This week on Meet the Printmaker, we meet Sam of Sam Marshall Art. I absolutely adore following Sam's adventures on Instagram. Not only does she create beautiful prints but she has a stunning studio (and dog!) and her positivity just shines through my phone screen and that's so rare I think. Keep reading to the end of the interview for some incredibly exciting news she shares!
Please introduce yourself and what kind of prints you create...
I’m Sam, I’m a printmaker living in the countryside with my mini dachshund Miss Marple. I have a studio in my garden where I make my linocuts and etchings.
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 studied Fine Art at the Slade but ended up in the media department making films, I wasn’t even aware of the print room when I was there. I felt so bruised and battered from my experience at art school that I stopped making work until my late 20’s when eventually I felt ready to explore my creativity again. I enrolled in an etching course at the Royal Drawing School and that’s where I became hooked. That was 16 years ago, and I’ve been printing ever since. It’s only this year that I’ve been able to go full time as printmaker (alongside running my own online workshops). I’m quite disciplined when it comes to my day – that’s one thing that Art school taught me, to structure your own time and to be my own boss. I start off with a run in the woods with Marple where I sort through the list of things I want to achieve in the day. I’m in the studio at 10am where I pack orders, admin stuff, figure out my Instagram post for the day and plan my story. Instagram is a huge part of my business and I consider it work so I factor in the time accordingly. After lunch is where I sit down to draw, carve or etch. I finish at 5pm where I sit down, have a cup of tea and post my story for the day. I rarely work in the evenings as I pack so much into the day!
What was the spark that first got you hooked on printmaking? What is it about your medium that draws you in each day?
I remember clearly leaving the etching room that first day at the Drawing School – and knowing that I had found my thing. At the start I loved the etched line, the fact that you could get so much detail into a print really captivated me. Over time I craved bolder lines and bolder colours and this is what led me to linocut. I love the whole process of printmaking. I’m a naturally impatient person and it’s taught me to enjoy the act of doing rather than concentrating on the outcome.
What inspires you? What or who would you say your biggest influences are?
My everyday life inspires me, I see stories in everything. I’m always on the lookout for new things to include in my prints. My prints are an eclectic mixture of my life, my travels and unusual animals that I see on my way or that I conjure up in my imagination! My biggest influences are ironically not artists but writers – I’m hugely inspired by storytellers such as Anne Tyler, Katherine Heiny, Maggie O’Farrell and Agatha Christie ( hence Miss Marple!).
If you could give some advice to new printmakers, what would be your most useful tips for beginners?
Ah there’s so many! Firstly, I would say buy the best tools you can afford, it’s so easy to be put off a technique if you are using poor quality tools. The beauty of linocut is that you only really need a few good quality carving tools, and it will make your experience so much more pleasurable.
Just keep playing and experimenting – if it goes wrong and you don’t like it then take stock of what you have learnt then start again.
Be kind and generous with yourself – we are often so tough on ourselves it’s a wonder we keep on creating. You must be your own biggest champion. Stick at it. If you love doing it then keep on doing it! Keep drawing, keep looking. Your own style will evolve.
Keep reminding yourself why you do it. Don’t let it become a chore.
What do your prints say about you? How do you want people to feel when they look at your prints?
In many ways my work is auto biographical in that I make work about my everyday life. I always feature in my prints – I’m the big eared character and normally Miss Marple is with me too. It’s a way of me recording my life. I used to write a diary everyday but in the past years as my work has evolved, I haven’t seen the need for it as much. My work can be humorous but sometimes there’s a dark side too. I want people to bring themselves to my work – to let them see and feel what they want.
Are your prints influenced by external events (social, political) or do you prefer your work to remain neutral?
I’m very much a leftie but this doesn’t appear in my work.
Do you have a favourite part of the printmaking process? What brings you the most joy?
I love editioning the prints, especially now I have my new press. It means the real hard work is done and you can just get into the flow of creating the body of work. I find it really soothing. I put a good audio book on and just crack on.
How do you print? Do you have access to a studio or are you a home printmaker?
For many years I worked from a room in my flat in London on a small A4 hand lever press, I was amazed at what I could get done. When I turned 40, however, I moved out of London and one of my dreams was to have a studio at home.
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?
Failure is such an important part of the whole process as printmaking is so unpredictable. Often, I think a print is a failure then I will return to it in a couple of months and see it more objectively and realise I can still work with it.
What is your next big printmaking challenge? Do you have a plan for the next 12 months or do you take each day as it comes?
I’m writing a book! At the start of the year, I was approached by Bloomsbury publishing to see if I was interested in writing a book about linocut based on my own work and my life. After I recovered from the initial shock, I agreed, and I’m now totally immersed in the process – learning huge amounts as I go. I hand it in in January and it will be published in January 2022.
Where can people find out more about you and your prints?
My Instagram @sammarshallart is the best place to see what I’m up to everyday – I post daily stories about my life with Marple and Holly Tree Cottage. My website www.sammarshallart.com is the place to buy my prints and book onto my workshops.