My inspiration is the beautiful Yorkshire countryside

Artist Lucy Tomlinson takes over the blog today to talk about her first forays into art and how she came to be a professional artist.

I am a self-taught artist, living in Rawdon, and surrounded by the beautiful Yorkshire Countryside, which is where I get most of my inspiration, particularly when out walking my dog, Jasper.

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After giving up work when my children were born, I discovered after lots of art and crafts sessions and one in particular, a children’s watercolour session at our local café, that I was in fact quite arty! I have always found it difficult to find art for my own house, so I decided to try and create my own.  A few hours later and I had produced a colourful hare, which is still framed in my lounge.

I was hooked and any spare time was spent painting in watercolour, most commonly wildlife, hares, bees and flowers.  I love to paint them in different colours to their natural state.

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I then decided to get some of my images printed by a local company to make notebooks and cards.

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Around this time, I was also training to be Teaching Assistant after trying to get back to work whilst still being able to be at home for my children.  I had previously volunteered at school for many years so it seemed like natural progression.  I finished my training and immediately got a part time position at my local primary school, however, after a year my hours were cut due to financial constraints.  I decided to embrace the situation and put all my efforts into my artwork.

I also got the bug for Abstract Acrylic Pour Paintings. They are just fabulous to do and so addictive.  Due to the process and the many ways or “pouring” each one is completely unique. My studio (kitchen and dining room) are full of them, either drying, waiting to be varnished or the finished item and I often post videos of the process on my Instagram site.

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I opened my Etsy shop and contacted lots of local businesses, a few of which now have my work in.  I have done craft fairs and met many other arty people. I have displayed my work in a shop in Leeds and am about to have my abstract acrylic pours in a gallery/framers in Otley.   I also have lots of plans for other products with my artwork on.

Lucy will be at Design@HEART on Saturday 9th June at  HEART Centre, Bennett Road, Headingley, Leeds LS6 3HN

I never intended this to be something for other people to see

Photographer Kelly Marsh takes over the blog this week, ahead of her first appearance at Design@HEART in June.

I’m a self-taught photographer. I never intended this to be something for other people to see. It’s always been something I have primarily done for myself.  But then it turned into a business!  I guess you could say that it really took off for me when I was joking about holding a gallery show for my birthday and then suddenly people were encouraging me and I ended up getting fully funded on Kickstarter to put on a show which I did in October.

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I take photos because it works as a kind of mindfulness meditation for me allowing me to refocus on the world rather than myself. I‘ve been diagnosed with acute anxiety and I find that when I take photos my mind is quietened and I am able to just enjoy what I am doing. This means that a lot of the time I can’t remember where I last put my phone but I can tell you the location (as far as I ever knew it) and what I was doing there for every photo I have ever taken.

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My workspace can be anywhere. If the weather is bad outside I will take pictures indoors, of my home or my clothes – whatever has caught my eye at the time. A lot of my photos and my inspiration is centred on nature. As an engineer I spent a lot of time learning about how nature has optimised itself to be strong and durable and I’m always fascinated about how this contrasts with how beautiful nature is at the same time. I also love a good steam train!

I think one of the things I love most about doing this is that I love finding common ground with people. Even if people don’t come and buy something they will often comment on my pictures, telling me which are their favourites or memories they have associated with what I have taken. Sometimes I get to learn a cool bit of history about Leeds or a cool place to go shoot too.

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The best bit of the whole process is the show. I’ll have an exhibition in HEART Centre at the time of the fair and its going to be 20 photos. It’s super stressful at the moment trying to plan out everything that I want to include and what I want to say but I know as soon as it goes up on the wall I’ll feel really happy to share my perspective with people.

My all time fan is my partner. He is always pushing me to share my photos and is my biggest supporter. If I am struggling with anything he is the one I turn to for advice. He does the framing for me, because I can’t get the prints in straight. He also bought a whole bunch of my photos and put them all round the house!

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There’s some projects that I would like to do that will require a lot of planning and a space to display them once they are done. I’d like to do a project focusing on mental health and highlighting the difference between how we feel and how we are perceived. I’d also like to do a set of photos around female beauty and what it means to be a woman but these will require me to get a lot of practice in photographing people. I’m hoping to start the planning and practice in the new year after I have finished my PhD. As for the business side of things- I’m hoping to have sold enough images that I could buy a wide angled or macro lens for my camera.

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Kelly will be at Design@HEART on Saturday 9th June.  She sells various different sized prints, framed or unframed and is also happy to take commissions based on a specific theme. Don’t forget to check out the exhibition of her full exhibition while you are in HEART.

 

 

“Probably the thing I enjoy most is playing” Liz Samways talks jewellery and printmaking

Liz Samways’ work will be familiar to those of you who’ve been coming to craft fairs at HEART for a while. A jeweller and print maker, her work reflects her love of landscape and the natural world.   We caught up with her to find out how she got started and her practice.

I’ve always wanted to be a jeweller, ever since visiting Camden Market in my teens and seeing all the jeweller types who had lifestyles which seemed very exotic. While I was doing my ‘real’ jobs it was always there in the background. When my youngest child had gone to nursery I thought I would give it a go professionally.

