Printmakers Unite! Part 1. Emma Higgins

Hello all I thought for something different I will interview another print maker who uses lino cut like I do so I would like to introduce the amazing (and talented) Emma Higgins!

Matthew: How are you today?

EmmaHey Matt, Thank you so much for inviting me to chat to you this afternoon! 

I'm great thank you. As well as being a printmaker, I'm a part time primary school teacher. This afternoon I've been making birds from plastic bottles with six year olds, never a dull moment!  

M: Well there goes my question about me introducing yourself ;)

EOooh it's been a long old day, sorry Matt, I'm easily confused. I think I get it. 

Is it my turn to ask a question? 
Here goes... 
So how was your day today? 

M: No worries, my day has been alright it's been my day off from (retail) work but have been busy with carving a custom design and then house work. 

Any plans for the weekend?

E: Ooh, I'm pleased that you had the day off from your retail job. Lino printing is time consuming so good job you had a window for working on your commission.

This weekend I am lucky enough to be meeting up with some lovely friends that I went to school with about 20 years ago, makes me feel so old!! We are having a big party on a campsite, I'm taking old photos with me so that we can all cringe at the fashion and hair dos!  I'm also working on a top secret lino print for an upcoming exhibition at a Buckland Abbey which is a National Trust property. I'll hopefully be exhibiting there this summer with a lovely group of artists called Devon Art Pop.

Have you ever taken part in exhibitions or do you prefer to showcase your lino prints online? Have you ever considered having a solo exhibition and if you did, where would your dream venue be?

M: *Must resist temptation to ask how old you are as it's rude to ask for a ladies age* Oh wow that sounds really amazing and that's quite a honour to do something with the National Trust. The Devon Art Pop group sounds like a really cool group to be part of, like the cool kids at school.

I haven't yet but I would like to take part in a exhibition, well have taken part in college ones but that was many years ago and that was when Bonfirecherry was a fictional company so I suppose that doesn't sound. I would like to do a solo exhibition on somewhere that no one would think of, a pirate ship!

I have always been curious but where does Billet Doux in your printmaking name comes from?

E:Ha ha!! yes you can ask my age.... I'm 40 now but I feel fine about it (I think!)

I like the sound of having an exhibition on a pirate ship, it would certainly be different!!
Anyway, back to the question. At the beginning I started off calling my little print business 'BilletDoux' which is French for 'love note'. I just liked the name really, no special reason for choosing it. In the last two years I've just called myself 'Emma Higgins - Printmaker' and I've tried to drop the 'Billet Doux' name as it's difficult to remember and pronounce. Unfortunately Facebook wont let you change your page name so unless I start from scratch, I'm stuck with it for a little longer! For that reason, for now my FB page is called BilletDoux - Lino prints by Emma Higgins.
I love your strong branding. Did you have any other alternative ideas for a name when you were coming up with the idea of calling your business Bonfire Cherry?
M: Interesting history, sometimes change doesn't go the way you want it stupid Facebook for not allowing you to change the name. Now that's testing my memory, I threw away a lot of college work years ago (it was taking up so much room) but I went through a few different names but in the end it was either Cherry Bonfire or Bonfire Cherry. I got the inspiration for the name from t-shirt companies such as Drop Dead Clothing and when I was walking home from college on bonfire night drinking a cherry coke (which I rarely drink to be honest) and spilled some over my hand while going past a house with a bonfire.
What was the first print you ever produced?
E: I like the story about how you got your name. I think Bonfire Cherry  has a much better ring to it compared to Cherry Bonfire but that's just me!

My first ever lino print was at primary school, a very simple and crude print of tin mine. Later when I was about 13 I made a lino print of a Punch and Judy show. It was chosen to go on the cover of a school calendar so I was chuffed to bits about that.

The first lino print I sold was of a chicken. Very excitingly, it's about to be featured in a book called 'The Little Chicken Book' which is 159 different prints of chickens compiled by Alan Marshall of Mascot Media. I've never been in a book before so I can't wait to see it later this month once it's been published.

Have you taught anyone else to lino print? If so, how did it go? Have you ever thought about running workshops and if you did, how would you go about it?

M: I haven't personally but I have produced about two videos on how to lino print which went well and had good feedback on.

It be good to run a workshop teaching people the wonders of lino, if I did I would hire a room in one of many buildings that can be used for workshops and spread leaflets around the area so people will know.

