House Portraits

Monday 25 September 2017

Pop up shop in The Civic, Barnsley

This year has been such an exciting one and I had a crazily busy Summer! So I’m being very useful now and showing you some exhibitions that my work was in, even though they are now over, because I’m very helpful like that! But I did share on my twitter, Facebook and instagram, so hopefully you didn’t miss them.

One of the exciting things was my ‘pop up shop’ artist showcase at The Civic, Barnsley.

Sheffield Town Hall Limited Edition Screenprint

Barnsley Town Hall and Yorkshire Terraces digital prints

The Civic reopened as a theatre and art space in 2009, after being closed for over ten years. My main memory before that was from when I performed in a dance show there as a very small child. My dance partner kindly jilted me as we were about to go on stage. Not knowing what to do, I ended up standing still with my back to the audience.* It was good to create a much nicer memory of the Civic in my adult life by showing my work here!

The curators at The Civic did a fabulous job of displaying my work…

Selection of mugs, prints, postcards, zine and colouring book,
available on my etsy shop.

Hand printed tote bags and selection of prints
including Sharrow Vale Road Screenprint

*My skills at thinking on my feet have improved greatly since my days of being a tap-dancing tot. In fact, I believe I am good at it, both in my career and in my freestyle dance moves (I left the choreographed dance world behind me soon after the incident).

Sunday 24 September 2017


Another show for my work this summer was in the Up There exhibition at APG Works gallery in Sheffield. My Sheffield Town Hall piece was selected to be displayed – here is me and my print at the preview evening!

You can still buy the Sheffield Town Hall screen print on my etsy shop.

Friday 22 September 2017

My illustrations and gifts at Calver Gallery, Bradford

This summer, I exhibited a selection of my pieces at the Calver Gallery at South Square Centre in Thornton, Bradford. A range of my screenprints were chosen along with my mugs, colouring book and Cantastic Cookbook zine as part of their Made:Yorkshire exhibition.

I am delighted to say that even though the exhibition has now ended, the Calver Gallery has remained a stockist - they have kept my pieces on display and are still available to buy.

South Square Centre is well worth a visit, it has a lovely gallery, shop and cafe in a very cute, historic building; in the village where the Brontes were born. Some of the other artists in this Yorkshire themed exhibition - whose work is seen alongside mine in these photos - were Sam Groom, Katch Skinner, Sonal Mistry and Maggie Magoo Designs. All of which are extremely talented and I was very proud to be showing with them.

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Happy bloggy birthday... six years on and a bit of creative reflection

I had a very spooky moment yesterday... well, a tiny bit spooky. Ok, not spooky at all but a massive coincidence! I had been thinking about blog post ideas and it popped into my head that I should look at what date it was when I started my blog, as it might be nice to look back at how much has happened since then. I looked and would you believe it, today is the anniversary of my first ever post.

My first post was made on the 14th June 2011. I was preparing for my degree show at the University of Huddersfield and was soon to go to Hallmark for two weeks, on a work placement. The work placement was a real kick start, as I was kept in as a freelancer after the placement and it set me along a path of being able to pay to live by doing something I loved, which was the first and most important goal!

I really don't encourage you to trawl through my old posts, they were random and a little cringey as I still finding my way - I was experimenting with styles and ideas that didn't always flow very well. Luckily this wasn't a problem for the greetings industry - the more styles I could do the better - and it has been fun to keep practising at this into my current position at UK Greetings. After taking a permanent position and in the meantime, completing an MA, the style of my 'own work' was still unformed, though looking back now, there were elements there that have become clear staples in my work today.

The project that made me realise just how much I loved
illustrating houses, tiles and bricks!
A crazy colourful illustration from my earlier BA portfolio,
still with little houses and shops in there.

My freelance career had turned into my employed career, so when I finished my MA in October 2014, there became a vacancy in my life again for 'my own stuff'. After a year of going back and forth with a few children's book agents - trying things, making changes, waiting to hear back - nothing was happening and I was feeling a bit lost. I had added to my portfolio but still felt unsure of what style was working best. But things finally started to fall into place... when I decided to stop trying.

