Meet the Maker - Heather Riches

It’s time again to get a little ‘behind-the-scenes’ on another super-talented creative’s life in our Meet the Maker series – meet the nature-inspired printmaker Heather! We loved hearing about her first project (a very experimental tee-pee!) and some genius top tips for any crafter.

Read on to delve deeper into Heather’s creative background, inspiration and favourite parts of the printing process…

How did you first get into printmaking?

I have always been a creative person and love working with my hands - I remember doing potato printing when I was little to make Christmas cards and wrapping paper, but it wasn't until I started college that I was introduced to lino printing, screen printing and geli-printing.

The first lino I ever cut was a simple rose outline and I printed it onto every medium I could find; paper, fabric, my sketchbook cover, pieces of wood and even an old t-shirt.

I was so impressed by how bold the outcome was simply by scoring a few lines into a piece of linoleum that I had to test the limits!

Can you tell us how your first project went?

The first project I focused solely on printmaking was my Final Major Project in college, where I created a children's tee-pee. I had already decided that I was going to do Printed Textiles & Surface Pattern Design at university, so I wanted to expand my printmaking knowledge and learn how to screen print as well as geli-print.

I remember cutting stencils by hand and making my own screen at home to print a simple floral pattern for the inside. Once I felt more confident, I printed several layers and colours to make a nature themed motif of flowers, leaves and feathers for the outside.

Connecting with nature was the theme for this project, so I gathered up flowers and leaves to use for my geli-printing, these were to make a blanket and cushions for the inside.

Looking back I was very ambitious with creating so much, especially as I had never tried the techniques before, but I enjoyed the process and wanted to keep experimenting!

I think if I were to do this project again (with what I know now) the final outcome would have a more consistent look and I would stick to one technique to achieve this, as well as making it more time efficient, but 9 years later I still have the tee-pee!

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I have always been inspired by nature and being outdoors- I grew up in the West Midlands and I remember escaping to the countryside on the weekends when I was younger and being fascinated by the open fields and bustling hedgerows.

I would take my camera with me to photograph wild flowers, dried seed heads and birds, anything that inspired me to draw and when we would holiday in Cornwall I would take my sketchbook so I could sit and draw.

Looking into nature across Britain led me to be more interested in the history and old customs of the countryside, I love a good folk-lore tale and local legend as inspiration too.

I also find fellow printmakers to be very inspiring, such as Angie Lewin and Mark Hearld- I'm particularly drawn to William Morris. I love how intricate his designs were and the bold colours used, all of this is even more impressive because it was done completely by hand!

What do you love most about the process?

I love unpredictable printmaking can be, it makes every day more interesting and exciting!

A lino plate can be cut with perfect precision, however, there is no guarantee the ink has dispersed evenly or there isn't a slight imperfection to the paper which is highlighted after the printing, but this is what makes each piece completely unique.

Also, there is a very satisfying feeling of creating something by hand, it's the time taken when sketching out a design and the care of producing each print which makes them so special.

It helps us slow down and appreciate what we're crafting, there is more care taken because any mistakes can't be undone, you simply have to embrace them!

What would be your best advice for those starting out?

Do experiment! Crafting can be expensive when first starting out, it's taken me a few years to build my collection on inks, cutters and rollers- so if printmaking is something you are interested in there are cheaper alternatives, like mono printing or potato printing, you might even have everything you need in your home for these already!

Don't rush projects. This has been a costly lesson for myself, the amount of times I've had to restart or rework a piece because I was rushing into something. This tends to take the fun out of a project too.

Keep a tidy work space- I think being creative often comes hand in hand with being quite messy, so I have started to schedule a 'studio clean' once a week now, whether it's a proper polish or simply just organising any paper left on my desk, I find it helps me stay focused and wish I did this whilst studying when I was younger.

Learning from mistakes is the quickest way of learning new things, so make sure to have fun and even if you mess up a few times, it doesn't matter!

Finally, when printing we always see the image in reverse, so any words need to be written backwards, I find using tracing paper to write and transfer the words an easy way to do this.

What’s next for you, any upcoming projects you’re working on?

I have a couple of ongoing projects at the moment- including prepping all of my Christmas stock! I'm trying to work well in advance this year so I don't spend lots of late nights printing in December for Christmas Fairs!

I have started writing and illustrating a children's book- I'm hoping to have this complete by Christmas, all I will say is it has been inspired by Brambley Hedge!

My favourite project at the moment though is a personal one. It's called 'Cotswold Countryside Year.' In 2018 my partner and I purchased an old cottage in the countryside to renovate, now all the big jobs are complete and I wanted to create a collection of prints to display in our hallway. It is inspired by all of the walks we have explored locally over the last year since having our puppy Willow, focusing on the nature, farmland and fauna around us.

I'm still in the early stages of creating the prints, but I plan to produce 12 designs which will be lino-printed, if I'm happy with the collection I might even create a card set! Because this is a personal project I'm fitting it around Freelance work but it's nice to take the time and do something a bit different!

Thanks so much to Heather for sharing her creative journey. We loved hearing about her first project, inspiration taken from nature and folklore and can’t wait to see more of the children’s book she’s working on!

If you want to keep up with Heather’s lovely work, head to her Instagram and Etsy!


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