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Before then I had studies History of Art as my first degree, worked in industrical canteens, factories, Asprey on Bond Street, an Estate Agency, in sales and marketing for Royal Mail, and then retrained in horticulture and garden design and as an ESOL teacher. Quite a list!

To a certain extent I’m self taught, but I did evening classes at Leeds College of Art and Swarthmore with Roger Barnes, during the mid-nineties for jewellery, more recently weekend workshops for printmaking. There’s also been a lot of helpful friends offering technical advice and suggestions along the way.

My first makers’ fair was back in 2011. It was quite a landmark, taking my work out there to the public. Since then, there’s been many more memorable moments: getting my work accepted ito the Craft & Design Gallery in Leeds, where for years I had admired other people’s work, and later being invited to take part in their “Walk In The Park” exhibition. Driving over the hills from Skipton back to Leeds after my first “Art In The Pen” event, having met loads of enthusiastic customers, having fellow makers as good friends, and realising I had finally become the sort of person I’d seen at events when I went as a customer; and my first trade fair which was incredibly daunting, but with a lot of help and advice from other makers I managed it and did well.

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The most important consideration for me, when designing a piece of jewellery, is wearability! Will the piece stay the ‘right way up’ for instance, in the case of bangles or stud earrings, ….how will it wear over time? Will it feel comfortable on the body? Also, Will it look good up close and from a distance? Is it something I haven’t seen before? Can I see my customer (we should all have one in our mind’s eye) wearing it? And of course, very importantly, is it within my technical capabilities?!

I use engraving, etching and rolling to make the textures in the metals I use, then cut and solder to layer together. Although I do work things out in sketchbooks, I find a lot ends up as lists of words! (working out technical details and the order in which to work). I hardly ever sketch out a finished design which I work towards, it’s usually a more random process. Often I just have bits of cut up and textured metal around me and I play around putting shapes together till something looks good – I maintain that this is a legitimate design technique as I learnt it through my garden design training! To finish the piece and add the darkness I like, I use traditional patination techniques, selectively polished for contrast, and sealed with a wax.

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For the enamelling I use a small kiln and build up layers and layers of colour in various combinations, remembering to make notes as, although I use a lot of different colours, they come from a fairly limited and subtle palette so it’s easy to forget what I’ve used! I work in much the same way as I build layers of ink in prints, through overlapping, masking, and sometimes adding in other elements such as metal leaf or wire.

Probably the thing I enjoy most is playing around! The fact that inspiration is everywhere and I have a legitimate business reason for experimenting with shapes and textures, learning new techniques and meeting lots of other creative people.
The thing I’m not so keen on is juggling orders and the logistics of producing several pieces at the same time, though my experience working in various factories in my youth comes in surprisingly handy when planning my working processes.

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I started off because I’m a terrible magpie and I wanted to make things for myself. It was later that it developed into something I thought I could make a successful business out of. I love working in print and jewellery because there are so many ways they influence each other, and I constantly have ideas working both ways. I love the unpredictability of the surfaces involved in both processes.

When you give up a successful career

Julie Ashworth is our latest designer-maker to take over the blog.  Like many of us, it’s not her first career.  Read how she gave up a successful career as an author and created  award-winning greetings card company, Yoojoo.

Designing and making greeting cards isn’t my first career, I originally trained as a teacher of Art & Design and English and taught English as a foreign language in Greece, Mexico and France. This led on to a successful career writing and illustrating award winning language books.


When my family flew the nest I found myself in search of a new challenge and it was friends who pointed the way to a new career. I like to give them hand made gifts at Christmas and used my new found skills (acquired from the jewellery making course I did at Leeds College of Art & Design) to make bookmarks of their favourite animals. I put each one inside a card and drew a scene around the animal and it was from there that my card business started to take shape.

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Zig zag fold card and stainless steel bookmark gift

So, I had a product but next came the challenge of turning it into a business and creating a brand and I had to drag myself (kicking and screaming) into the 21st century by learning computing skills to facilitate production and promotion.

The name Yoojoo appeared after a moment of self doubt about my illustrating skills when a friend uttered the wise words; “Look, you either use it or you lose it!”. This sparked the idea that you also use a bookmark or lose your page and the ‘oo’ sound in ‘use’ and ‘lose’ started spinning around in my head, got mixed up with Jue (which some people call me) and suddenly the word ‘Yoojoo’ appeared!

It hasn’t been easy starting again but I have enjoyed the journey (friends would probably question this remark as they get to listen to me whinging as I grapple with each new challenge!) and I am proud of the greeting card company that I have created, and the awards that it has won.
The one thing I don’t like about running a business is having my photo taken!

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A very young Julie receiving the English Speaking Union Award from Prince Philip in 1992

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A much older Julie with her British Craft Trade Fair Greeting Card Award certificate in 2016

Meet the maker

Trying to be invisible!

Yoojoo will be at the Design@HEART Art and Craft Fair on Saturday 9th June.