How did you develop your distinctive style?
I'd describe myself as a graphic artist, as opposed to designer. It took me a long time to work out I wasn't a fine artist. I love process, getting messy, printmaking, collage, drawing, but I also feel the need to add a graphic element to my work. I am in love with typography. I'm starting to realise I've held myself back from solely working with typographic form, but I think that's what I might allow myself to do next. I didn't make any work for a long time until I did a MA Teacher Maker course- this restored my confidence and reminded why I'd chosen to teach art in the first place. I owe a lot too, to the TEA (Thinking Expression Action) project that Susan Coles ran in 2012- that was the beginning of this fantastic journey of creativity, of meeting people and sharing that I've happily been a part of since then.
Humour is very important to me in my work too. I love the freedom sketchbook circle allows, the 'no rules' (no criteria) freedom to push ideas and play. Comics and children's books are a rich source of ideas for me I like seeing Minnie the Minx or Dick Dastardly make a subtle little appearance in my work. I buy a lot from eBay, I find this a great source for finding ephemera that can act as a starting point for a piece of work.
About 10 years ago I started graphics courses within my department at Sandbach School. This forced me to learn how to use Photoshop- this opened up so many possibilities for me within my work. I use it as a tool to treat images rather than as a way of producing an outcome in its own right. I like my work to have an 'analogue', not digital feel to it.
What are the main sources of inspiration in your life and work?
In my work, I often include an autobiographical element in some way; for my masters final project my work was all about a family archive and referenced family documents, including letters and envelopes, travel (I travelled a lot as a child between my parents' houses, buses and trains. The Manchester bus logo and the British Rail logo were highly charged symbols for me.) I also used my family's history as a vehicle to explore process, using letters exchanged between my dad and my Grandma when he was travelling in the 60's, documents such as my Grandma's Communist Party membership card and my Grandad's papers from his time in the international brigade fighting in The Spanish Civil War. It was a way of exploring my identity. Linking myself to my past and remembering my dad and his parents. I am interested in archiving experiences and memories; using archival methods of presentation to lend resonance to personal ephemera.
In my life, my family inspires me. And as a 44 year old mother of 2 young boys, being healthy and happy is what inspires me and what I aspire to. Being creative and finding my own path are really important to me and part of being happy. I'm inspired by the many brilliant people I've met over my career, and more recently, the Sketchbook Circle community. I am also inspired by many of the students that I teach. Teaching is about developing trust and confidence. I feel privileged that my students trust me and I love the feeling of seeing them discover and flourish through their work.
What projects are you working on?
Since becoming involved as a facilitator for Sketchbook Circle in 2014, that takes up a lot of my time and occupies my thoughts a great deal. Elinor Brass and I have more ideas than we have time, but I'm very excited about the future of the project and about being part of growing this fantastic community. I am currently working on ideas for classes for adults in a community learning context and following this, Elinor and I have ideas for online courses. I'd like to work towards being freelance, doing more large scale projects, but I don't feel ready to leave the classroom totally just yet.
Can you tell us a little bit about your working process?
I love working with prepared papers, printmaking, cutting, found images, digital processes and ideas around juxtaposition. I tend to have a pile of stuff around me as I work- folders of papers, bits of work I may have previously disregarded. I don't tend to have a set idea about what I'm going to make, but trust my instincts as a piece develops. I sometimes think I'm too concerned with aesthetics- sumptuous textures, typographic form, visual clichés that can appear again and again in my work. If I had more time to make work, I think I'd draw more, like I used to when I was in my late teens and early 20's, when i was happy with a graphite stick, a rubber and a sketchbook.
When do you make work?
I approach making work like most things in life- I'm a bit all or nothing. At the moment due to my other commitments I'm not making much time to work, which is something I intend to remedy this summer! When I do work, it tends to be in the evenings. My tiny workroom at home is about to become my youngest son's bedroom, so I'll be back to the kitchen table; papers and paints overflowing.
What is the best piece of creative advice you've been given?
One of the most important people in my career was the late, great Keith Walker, PGCE & MA Tutor at MMU (amongst many other things.) When I started my MA, It wasn't a single piece of advice he (along with co-tutor Jane Parker) gave me, but a stream of subtle encouragement, asking the right questions which led to healthy reflection and a building of my confidence. He encapsulated how to be a good art teacher through his passion and belief in all those he worked with.