Meet the maker

SOME­TIMES IT TAKES A WHILE TO FIND YOUR CRAFT. ARTIST SAM MAR­SHALL PRAISES THE PROCESS OF EX­PER­I­MEN­TA­TION

Mollie Makes - - INSIDE THIS ISSUE - Words: LARA WAT­SON Photograph­s: RACHAEL SMITH

Take a look in­side print­maker Sam Mar­shall’s gar­den stu­dio

Sam Mar­shall took an un­usual route into her cre­ative busi­ness. As a me­dia grad­u­ate of the Slade School of Fine Art, she worked in the film in­dus­try for many years be­fore be­com­ing a nu­tri­tion­ist and then com­plet­ing The Draw­ing Year at the Royal Draw­ing School in Lon­don. It was here that she’d learn etch­ing and print-mak­ing in her early thir­ties – “I had this crav­ing to get back to some­thing hands-on and or­ganic” – and it was this course that launched a new di­rec­tion for her ca­reer, in par­tic­u­lar when she started ex­plor­ing linocut print­ing a few years later.

Now spend­ing two or three days a week teach­ing at the Royal Draw­ing School and the rest of her time at her home stu­dio in ru­ral Northamp­ton­shire, Sam en­joys the bal­ance of city and coun­try, col­lege stu­dio and gar­den stu­dio. Pas­sion­ate about fos­ter­ing cre­ativ­ity, she opens her home to host reg­u­lar work­shops where stu­dents can meet her side­kick, her mini dachs­hund Miss Marple, cre­ate their own linocut prints and en­joy a nat­ter and some cake. We chat­ted about her playful, layered work, her love of an­i­mals and the sense of com­mu­nity that keeps her in­spired.

Where did it all be­gin? For me, my cur­rent set up re­ally started when I got rid of my stu­dio in Fish Is­land, Hack­ney and turned my sec­ond bed­room into a stu­dio in­stead. What I loved about linocut print­ing was that there’s no fancy equip­ment re­quired and you can do it at home. I made so much work that it opened up so many pos­si­bil­i­ties for me. I started sell­ing on­line on Etsy and then, when I moved out of Lon­don, I built a stu­dio in my gar­den and started tak­ing my­self more se­ri­ously – that was four years ago.

Why is na­ture such a source of in­spi­ra­tion for you? I’m a coun­try girl. I grew up in Lin­colnshire near the Fens, sur­rounded by the coun­try­side. I’ve

al­ways been drawn to an­i­mals – I’m much more in­ter­ested in them than in peo­ple. I like to give my an­i­mal por­traits hu­man per­son­al­i­ties. I once did a whole se­ries of in­ter­net date-in­spired an­i­mals. It was a way of pro­cess­ing the dates and what had tran­spired. Where some peo­ple might write a di­ary, I draw. The va­ri­ety of an­i­mal forms fas­ci­nates me – all the di er­ent shapes and ex­pres­sions. The quirkier, the bet­ter.

What do you love about what you do? It’s won­der­ful gath­er­ing the sto­ries that be­come the work. I have a camper van and Marple and I travel around the coun­try and I record our ex­pe­ri­ences – I sketch what I see, make notes of in­ter­est­ing events, take pho­tos and then re­turn to my stu­dio and draw. Draw­ing is at the heart of my prac­tice, the very foun­da­tion of what I do. I love carv­ing the lino it­self – it’s a very med­i­ta­tive process. I love the fi­nal stage too, where I’m just print­ing. It be­comes repet­i­tive. You can listen to an au­dio­book in the back­ground but you’re still work­ing!

Are there any el­e­ments you don’t en­joy? I don’t like pub­li­cis­ing my­self very much. I have a love/hate re­la­tion­ship with In­sta­gram. The money I make from my art is a bonus – my main in­come is from my teach­ing, so I make my prints just for me and I don’t need to mar­ket my­self hard. If peo­ple like it though, that’s great.

How would you de­scribe your brand aes­thetic? Playful and hu­mor­ous. My prints can be quite com­plex – the big­ger ones have lots of sto­ry­telling within them, and of­ten a more sin­is­ter side. If you look closely around the edges, there’s al­ways some­thing mys­te­ri­ous or in­ter­est­ing go­ing on. I like layered scenes with lots of depth.

