This week on Meet the Printmaker, we meet Jess from Gaia Prints; a printmaker with climate saving dreams and eco themes.
Please introduce yourself and what kind of prints you create...
Hello! I'm Jess, the printmaker behind Gaia Prints and I make linocut prints with eco and climate change themes. 'Gaia' is another name for Mother Nature, and not my actual name, which sometimes confuses people...
How long have you been a printmaker? Is it a full-time career for you or a lovely hobby? If you are a full-time printmaker, what does a typical day for you look like?
I first picked up some printmaking tools during my Art A Level, although promptly put them back down again for the next 4 years! Then about a year and a half ago I was feeling a need to stretch my creative muscles and probably had a spare afternoon (I like to keep busy!) so took myself down to the local craft store and bought some lino tools. I haven't really had a week without some kind of printmaking since then. At the moment I squeeze my printing and everything else that comes with trying to grow a small business into the evenings and weekends, around my 9-5. I spend a pretty chunky portion of my working day looking forward to printing in the evening though, and am firmly of the belief that if I keep doing and loving it, that it could be a full time career one day (please?).
What was the spark that first got you hooked on printmaking? What is it about your medium that draws you in each day?
I think I'm drawn to printmaking because it feels rather black and white; either a bit of the plate is getting ink on it or it isn't. I've never felt especially good at other mediums like painting or fine drawing, but printmaking allows me to really relax and enjoy the creative process.
What inspires you? What or who would you say your biggest influences are?
Climate change is my largest influence in my work. I want to use my art to bring people's focus to some of the biggest environmental struggles and remind us all how precious the beautiful Earth is. One of my biggest motivators for starting to sell my prints was to do more to help the environmental movement, and so 20% of all my profits go to environmental causes. Because of this, I would like to shift towards making prints with slightly more confrontational environmental themes, although I'm not too sure how many people would like a print on their wall reminding them of the impending doom of global warming. But hey, they say 'make the art you want, not the art they want', right?
If you could give some advice to new printmakers, what would be your most useful tips for beginners?
I would still consider myself a fairly new printmaker, so I think I need to heed this advice too: - You really don't need much equipment or financial investment to start printing. A simple roller, cheap ink and piece of lino can get you a really long way - Try and make things which are different from other artists. It sometimes feels like Instagram is quite saturated with printmakers, and so if you make things which really mean something to you, it'll help to differentiate your work from others. Even if you've got a bit of a wacky unusual idea - if the thought of it makes your soul sing, there will be others who'll love it too. - Follow some printing meme pages on Instagram. They're just really funny and good for when you need a reminder that other people mess it up too.
What do your prints say about you? How do you want people to feel when they look at your prints?
Ha! The first impression people probably get about me from my prints is that I'm a bit of a hippy, which isn't necessarily wrong. I'd like people to feel empowered to act when they see my prints, whether that's by joining a local environmental group, doing some recycling, looking up more info on a topic or just telling a friend. It's always nice to know that other people feel passionately about solving the climate crisis, and if art can do that, then I think that might just be the best thing ever.
Are your prints influenced by external events (social, political) or do you prefer your work to remain neutral?
They're absolutely influenced by external things - especially environmental events and science. I also get a lot of inspiration which definitely flows through into the designs from activists and climate strikes, and often jot down quotes from speeches to use in my work. The piece I'm currently working on features a quote I read at an Extinction Rebellion march back in 2019.
Do you have a favourite part of the printmaking process? What brings you the most joy?
I have never met a printmaker whose favourite part isn't carving the lino. I'm with the crowd on this one - it's SO satisfying! And almost meditative.
How do you print? Do you have access to a studio or are you a home printmaker?
Very much a home printmaker, using my bedroom and kitchen table as a makeshift home studio (much to my housemates delight). I have a wonderful homemade printing press which prints up to A4, although I'm preferring larger designs at the mo, so use a good old wooden spoon and some elbow grease for most of my printing.
Every day feels like a school day when you're a printmaker and failure is not talked about too much online.. what would you say is the most challenging part of printmaking?
This is a big topic and one I'm passionate about. Having not had access to a shared studio space, or really spoken to any other printmakers in real life, I do find it hard and often very frustrating when things don't work because I'm using the materials wrong. Or don't know how long a type of ink will take to dry. Or how to clean oil based ink off of a brayer (still working on this one). Basically I think the most challenging part is that there are so many variables which can make a print go 'wrong', but appreciating that the trial and error is necessary to get better is important.
Where can people find out more about you and your prints?
Over on Instagram @gaia_prints, or Etsy @GaiaLinoprints, and in a select few zero waste shops dotted around the UK.
What is your favourite print (of your own)?
My A2 Antarctic design - it took so many hours and means a lot to me.
Music/podcasts when you're creating or silence?
Gosh - absolutely not silence! Who are those people? I love podcasts - especially Off Menu and ReWilding.
Printing press or by hand?
By hand. If anyone fancies gifting me an etching press though...
If you could meet any artist (alive or dead), who would it be?
Zaria Forman - she makes incredibly realistic drawings of glaciers using pastels.