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