My journey to printmaking was not through formal classes but rather a journey of self-discovery. One school holiday when I was sixteen my uncle taught me silkscreen printing and I took to it immediately, starting my first business – screen printed shoulder bags for a travel company. I stumbled across an off-cut of lino on the art room floor in my last year of high school and kept it in my paint box at home.
I love to create with a sense of my everyday world around me. My printing process is intentionally very paired back and most often takes place in my kitchen. Its such a contrast to my professonal work which is so exact and reliant on communication through many digital mediums.
Ten years later when I was pregnant with my first child, I found that discarded piece of lino from my high school years in my art supplies and sketched a little scene of my living room on its surface with a pen. I found mum’s old sculpture tools in the tool box under the sink and watched the l lino peel back as the knife progressed along the long thin line. When the whole image was traced in this way I brushed over the lino surface with some green fabric paint I had left from my screen printing days and pressed down a sheet of A4 paper … moving evenly across the surface with my open palm and then lifting it back to reveal a little picture back the front. It was so exciting, mysterious and immersive.
When my son Ben was 10 months old I went to live in Philadelphia. Distanced from my family and my career and feeling very isolated in my new role as mother, I found myself searching for something to fill the empty spaces in my day. In a back street in West Philladeplphia I found an art supply shop and purchased a set of ‘proper’ lino tools and a few sheets of lino. That night on my kitchen table, while my baby slept, I began to transfer the sketches from my journal across to this new medium. (this time the right way round). I didn’t realise, until later when I was exposed to the work of Margaret Preston, that you weren’t meant to cut out the lines but the spaces(!)
Being a mum changed things
Motherhood seemed to create the perfect environment for me to record my more personal creative side. It gave me the philosophical distance, emotional closeness and physical tiredness(!) to look at life from a different perspective. I began adding words and stories and layered on the ink with different rollers rather than painting in the spaces. I was finding my voice, my story, and developing a rougher more impressionistic style as I went.
I had plenty of time during the winter months in Philadelphia to think of Australia, and plenty of mixed emotions about motherhood and womanhood. As I recorded these moments I came to realise that perhaps other women shared these feelings too. As my observations became keener, a wry sense of humour seemed to rise from the silence carrying me from one lino to the next. The carpet was littered with lino cuttings and the sink was filled with ink and there was always a great sense of resolution when the first print was gently peeled off.
Ever since then I have been chipping away through the large and small events in my life, recording my thoughts, feelings and observations. The kitchen table is still the center of my creative space.