As I am preparing for an upcoming event this week, do you ever host a stall showing off your brilliant work at fairs?

E:  I once taught a friend to lino print. We got the giggles because she started by drawing the design on paper with a sharpie. We didn't realise it at first but the sharpie had soaked through the paper and had left her design on my coffee table in permanent ink!! It came off after a lot of scrubbing but just reminded that you need to be well prepared. I'm hoping to start teaching workshops from home soon, I just need to do a little more research and organising first

Anyway back to your question... yes, I have sold my linocuts at various art and craft fairs but I haven't done any yet this year. I always see your stall and appreciate how much time and effort it must take you to get it looking like that, it looks fab.

I really admire your dedication to writing your blog so regularly. You've inspired me to start writing mine again http://billetdoux25.blogspot.co.uk/  ha ha, shameless plug! It's defo a work in progress. What would be your top tips for blogging to a novice like me?

M: Well mistakes do happen, I do make them a lot such as breaking my lino carving tool blade half way through a commission so had to finish it off using my big hands carving the design out with a tiny piece of metal haha

It took a awhile to get it strength to strength, I have to improve it quite a lot this year as I just booked my first big event (I believe I told you of the other big event I got invited to) at the Atomic Vintage Festival in August for need to produce a lot of stock to cover about 3 tables for 2 days, it's going to be quite a challenge.

Nothing wrong with that plug, I am going to be sharing all your details at the end of this interview + picture of you or your work for this post :)

The secret is I hate being bored so I always like to keep myself busy, can't really think of any advice lol

To answer my own question about the first print you produced, the first design for me was a street art inspired design called The Mysterious Philosopher based on a statue I saw at the V&A in London.

Have you got any artists or designers that inspire you?

E: Yes I love the work of the print maker, Angie Lewin, she makes beautiful images of delicate plants, flowers, seaweed and seed heads. I once saw one of her woodcuts in a exhibition in Bath. Unbeknown to me, my husband later bought it for me in secret as a birthday gift, lucky me! It takes pride of placeon our lounge wall. I love it!

Which 3 artists alive or dead would you go for a pint and a chat with and why?

M: Wow that's one hell of a romantic and sweet gift I am quite jealous. I wish I had someone who can do that but being single for nearly a decade now but at the age of 26 there is plenty of time to find someone haha

That's a good question erm...

1. Eiichiro Oda, the creator of my favourite anime/manga One Piece. Ok I would need a translator as he is japanese but it would be so cool to find out some One Piece related secrets.

2. Roy Lichtenstein. My favourite artist since school whose work I saw a few years ago at the Tote Modern. I would love to chat to him about Benday Dots (technique he used in a lot of his work)

3. Jody Barton. The graphic designer who is the influence behind my style.

How about you?

E: Ooh that's really difficult, didn't think I'd have to answer my own question.

1. Tracey Emin - Because she strikes me as being a hoot! I've heard her being interviewed on Desert Island discs and she sounds fascinating.

2. Barbara Hepworth - She made beautiful big sculptures in St Ives til 1975 when she sadly died in a fire age 72. Her house and garden have been preserved as a museum and sculpture garden with lots of her original work still there. If you're ever back in Cornwall again Matt, you must see if you can go. It's so peaceful and inspiring, you can just imagine her working there. There's a fab film about her on BBC iPlayer as well which shows her working at home. I'd have lots of questions to ask her about her life.

3 Grayson Perry - He just seems like a such a lovely man and so interesting to talk to I should think. I've been watching his series of programmes lately where he studies the lives of people and then makes a piece of art to represent them. I'd love to learn how to make one of those lovely pots he makes...

Maybe not in the pub though, bit messy! I forgot I am supposed to be choosing 3 artists to have a pint with after all

Next question.. Matt, do you always lino print or do you any other sort of printing?

M: Good choices, I remember seeing Tracey Emin's bed at the tate a few years ago.

I have experience in Lino, Mono + Screen printing but it's mainly lino printing I do. I did try to do screen printing after such a long time from college but didn't work out due to problems such as getting the idea burnt into the screen etc.

The first time I tried screen printing I was good at it but now rubbish and the complete opposite with lino was rubbish and now good haha

Where at home do you do your printing?

E: Mmm.. I seem to remember you saying that you sometimes screen print. I've never tried it but it really appeals to me so I've love to go on a course one day.