Pieces I made for my children's book portfolio,
between finishing my MA and starting my business.

I must say that the phrase 'I decided to stop trying' should not be taken lightly. I don't recommend that anyone does this in most senses of the term. Especially teenagers and new graduates. I definitely don't mean 'stop trying, sit back and do nothing, I'm sure it will all work out'. This was about my style and I felt like I had enough experience and commercial eye to take a chill pill and let my drawings lead the way.

I had booked to do a screen printing course in September 2015 and eventually decided to draw some shopfronts to print from. I knew I had always loved drawing houses and shops and they had always appeared in my drawings at different points. It felt pretty unrelated to my children's book portfolio, so it was a relaxed break from the pressure I'd been putting on myself to get published. I really didn't know where it might take me, but after a little reassurance from some supportive friends that people might buy my drawings for their walls, I kept on drawing. My 'stopping trying' idea was literally to just draw the things I liked to draw and take a break from trying to get published, with the loose thought that I could make prints of my drawings and see if people buy them.

I kind of did a full circle after drawing buildings at uni in fineliners,
eventually coming back to doing what I love.
'Town' illustration, 2015
A print from my screen printing course at WYPW
I took some deep breaths and just drew shops.

This was all definitely a turning point, not just for my work, but for my own interpretation of creativity. Things fell into place as I let go of the end goals and made way for an organic process. I have built up a pretty big collection of work now - which I take to art markets and print fairs - but even with the amount of planning that takes, I am loving not knowing what it will lead to or what I might be working on this time next year.

Screen printed tote bags
A Colouring Book of Houses and Shops
Illustrated mugs, totes and colouring books from my etsy shop.
My little collection is building...
Do what you like doing and it will come together on it's own.

Some exciting things that have come up so far have been having my own pop up shop/artist showcase in The Civic, Barnsley; being asked to show work in an exhibition of Yorkshire artists and makers (details to follow soon) and selling at some lovely markets like Etsy Made Local and Peddler Market in Sheffield.

I've found my own way to get my work out there, feeling long since freed of the notion that I needed to be published. I get to communicate directly with all my customers, which is a joy every time. As for my 'style', it naturally formed itself quite quickly once I relaxed and just kept drawing. I wasn't going to stress anymore - I'm doing it for fun, because I love it.

Sheffield Town Hall screenprint in tonal blue and pink
The added process of screenprinting and my love for it
shaped a purpose and place for my drawings

Well I think that was suitably deep and reflective for a six-year-on post. Hope it wasn't too fluffy! Thankyou very much to anyone who reads my blog. Let's call a spade a spade - there's been some silly times and some boring times. But I think it's got more interesting lately and my blog finally has a purpose. Here's to the next six! (Or four rather... 'ten years on' would be way more catchy).

Saturday 13 May 2017

How is a screen print made?

Since I started printmaking (only a year and a half ago), I’ve explained to lots of people how screen prints are made. Having come across quite a few people who don’t know what they are, who can blame them for not seeing why they should pay more for a screen print over a digital print?

The super short version (in my case) is… they are handmade, limited edition, printed using archival inks and (usually) on acid free paper, so they are safe from discolouring or fading. I do like to experiment by printing on coloured/recycled papers too - these are not acid free and can discolour if placed in the sun, for example, so I price these prints much lower to reflect that. Whether on acid-free paper or not, a screen print should be looked after… You might be pushing your luck if you hang it above a radiator or in a damp room, for example, and a professional framer would use an acid free mount inside your frame, too.

Experimenting at printing on coloured paper

The digital prints I sell are printed on high quality, heavy weight board and are digitally press printed. You will get lots of joy out of them and they are a perfect choice if you want some purse friendly art to make your walls look beautiful! A screen print, however, would be more of a special purchase. Not only will it’s quality last for a lifetime, but it will be limited edition. Only so many have been made the same. It might be printed again in a different colour or variation, or brought out as a subsequent edition and marked clearly that it’s from an additional run. 

