Here we are with Squeegee Club Interview Vol. 2 and we're so SO chuffed that the wonderful Jane Foster agreed to chat all things screen printing with us! We have been avid fans and Instagram followers of Jane since we started our own screen printing journey all those years ago. Like us she is a huge fan of Dick Bruna (the creator of Miffy) and bold, simply, playful design. She also has the most beautiful studio ever! So grab a cuppa and enjoy, then head to Jane's links at the bottom of the interview!
Hi Jane! Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you first got in to screen printing?
My first introduction to screen printing was when I was a teenager at secondary school. I had a really cool Art teacher called Mrs Bruce who had thick black eye liner, thick black hair and was an amazing artist. I loved her style, she was very kind and she believed in me. (which always helps!) I wasn’t great at ‘life drawing’ or sketching with charcoal but I absolutely loved the technique of screen printing as I loved the flat bold colours you could create on paper and fabric. She let me have my own table by the window to print on during lunch breaks and she also let me listen to my own music through my little Walkman. (I’m showing my age!) She had a long roll of cotton fabric in the Art Cupboard (I still remember that wonderful cupboard today!) and let me screen print my own curtains using cut out paper stencils.*Little did I know that it would then be 20 years later that I would then discover the love of screen printing again!
You have a very distinct bold style, where do you get your inspiration and influences from?
Thank you! I’ve always loved bold primary colours as I was born in 1970. My parents had quite funky taste - my Mum shopped in Habitat on Tottenham Court Road and I rememberer a wonderful bright green sofa with chrome arms! She liked Marimekko fabrics which I also grew up loving. She also loved simple Danish design with no frills.
Like us, a lot of your screen printed work is one colour. What makes you want to work this way?
Perhaps in the beginning it was because I used to hand cut the stencils myself and it was much easier printing in one colour! I also love the simplicity of one colour and the challenge of trying to make an image work just using one colour.
We are very envious of your studio! Please tell us a bit about it and how the space has developed over time!
Thank you so much! We chose to buy the quirky house we live in because it had a wide garden that we could build a studio in. This was honestly the main criteria! I felt I needed to work from home but have a degree of separation to the house. My clever partner Jim built the studio around seven years ago using insulated panels which we then clad and painted black (being inspired by Derek Jarman’s studio in Dungeness). It’s almost 29m square and had to be this size as at that time, I was needing an area to screen print, an area to sew and an area for my office. It’s changed a lot over the past 7 years as I’m now illustrating much more- I have lots of shelves of vintage children’s books that I collect, shelves of my own published children’s books and lots of plan chests full of my drawings as I still create everything my hand in the old fashioned way!
In the past you have used both paper stencils for printing and designs burnt to screen, do you prefer one method over the other?
I like the detail you can get from printing fine line illustrations burnt to a screen but I also love how creating a paper stencil can give you a unique not so ‘perfect’ line which can only happen with scissors. Using scissors can also encourage you to play more with shapes and you often get unexpected suprises!
What would you say is the best thing about screen printing?
I love the simple physical act of pulling ink down a screen and then lifting the screen off the fabric to see a result! It never stops being pleasing, especially when the print is precise and neat! *I also adore creating products such as toys, cushions and purses from the fabric - seeing how it can be used in a three dimensional way.
And the worst?
The costly mistakes! Those times when for whatever the reason (albeit the ink is drying on the screen as it’s too humid ….etc.) mistakes are made. It can be so frustrating!
What would be your top tip for anyone wanting to try screen printing?
Go for it! Take an evening class (when Lockdown finishes)- I re-discovered screen printing 20 years later when I found out I was living round the corner from a print studio in Brighton! It felt like ‘coming home’! I was a full time music teacher at the time but managed to book ‘drop in’ sessions in the evenings so I could print like crazy!
What is your ultimate dream for your business?
To create a balance between working on projects / books that I love whilst also having time to be with my family and to enjoy life.* I’ve just finished working on my first two Picture Books so would love to work on more to create a series. I’d love to create a whole brand around a character or set of characters (a bit like Dick Bruna with his character ‘Miffy’) that could be Licensed, animated and give joy to children and parents all around the world.
Lastly, please tell us about your squeegee! Do you have more than one?
Yes, I’ve lots and yes, I do have a favourite! I’ve a mixture of sizes - my favourite is a medium sized aluminium one with rubber - covered in ink. The weight and feel of it is just right for me.
