Croft

Apart from three trips to the new V&A Dundee – well worth the visits, I might add – the last few weeks have been quite busy, but I thought it was time I shared another Studio Conversation with you, this time with printmaker and illustrator Freya Cumming. I have known Freya for a few years and have always liked the way she uses screen printing to build the pattern and texture of her prints. She has exhibited widely and has had many commissions both private and commercial, including bottle labels for the local Abernyte Brewery; her style is both versatile and distinctive. She sells her prints including prints recently completed to mark the opening of the V&A Dundee from her website as well as her studio and participates in artist events around Scotland. Freya opened her studio in last month’s Perthshire Open Studios event so I was keen to visit her and ask about her practice. Although I knew she had completed her degree in Illustration at Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, I started by asking Freya about her post-graduate study.

How important was the experience of your time in Bristol where you did your Masters? I believe you were involved in the setting up of a printmakers’ cooperative and gallery – is this something you would look to do up here in your home area?

  • I was very lucky. Eight of us, all recent graduates, opened a small gallery together. We all had a particular interest in screen print and Illustration so we specialised in that. What had started just as an idea, came together just as our respective courses were ending. We had our printmaking equipment in the basement, a gallery on the ground floor and two floors of studios above. It was invaluable to have somewhere with in-house printmaking facilities to go straight out of Uni. I think it was an incredibly important experience and it was inspiring to be around so many Printmakers on a daily basis. I miss it. I have considered doing something similar in Scotland. Though I definitely wouldn’t rule it out, but that whole experience was quite serendipitous.
Bristol Gallery and Studio

It is always interesting to hear about the working spaces and practices of artists so can you describe your studio? Do you like to work with music or the radio playing or do you prefer silence?

  • I have a WASPS studio space in Meadow Mill in Dundee. It’s an old jute mill that has housed artists since the 70’s. I have a self-contained unit on the second floor with views towards the Law hill. It’s very white which I really like, white walls and a white floor, but that also shows up any mess! I can never settle to anything to listen to, so I alternate between music, podcasts and the radio all the time. I have two sausage dogs who also provide a fair bit of background noise!

Do you use the facilities at Dundee Contemporary Arts for your printing or do you have printing facilities in your studio at home?

  • I use the DCA to expose my screens and then I bring them back to WASPs to print. I mostly walk the screens over there. It’s not that far from my studio, but you sometimes feel like you’re going to take off if the wind gets up. I would love to have in-house screen printing equipment again, but the DCA print studio is a huge asset to Dundee and this works for the moment.
Nice Coat

What are your favourite materials and techniques?

  • What I like most about screen printing is combining all kinds of imagery: painterly marks, text, pattern, and putting them through this same process to create a print. I enjoy sketching and photography and I often use a combination of both as a starting point. I don’t like to plan what the final outcome will be, so I make up the layers as I go. It makes a fairly technical process feel much more creative.

Do you have favourite themes for your sources of inspiration?

  • When I lived in Bristol, I printed a lot of hot-air balloon prints and city-scapes, and then when I moved back to rural Perthshire seven years ago, I started producing a lot of wildlife prints and rural landscapes. I used to find it easy to find inspiration in my surroundings. For some reason, it’s become much harder. I’m a lot less interested in solely making prints anymore. I recently did some freelancing in graphic design and illustration and I really enjoyed the change. I’d like to do some more of this type of work but I’m not great with computers. I’ve been producing screen prints for over ten years and I think currently I’m most inspired by the idea of learning new skills.

Do you have a regular drawing, visual note-taking habit and how important is it to your practice?

  • That’s something I would like to get much better at. I studied Illustration at Duncan of Jordanstone and we were encouraged to take our sketchbooks wherever we went. It was a really good discipline to have and I think getting out of that habit has a lot to do with losing inspiration. I went to Shetland very recently and took my sketchbooks with me, just to draw for drawing’s sake. Thanks to Storm Ali it wasn’t as easy as I thought, but I loved it and hope to keep it up.
Wallpaper

We are talking here in your studio looking out on to the fields around your house but how valuable are the Open Studios events in reaching a market?

  • Open studios are fantastic! It can be quite isolating working by yourself. They are brilliant, not just from a financial point of view, but also as an opportunity to get feedback on your work and meet your customers. It’s incredibly rewarding to sell something you’ve made directly to someone. Open studios can often lead to commissions that otherwise might not have happened.

Do you have any exciting plans for the coming months?

  • I am hoping to develop a range of hand-printed wallpapers. I have had a few commissions for wallpaper over the years, and it’s something I’d like to do more of. I enjoy creating repeat patterns and I’d like to collaborate with customers to create bespoke designs. I recently printed a very personalised wallpaper for my parent’s house. Their wallpaper included a photograph of my great grandad, a coachman and gardener., driving his coach out of what is now their dining room. It included drawings by my mum and text from my great aunts hymn book. ‘How lovely are thy dwellings’. Whatever the work, so long as it’s varied and I’m learning something new, I’ll be very happy.
Wallpaper, private commission

Thank you Freya; your personalised wallpaper designs are a wonderful idea and would add something really unique to any home. I love the way you have used the old documents in this example, really brings family history into the present. I am also interested in these lovely Croft screen prints as crofting and crofts is something I’m looking at in my work just now. Thank you for your time Freya, it’s been so interesting talking with you and learning a little more about your practice.

If you would like to see more of Freya’s work you can find her at these links:

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Follow Freya’s work on her blog at the link on her website where there is currently a photograph of wallpaper printing in progress. You will also find her contact details and more information about her work can be found at her Freya Cumming Website

Until next time, enjoy……..

Studio Conversations…….Freya Cumming

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