See the bottom left corner, usually, where the print is individually numbered out of how many prints were made. So if your print is marked 3/20, that means that only 20 were made of that variation. Prints can be numbered from 1/1 (a single print) to numbers in their hundreds or thousands. So the lower the out-of number, the more valuable it might be… especially if the artist makes it big! I keep my print runs short for now - I currently have no editions that are larger than twenty. Things can go wrong, too, so there is a number of prints that aren’t included in the edition because they’re not good enough.

An example of a print, numbered in the bottom left corner
(my signature goes over on the bottom right).

As well as its long lasting quality and limited edition; each print has, of course, been made by hand and has involved much more of the artists time and attention than you might realise… which leads me on to the juicy stuff… how a screen print is made! 

There is some labour and a lot of love that goes into a screen print. First of all we need the facilities. I make my prints at West Yorkshire Print Workshop in Mirfield. I choose a screen first - I hire it for the session, which means transferring my design to it first and then removing it at the end of the session. 

I coat the screen with a light sensitive fluid called Azocol, using a trough and a pulling action. You have to wear rubber gloves because it can be harmful to the skin, get the lid back on the tub as quick as you can so it’s not damaged by the light, then get the screen into the drying cupboard quick sharp before it’s exposed to too much light. Then you wait for about half an hour while it dries and you eat a sandwich or prepare your artwork.  

The first stage - the coated screen drying

Once the Azocol has dried, it’s then time to transfer the artwork to the screen, using a transparent overlay. There are different ways to create the overlay, but the way that suits my work best is to scan my drawings in and then print them on to transparent film. The screen is placed inside a large UV light exposure unit, with the artwork overlay underneath. A lid is closed and a vacuum is used to hold everything in place, while the screen is exposed to the UV light for a set amount of time. 

My artwork on acetate, ready to transfer to the screen
The screen inside the light exposure unit, note the vacuum action!

Once the screen is taken out of the exposure unit, it is then washed. The areas that were blocked from the UV light will wash away from the mesh, leaving a stencil behind, ready to print from. It needs to dry first, so time for another sandwich or cutting paper/mixing ink. Once the screen is dry, it’s ready to print from, hooray! 

Block colour stencil transferred to the silk screen
Linework layer on a separate screen (I printed both layers on different days)

The screen gets clamped into a frame to keep everything in the same place throughout printing. Paper is held in place using a vacuum bed. I mix my ink with a medium that will help it push through the mesh without drying too quick and then use a squeegee to push the ink through the screen on to the paper. This is the bit that feels amazing! 

The screen clamped in place

Multicolour squeegee action!
I swear not all my prints are in pink!

Using the squeegee to push the shiny, rolling pile of ink downwards feels lovely and it’s then so exciting to lift up the frame and screen to see how the print has come out. There can be some troubleshooting along the way, as they don’t always come out perfect. You have to work quick, so that the ink doesn’t dry into the mesh and block the stencil. It is meditative and I always have a moment when I think, ‘I haven’t been thinking about anything else since I got here!’ and my mind feels very clear. It’s a lovely, therapeutic process.

Lifting the screen to reveal the result

Happy prints, drying on the racks
After that comes the sad bit… cleaning the screen. Wearing rubber gloves and goggles, the screen has to be coated with a chemical called Pregasol and left to sit for a few minutes, while the pretty picture starts to fade. It feels like on Mary Poppins when it starts raining and the chalk picture land gets ruined. 

Sad screen about to be washed
Printing in the summer = sweaty brow.
I haven't been wearing these the whole time...
just for the Pregasol.

The screen is sprayed clean with a pressure washer, which removes all traces of Azocol (the chemical we used at the beginning) and the design. If you have your own screens and want to keep the design on for next time, you can just wash the paint off. I don’t have my own screens yet, but hopefully this year I will be getting some and that will save me some time.

Well, I’ve written a right proper essay. If you’re still reading, thankyou! I hope you learnt something and feel a bit more knowledgable next time you’re looking round a print fair.

For further geeking out, here are some links I’ve found helpful in the past… and of course, you can check out my range of both digital and screen prints here.