Tell us about your cre­ative space – is it a functional area or more re­flec­tive of you? My stu­dio is a beau­ti­ful blue wooden, pur­pose-built space in my cot­tage gar­den. It’s just big enough to run work­shops from. I keep it very or­gan­ised – it’s my na­ture but there’s quite a bit of equip­ment in­volved in linocut print­ing so it has to be tidy. It’s not just mine in a way,

it’s a com­mu­nal space. I have lots on the walls, loads of books, it’s very colour­ful and busy. It’s ever-chang­ing, peo­ple come and go. It means my work gets seen a lot which is won­der­ful.

“I sketch what I see. Draw­ing is at the heart of my prac­tice, the very foun­da­tion of what I do.”

Is there any­one you look to for in­spi­ra­tion? My artis­tic in­flu­ences are from the big ex­hi­bi­tions in Lon­don – I went to see the Lee Kras­ner ex­hi­bi­tion at the Bar­bican re­cently and it was full of pow­er­ful paint­ings. My ‘old friends’ who are al­ways on my shoul­der are Eric Rav­il­lious, Ed­ward Baw­den, Enid Marx and Thomas Bewick. Per­son­ally, my col­leagues and friends inspire me. My artist friends are won­der­ful – we sup­port and nurture each other. You can feel quite iso­lated as an artist, but we’re all there to en­cour­age each other. In the tiny

vil­lage I live in, my next-door-but-one neigh­bour, Claire Mor­ris-Wright, is a fan­tas­tic print­maker. There are three or four di er­ent artists just in this vil­lage. Our styles are very di er­ent but we ap­pre­ci­ate each other and all have each other’s backs.

“That’s the won­der­ful thing about art – once you’ve made it, it be­longs to every­one.”

Who do you make your prod­ucts for?

I re­ally do just make for me. It’s a way to process how I live in the world. I have a fas­ci­na­tion with pi­geons, for in­stance – I al­ways felt a bit sorry for them in Lon­don – and a pi­geon print I made re­cently seems to have struck a chord with other peo­ple.

How do you want your prod­ucts to make peo­ple feel? Peo­ple tend to pick up some­thing that res­onates. A land­scape with beach huts for in­stance, or they might have a par­tic­u­lar a ec­tion for racoons. The art­work has come from my own per­sonal nar­ra­tive, but they’re think­ing about what that im­age means to them. That’s the won­der­ful thing about art – once you’ve made it, it be­longs to every­one else.

What’s your favourite piece of work? It’s al­ways the thing I’m work­ing on. It has to be. It’s an in­tense process you totally im­merse your­self in. My se­ries at the mo­ment is based on my trips with Miss Marple last year, and I’m re­ally en­joy­ing re­mem­ber­ing those times. Do you have any cre­ative goals? I want to keep learn­ing and keep ex­pand­ing my own work­shops. I have plans to open my stu­dio to peo­ple who’ve done my work­shops and let them con­tinue with their projects in a sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment. Some­where where peo­ple can make and share.

Any other mo­ti­va­tions? I have my sketch­book with me at all times. Strange en­coun­ters or in­ci­dents go in there. I love vin­tage books, prints from the 1800s and the cu­ri­ous crea­tures that ap­pear in the margins of Me­dieval manuscript­s. They’re the vi­su­als that ex­cite me.

Fi­nally, what cre­ative ad­vice would you have given your younger self? Keep ex­per­i­ment­ing. Don’t worry too much about find­ing your path early on. Just fol­low your pas­sions.

Visit www.sam­mar­shal­lart.com to find out about Sam’s up­com­ing work­shops, or fol­low her ad­ven­tures on In­sta @sam­mar­shal­lart.

Sam’s stu­dio space is pop­u­lated by lots of peo­ple vis­it­ing and do­ing work­shops, so it’s busy and ever- chang­ing.

01 01 “I was given my won­der­ful old press from my neigh­bour who res­cued it from a school.” 02 Pulling back the print is al­ways a mag­i­cal mo­ment. 03 Sam loves that dif­fer­ent peo­ple are drawn to dif­fer­ent prints. 04 The process of carv­ing the lino is Sam’s favourite as­pect of her work: “It can be­come quite med­i­ta­tive – that’s if it goes right of course!” 05 Ev­ery­thing starts with a draw­ing in Sam’s note­book.

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01 Sam tends to work on one se­ries of prints at a time. These are two of her lat­est, all about her ad­ven­tures with Marple in her camper last year. 02 Sam’s stu­dio sits in her coun­try gar­den, and is open to the pub­lic. 02

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