This week we delve deep into the creative world of Studio Pinnock, who’s intricate lino printed cityscapes and hand-drawn seascape lampshades have captured our hearts. Emma shares her artistic process, how she started making lampshades and talks us through how she transforms a simple sketch into her stunning range of monochrome shades. Passionate about a good cuppa, Emma clearly loves living the creative life and he work makes us want to look up at architecture more…and escape to the seaside!
Hi there! How are you today and what’s on your workbench?
I am good today thank you for asking, just back from some time away at home in Gateshead. I am currently working on Newcastle/Gateshead lampshade that is hand-drawn and taken from a design that was a commission last year Alongside this, I have a list of lino prints waiting to be made and printed and drawings to work on as well as designing some new notelet cards.
How do you start the design process and where do you get your inspiration?
My more abstract pieces are inspired from visits to the coast, I work on loose sheets of paper and sketchbooks for these. My more graphic lino prints are inspired by architecture. I start anything with drawings, fairly loose sketches and then I build them up depending on whether I see them becoming a lino or a more abstract piece.
When I decide on a lino, I then decide on whether I want it to be adaptable to work on a shade, if so, the drawing is then worked to certain dimensions. If say I am working on a city lino print, I work to approx. 21 cm high so that I know it will fit in a standard mount and also work as a lampshade. It might not feature on both but it is easier doing this at an early stage rather than later! One of my first linos of London really annoys me that it doesn’t work on a shade! I’d have to chop off Big Ben which just doesn’t work. This ‘mistake’ did lead me into drawing directly onto the fabric which in reflection was a catalyst to a whole new range of work. The start is always drawing.
How would you describe your style?
I find it difficult to describe my style as I use different media and would say I have two different ways of working that’s always evolving. Jess, who I write the blog Babble and Yak with, says that she can tell what I have done no matter what the media/product is. I think it helps that I keep to a certain colour palette. I do love colour, but I very rarely use it. I try I suppose to give a sense of a place, whether it is at the coast or in a city centre. I also make things personal, either from my perspective and experience or for the person it’s been commissioned for.
I have also been doing some workshops on portraits but that’s definitely a work in progress, although I love the idea of putting these images on to shades too.
You’re clearly a talented lino printer. When did you start to lino print and where does your love of printing come from?
You’re too kind! I took up lino print while on my MA in Fine art at Sunderland University. I’ve always loved print as a process and specialised in screen printing for my degree. I have been so lucky to have really strong female lecturers throughout my art education, and Virginia Bodmin on my MA just encouraged me to give it ago. It’s really self-taught, but I was supported and I have definitely made mistakes!
One of my first lino prints was of my grandma’s wedding veil pattern, I did it in both positive and negative just so I could physically see the difference in what happens to the print depending on what you cut out or what you leave. It escalated quite quickly and I find the whole process of carving the lino out really quite therapeutic. Some of my lino boards are just as beautiful as the final print.
I think my love of print comes from my love of wallpaper and fabric. I love visiting national trust properties, the V&A, the costume museum in Bath. Sometimes I think that I am old fashioned in my thinking and appreciate more traditional print techniques. (I would say etching, mono, lino and screen printing -screen printing when it's used in certain ways) I like to see the marks of the artists/makers.
What’s your favourite creative technique?
Drawing, drawing and more drawing!
It really is a massive part of what I do and is so very important to me. Its an instant reaction to a person place or thing and can be done with the simplest things. Some of my best work and ideas have come out of what I call printing days where I just have a few plates inked up, a few sketches laid out and some photos to work from and just go with it.
Mono printing is something that I am using more and more to really investigate a place or a reaction to a place. The thing I love about mono printing is that you really only get one image and it fails more often than it works (well in my case anyway!) but there’s always something that I love about it, a mark made with a found object or a finger or the back of a paintbrush that sparks something which I repeat and repeat until I get somewhere. It's very much a process that is quite fluid.
You mention that you’re starting to draw more. How is this working its way into your work?
Initially I used drawing as a starting point for an idea, and a way to map prints out. When printing I am a firm believer that if your drawing is good your print will be good.
If I am being honest, I was scared initially to put my drawn work out there, especially the abstract pieces. Gradually however they slowly crept into my shows and got a lot of attention on social media. I decided to start showing these and they started to sell, they now outsell my lino prints.
How did you start out making lampshades?
I mentioned earlier that I had this London lino print, and someone had asked me to make it into a lampshade. However, the turnaround and cost of cutting and then printing a lino would be a lot and I just thought well hang on, I mock-up drawings before I do anything, why not just draw onto the fabric? The customer requesting it was open to this idea and it just worked.
Once I have the image laid out, it’s a reasonably quick process to copy it onto another piece of fabric. The ink I put down, sometimes before and sometimes after the drawing is loose making each shade slightly different but with the same structure. This design has even featured on some wallpaper.