Welcome to our first Squeegee Club blogpost! A few years ago we started using #SqueegeeClub on our Instagram posts and then when we got a bit braver we asked that other screen printers use it too - now there's over 4000 posts on the tag from screen printers all over the World! The dream would be to one day create a beautiful Squeegee Club book of amazing diverse printers but for now we're starting with an ongoing series of interviews here on our blog. We're very VERY excited that the wonderful Fiona Wilson has agreed to be our first guest!! We hope you enjoy the post and if you're not already following Fiona be sure to check her links out at the bottom. YAY!
Hi Fiona! Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got in to screen printing?
I had a bit of a moment in my 30s where I left a job that was making me unhappy and went back to college to study art. My degree was in Surface Design and Textiles and thats where the screen printing began. I loved being in the print room at university - it was huge and we had super long print tables that meant I could really experiment with the process.
Where do you do your screen printing and what would a usual day look like for you?
I do my screen printing in my studio which is in an old building that used to be a Ginger Beer Factory - It's next to my house, so I can wander across the yard and up the stairs and into my space. I feel very lucky to have this space so close. A typical day in the studio usually begins with me switching on my music and the computer - I usually get screen printing straight away - so that I can do a layer of colour and leave it to dry whilst I check my emails and do a bit of admin, and then I can go back and get the next layer of colour on. I might spend a bit of time developing some new ideas for products and designs, or I’ll be making up and packing orders and getting them in the post box. No two days are the same, though I do tend to stick to a working day when its a studio day so I’ll be up and in the studio by 8am and finish about 6. Studio days are Friday, Saturday and Sundays as I work teaching in university Monday - Thursday. So I do tend to do some work in the evenings too when I need to. I don’t work every day though - I do have some days off, but I love being in my studio so it can be hard to leave it.
You have a very distinct bright and bold style, is it something you’ve always had or has it developed over time?
I’ve always liked colour, but I used to do a lot of textile work initially working with print and embroidery, but I have moved much more to working on paper and wood over the last 8 years. I do like a face and a character and I have been drawing people in some shape or form since I went back to art college and pattern has always been in my work too.
We love the characters that you create in your work, do you base them on real people (and animals)?
I’m so glad you like them - they do seem to make people smile, which is one of the reasons I like making my work. A lot of the characters do resemble some of my family members, but they actually began from working within simple shapes, so circles, squares, semi circles. A few years ago I embarked on a years long project doing a print or collage a day - I had so may patterned and coloured papers that I started cutting and assembling pieces playing with placing papers and funny characters started to emerge. I have a lot of work from this project and I use these now as a starting point for new pieces.
As well as paper you often screen print on to wood, can you tell us a bit about these pieces and the process of bringing them to life?
Growing up I had a lot of wooden toys and still collect a few now - and these have inspired my more three dimensional and wooden pieces. I had a wooden block jigsaw when I was young with paperer pictures on all the sides that you swapped around to make different pictures - and its this that started my Mix and Match people. I have a wood working area in the studio with a bandsaw, drill and sander, so I can cut and play with the shapes and work I suppose a bit like I do with paper collage, sometimes an off cut from one piece of wood can spark an idea for something new. I like the idea of having playful ornaments and things that are lovely to pick up and swap around.
Who are your biggest design inspirations?
Ooo so many but I do love a lot of the Marimekko designers for their block colours and playful patterns. I also love the screen prints of Sister Corita Kent and her art department rules are something that I think everyone should read.
What is the best thing about running a creative business for you?
I love making and the fact that people seem to like and want to buy what I make is fantastic. I love meeting people whether its at art fairs or through social media or the workshops I run, its a great community to be part of.
And the worst?
Never enough hours in the day to do all the things I would like to do.
What’s your ultimate dream for your business?
To be able to keep doing it, I cannot imagine ever stopping - I’ll be screen printing when I am on old lady.
What would be your best piece of advice for someone wanting to start screen printing?
I would definitely recommend going on a workshop to learn the basics - although it can look easy it does take some practice and some kit, so its best to try it out and see if you really love it before you invest in equipment.
If you could only print in one colour for the rest of your life what would it be?!
Oh this is such a mean question :D - I’m not sure I can answer that - can I have two colours? Probably Neon pink and black or maybe neon orange and black - no I can't decide its too hard. I love colour - I can't imagine only being allowed to use one!
Lastly, do you have a favourite squeegee? :o)
I do have a little squeegee that I cut off the end of a bigger one that is super handy for printing my smaller pieces. Plus it fits very nicely in my apron pocket.