Wednesday 23 October 2013

Meet the Printmaker - Anna Harley

The latest of our artist interviews... we were delighted to catch up with Anna Harley. Amongst other things, Anna gives us an insight into her ancestry, influences and love of print...

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your work…What sort of prints do you make?
I completed a Masters Degree in Printmaking at UWE about five years ago and have been building up a body of work ever since, predominantly screenprints. While the work I make is rooted within the Landscape tradition, the fabric textures in my prints are an echo of my Scandinavian Arts and Crafts background and nomadic childhood. I now live with my family at the foothills of the Mendips, just South of Bristol and divide my time between my studio at home and Spike Print Studio in Bristol. I sell my work through galleries in London, Cardiff and Bristol and also have recently exhibited in London at The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, Bite: Artists making Prints and Battersea Affordable Arts Fair.

Catkins ( 76cm x 56cm)

Are you solely a printmaker or do you work in any other creative fields?
I now almost exclusively produce screenprints, though I have done a lot of painting in the past, mainly in oils and acrylic. I make a lot of things for my home – ranging from home made curtains and upholstery to the hand printed ceramic tiles that line my shower room! Working as a part time mathematics teacher ensures that there is a regular pay-check coming in and both mathematics and teaching are very creative processes.

What is your earliest recollection of making a print and what made you to want to do more?
I owe my preference for print to my Swedish lineage – my Great grandfather’s sister, Maja Fjaestad, was a well known artist in Southern Sweden. Maja’s paintings and prints decorated the walls of the houses of my relatives and I now even have a few of my own. I grew up surrounded by her work and that of the other Rackstad Artists; equivalent to the Bloomsbury group in England of the same time. The Rackstad colony and grounds, near Lake Racken in Sweden, are now preserved as a museum and art gallery. During an HNC course, I began to make very large scale (150cm x 100cm) woodcut prints. As a result of the large amount of cutting away necessary, I developed trigger finger, a RSI, and looked for another less damaging and quicker print method to use. Screenprint proved to be a flexible alternative print medium that had the added benefit of enabling me to incorporate digital imagery in my work. In a hangover from the relief print production, I still often create stencil cut outs from black card for screenprint exposure and use wood like textures as background to the silhouette imagery: I like the feel of a hand cut line and wood grain effect of chiffon moirĂ©.

Mini Print - Gold Leaf 

What inspires you and are there any themes or ideas that often run through your work? Inspirations for my work include; how it feels to be outside, tree silhouettes, passing seasons, the sky and how it changes from sunrise to evening, the weather..... Like a Jackdaw, I love things that sparkle and twinkle. I often use metallic pigments and, in a move that fully embraced my inner kitsch, I have recently made a snow print using white glitter.

Could you give us an insight into how and where you work?
I constantly collect material and ideas for new prints while gardening, or out walking in the countryside around where I live, in the foothills of the Mendips. I am lucky to have a North facing studio set up at home, where I draw and prepare artwork for printing. Once everything is ready, I make my screenprints at Spike Print Studio, in Bristol, where I have been a member for the last five years. Thanks to Spike Print Studio’s 24 hour access, I have been known to print through the night!...but the best time of day for me is early in the morning. I have a routine – apron on means it is time to work.

Mini Print - Sunrise

Printmaking is made up of lots of different processes, which aspect do you enjoy the most?
The screenprinting process suits my practice, because it allows me to build images in fine layers of ink, printing layer upon layer until I am happy with the final print. I use a combination of drawing, digital photography and objects directly exposed on the screen, to create these individual layers. I enjoy the tension this creates in my images – is the print based on a drawing or photograph? Is it attached to fabric, pencil marks or ink? While engaged in the creative process, I try to stay open minded about how the finished print will look, to allow the print to make itself – print is an extremely process led way of making art and allowing the unexpected to happen and taking advantage of these happy accidents allows the work to stay fresh and exciting. I love the drama of proofing a print; when suddenly everything comes together with the final layer of ink – and the print starts to sing. Once I am happy with the initial artists proof, I will then screenprint an additional number of limited edition prints, each matched against the artist proof, which I sign and edition (1/25, 2/25 etc). Because prints are produced in multiples, high quality prints are much more affordable than other forms of original art. I believe that original art belongs in people’s homes every bit as much as it belongs in public galleries and communal spaces, and with this in mind, I have recently made a series of mini-prints - small landscapes printed in editions of 80, with intention of making artwork that is affordable for all. These will be on sale in the shop during July and August.

Do you have a favorite tool or something you find invaluable when printing?
For the last few years I have almost exclusively printed up to the deckle edge of the paper – I think this is a more contemporary approach to print. Historically a paper margin of around six inches was left around the edge of the print and used to attach the print behind a mount ready to frame - all my work is now ‘float mounted’ so the print appears to float in its frame – celebrating, rather than hiding the print and the paper. The longer I spend as a screen-printer, the fussier I become about my materials. Where I was once perfectly happy with standard acrylic printing inks, I am now only really happy with the expensive higher quality pigment inks available from Lascaux..... I am also a real paper nerd – and love the quality of specialist, acid free, 100% cotton papers like the French artisan made, ‘Arches 88’ – expensive to buy, but worth every penny because of the print quality and archival features.

Starry Night

Can you share a little printing trick or secret with us?
Don’t work in isolation - Community is really important. The best thing I ever did was to become a member of Spike Print Studio, this gave me a base to work from and a readymade artistic community of fellow print makers, to spur me on, bounce new ideas around and help with advice and guidance when I come up against problems.

How would you like to develop your printmaking skills in the future?
Where to start? I make sure I enroll on at least one new course a year and I spend time each week talking to other members at Spike Print Studio about what they are making, in order to keep my work fresh and continually evolving. If I could introduce a few more days to each week, I would experiment across more print mediums. In the near future, I would like to mix embossing, laser and chine collĂ© with screenprint. Anything that involves breaking a few rules – in spite of my Scandinavian upbringing, I am secretly quite subversive…

Which printed publication do you most look forward to thumbing through?
Anything by Deborah Wye

Monochrome or multi-coloured?

A selection of six mini prints, all screen printed
Clockwise from top left: Gold Leaf, Autumn Beech, Sunrise, Starry Night, Sunset, Moon Fruit

Thanks Anna for sharing so much with us, your prints are truly beautiful!

Anna Harley is one of the many talented printmakers contributing to Volume 3 of The Print
Shop, October 2nd - November 3rd... Why not come along and have a look for yourself!

The Print Shop
Unit 6
Quakers Friars
Cabot Circus

Open Daily
Mon - Sat 10am - 6pm
Sun 11am - 5pm

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