When did you start making lampshades
I scrolled back to the 6th of February 2016 on Instagram! That’s when I posted about the workshop I attended with Sam Sterken at Ministry of Craft and who also demonstrates the Dannells You Tube videos! So 4 years ago now. I had got to a point where I felt like paperwork is fine but not everyone has wall space and I had visited William Morris’ house in Walthamstow and saw a quote of his ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’ I was aiming for both beauty and useful. I am sometimes a control freak so I wanted a product that I had a lot of control over, I wanted to be able to make as much of the finished piece as I could.
What’s your favourite part of the lampshade making process?
For me it's very much when you attach the panel to the plastic and roll it along the rings and turn over the edges. It’s only then I get a real sense of the final shade and generally get the relief of yes this works! It's like the peel back of the paper from a lino block. You’re seeing a flat panel curve around and it takes on a totally different feel.
In your online shop what’s your most popular selling shade?
My most popular shade, is the abstract landscape/seascape shade. It’s the one I get asked for the most as well. Some people have given me photos or if I can, I have visited the place to try and get that feel in the work. Size-wise its 30 cm diameter drum shade.
What’s the mix of shades you make to sell online versus lampshade commissions, as part of your business?
I do more commissions now. As soon as I offered the service, it was taken up. And this is roughly 50/50 with the hand-drawn cityscapes and the more abstract painted land/seascapes. Because I draw most of the pieces now, it's fairly easy to slot in different buildings that are personal to the person.
I made a lovely small shade with the Wimbledon Windmill, the arch de triumph and the clock tower at Weymouth in, as a Christmas present, from son to father. These were all places he had lived and I loved being able to do that for someone. I sell well at shows, but the shades I take are more showpieces for what I can potentially do. I also like to re-cover old shades and have been asked to do this a few times, it lets me play around with different scales and shapes you don’t really see.
Any tips for new lampshade makers in business?
Do a course! It really helped me and it opened up a whole new area for me, then really experiment. One massive thing I have found and it really saves my poor hands is using a butter knife to turn the fabric under the rings-its fairly blunt and thin and the extra length really does help when working with odd shapes and sizes.
Have you branched out into teaching any workshops?
It’s something I have been asked a lot about! I do teach lino printing and do other workshops though, but not for shade making at the moment.
A lot of your shades focus on cityscapes – what’s your favourite city and why?
Well I am totally biased but it’s the combination of Gateshead Newcastle. There is a lot of lovey buildings and art up there and its home. It features more and more in my work, especially the sea scenes. If you have never been up the East coast it's beautiful. You can drive the coast route most of the way up to the borders. Grey Street in Newcastle formed my first Christmas cards and is my second top-selling shade. I am currently working on getting my lino print of Gateshead Newcastle onto a screen so I can make this into shades in the not to distant future.
What are the values that you base your business on?
It's really important to me that the work is created by me. I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve this and I have had to use other processes when it comes to supporting products like postcards and notelets, but I don’t currently digitally print anything else. I did look at this when starting to explore wholesale and getting my work into shops but it doesn’t sit well with me.
Personally, I find something lovely in the mark of the maker which I feel gets lost or muted in a digital reproduction. This might change in the future and its something I struggle with, but it works and is a point I always come back to. Perhaps it’s that control freak coming back out?
When are you at your most productive?
When I have a list! I LOVE a list!
I try to keep to a working day time, so an ideal day would be out first thing for some fresh air/walk/run/Pilates and then home and start working 9-6. Doesn’t always happen but I know last year I spent a lot of late nights working and it wasn’t good for me. I work weekends most weekends as I do teach/supply during the weeks when needed.
And your favourite sustenance when you’re working?
A cup of tea, decaf and green especially of a minty variety. I don’t drink and spend a lot of money at Bird and Blend tea shop https://birdandblendtea.com/uk_en/LINK . Food-wise if I know I am working all day, I will have a decent breakfast and then tea when I am done. Nobody wants an inky sandwich!
Could you let us take a peek at your workspace?
I work from home, so it's my bedroom 😊 I have a designated space and an inspiration board. This includes postcards (I buy these a lot! One day I will wallpaper a room with them all) pieces of fabric, photographs, sketches, pieces of art I have bought hanging alongside my wall planner and calendar. I also have a printing press.
Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
I would love to be making and selling full time. Have my own studio space, probably in my own home, have regular stockists, painting more, living by the sea with a couple of dogs and as much tea as I can drink!
What have you learned that’s been invaluable to your creative process?
I need to trust myself and what I am doing. I have in the past made work that I think people will like, and not shown what I really want to do. With time, and confidence it is coming out more but it has taken a while. If people buy into you and what you’re doing, they will buy into your work. And if you’re not making work important to you, it won’t be important to other people. This in itself is a work in progress! Also draw, draw draw!!
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