A good little explanation of acid-free paper:

Quick tips on signing prints:

Some further explanation of different print edition initials:


Monday 3 April 2017

The Cantastic Cookbook - a quirky little cookbook zine that celebrates the contents of your tin stash!

Hello boys and girls!

I'm sorry it's been a little while. I like to babble you see, so I seem to think I need time to babble if I'm going to sit and blog. But I know I should blog more and babble less so here's a quick hello and an update on one of my latest projects... The cantastic cookbook.

The Cantastic Cookbook on my etsy shop

I decided to make a cookbook zine when I was preparing for Sheffield Zine Festival in February. I was told by one of the organisers that my work would fit in well, even though I didn't have any zines exactly. Securing a place at the zine festival seemed like the perfect excuse to set myself the challenge of producing my first zine.

Some bits from my sketchbook

A lot of people have asked me what a zine is, so incase you don't know, it's basically a self made publication, often on a (sometimes very niche) topic or theme that the maker or writer is passionate about. And I'm passionate about food. Very! Food is my hobby and I love to think and talk about it as much as possible, as well as eat it. So a cookbook zine was the natural result of my brainstorming. I am also a very thrifty lady and I pride myself on my moneysaving weeks between food shops (struggling artist and all that), when I get creative with what's in my cupboards when all the fresh things have gone.

All the copies were hand folded and stapled,
with the covers printed on lovely multi-coloured sugar paper

I definitely want to make more food zines in future - there are so many cross referenced collections in my notebook of different things I make for different reasons... I'm a big believer in medicinal cookery and will tell anyone who will listen! Some people won't believe that there are foods that can help stop a cold in it's tracks for example. I'll save that for another day, anyway, or another zine...

I do feel like quite a healthy lady and there was a time when I couldn't imagine feeling like that. It's happened over a long time, but if you'd have told me five years ago that I would end up over four stone lighter (or that I would love mushrooms, or get a kick out of kidney beans), I wouldn't have believed you. Don't get me wrong, my love for food combines treaty things with lots of healthy food too. But I think it was still worth noting that I'm quite mindful with food and that the recipes are balanced, use lots of veg, don't involve any suspicious processed ingredients and are pretty low in fat and sugar.

That was the serious part! But rest assured my zine is actually quite silly and hopefully a bit funny. Producing it as a zine made me feel more comfortable in being myself and letting my quirky humour be free. Readers will hopefully get to know me a little and laugh a bit at the same time.

I shall leave it there and hope that people let me know what they think!

Here is the link if you want to get your mitts on a copy for just £3. It is also currently available to buy in my Artist Showcase in The Civic, Barnsley.

Thankyou for reading, have a fantastic or cantastic day (whichever suits). Guess I did have time to babble after all!

Friday 10 February 2017

The Makery in Barugh Green, Barnsley

I have a new local stockist!

I recently discovered that The Makery in Barugh Green is run by the staff and students from Greenacre School, a school in Barnsley for children and young people aged 3-19 with severe and complex needs.

It is such a lovely space - half of the shop is stocked with high quality, crafted items made by both local makers and the learners at Greenacre. The other half is laid out as a vintage inspired cafe, serving homemade cakes and afternoon teas. With it's open plan layout, it's nice to see the table at the back, behind the counter area, where students learn together and where crafting sessions for children's birthday parties take place. It has a lovely, calm atmosphere and a perfect place to stock my work I thought.

The Makery has stocked a selection of my 
illustration prints, colouring books and mugs.

Shopping and eating at The Makery is a lovely way to support both the school and local makers - with donations from artists' sales going towards the school - the cafe and shop provides a place where students can learn in a vocational environment and get work experience. Locally crafted items include home decor and gifts, greetings cards, knitted delights and framed artwork.

To find out more about The Makery, you can visit their Facebook page here.

The Makery, Barugh Green Road, S75 1JT

Opening Hours:
Monday - Wednesday 9am-5pm
Thursday 10am-4pm
Friday 9am-5pm
Saturday 9am-4pm
Closed Sundays