notts Zine Library is a physical collection of self-published material, zines. It is constantly growing, so if you want to add something, you can drop it in the submission box and it will get photographed and then featured on our Instagram account, too.
Notts Zine Library is currently in residence at The Zebrario, a room located in the Nottingham Contemporary where you have access six days a week during exhibition time – without paying admission, of course.
Have you published a Zine yourself?
Working at Dizzy Ink on the METAZINE series with Matt Gill (Raw Print) was good as it went national and got featured in lots of other places. I have three major projects that I’ve been working on over the past couple of years. – Look out for a zine on Grillz 4 U, EVADE, Pilgrimage book & A serious swatch book with GF Smith!
And now you are also involved in the birth of The Carousel, can you explain what it is?
The Carousel is a space, first of all, and also stands for the concept we have for sharing this space. Dizzy Ink took residence at 25 Hockley in February, and we have high hopes for the space! This is our fifth studio in four years so really it’s about time we had a space we were going to be in for longer than a year! We’ve grown rapidly in the past years so this is a space we can grow in.
We like being in a social, busy place, and this is an environment that encourages solid production of work and collaboration!
We offer open access screen printing, Risograph printing, a coworking and workshop space, in addition to artist studios. Really it’s a great place to be able to grow as a creative!
That sounds terrific! – What exactly is your main role at The Carousel so far?
I’ve been doing the identity for The Carousel, which is new for me. A learning curve but certainly interesting! This is a big project, and I like that it gives me the opportunity to design. Having a hand in designing the actual thing is a good part of the fun for me!
I wish you the best of success for it (and I am totally not hoping to benefit fmyself ).
Any personal projects in the pipeline at the moment?
Got my eyes on some walls.
Haha! You are keeping it mysterious. Don’t you want to tip us off where we might find some of your work?
Come join the fun at The Carousel! Or do a workshop with Dizzy Ink, all good fun!
Almost all images in this article were provided by Craig. – Thank you! All images are used with permission.