I mainly produce lino prints too. I occasionally produce mono prints and I also make Gocco prints when I can afford the supplies as they are VERY expensive. Gocco printing involves a natty little Japanese machine | gadget which is a self contained printing system - best to Google it as it's hard to explain! They don't make them any more which is why supplies are so expensive. The principal is the same as screen printing but the process is different. It's great fun to use and the results are very satisfying.

Back to the question... Where at home do you do your printing?

I've made a room in our house into a little studio. I've put in a glass table which is perfect for rolling out inks on and lots of string washing lines so that I can peg out my wet prints for drying. Usually it's quite tidy but I've just finished an exhibition so it's like an art shop has been burgled. I'm going to tidy up this week.. promise!

I love the shed that you work from, has it got a special name?

Next question now.. 5 words that describe your printing style and 5 words to describe you. That'll get you thinking!

M: Screen is something you must try soon, in the mean time you can actually lino print with screen printing ink as there is a way of doing so as I've learnt recently.

I've heard Gocco mentioned a lot of times from people, I will add it onto the list of many times I want but just can't afford at the moment haha

Sadly it isn't, I bought it with my brother from a auction site as there was a school that was closing down so the shed is actually split in two inside. All my print work on on side and my brothers on the other with "NICKS SHED" spray painted on it haha. My shed is always messy its very rarely tidy I ever tidy when I want to show off what it's like inside haha

Damn erm..

5 words that describe your printing style (words like unique are banned, that's going to be the rule): Funky, Simple, Bold, Creative and Daring.

5 words to describe me: Amazing, Amazing, Amazing, Amazing and did I say Amazing? haha No really I would say Creative, Random, Weird, Funny and Loyal.

How about you? ;)

 E: Well I'm very interested to hear that your shed is split down the middle and I am extremely intrigued to know what your brother Nick uses his side of the shed for? Anyway I'm going off a tangent.

Here goes, urm...urm..

5 words to describe my work: Calming, Graphic, Exact, Layered, Personal.

5 words to describe me: Happy, Nature Lover, Overthinker, Creative, Sensitive

M: What tv shows and music do you like ?

E: I can't think of many types of music that I don't like. it depends what I'm doing really. I love playing very loud dance music in my car on the way to work but I also love listening to music on Chill FM when sitting on the seafront looking at the sea. I love anything by Stevie Wonder, The Eagles, Chaz n Dave, Digitonal and most cheesy 90's music.

I tend to listen to Desert Island discs while cutting lino or gardening. We have choosen not to have a TV out in our house so if I want to see something in particular I'll watch it on catch up. I'm not very keen on films at all, I really wish I was but they have to be very believable for me to be able to watch - Strange I know! For that reason I really love documentaries.

Now for your question..

What is your least favourite part of the process of printmaking (and selling them) and why?

M: Good taste in music you've got 

My music is a mixture of different genres from Rock, Jazz, R'n'B and Pop. This week I have been listening to Avril Lavigne + Beck. Can't say no to some cheesy 90's music too such as Haddaway's What Is Love.

When it comes to tv shows, as you may know about it's mostly anime about pirates & ninjas for me. None of the anime with school girls, there is a lot of weird anime out there but never liked them.

Anyway back to your question, a very good question at that.

I would have to say the cleaning part after printing as I sometimes don't have to the time to clean or think "oh I do it later" and never end up doing so. I recently was going through all the lino that I have carved for designs the past 3 years (minus a few that went missing etc) and some of them still had ink on from the time I last used them. I am actually planning on cleaning all my lino + the print shed tomorrow I would like to say it will take up most of my day haha

How about you?

E: Mmmm.. Yes keep on top of the cleaning and tidying is tricky as printing can be a messy activity. I always have much more fun making a mess than sorting it out afterwards. I'm so much better than I used to be but I still have my moments!

I think my least favourite job is putting prints into frames ready for exhibitions. It doesn't matter how carefully I clean the glass, there will be a tiny speck of dust left showing and I have to take the whole frame apart again until it's perfect! I am a real perfectionist in many areas of my print work, I drive myself potty some days.

Next question - If you had to sell something else you'd made yourself but not printmaking (including brooches or bags) what would you make and sell?

M: Again another good question, erm... I would love to make and sell model figures, I have a selection of anime inspired ones so would love to create my own based on my designs (which I suppose is possible now with 3D printers).

For the last question on this wonderful (and long, it's been so much fun) chat, I would like to ask you how about you?

E: Well I used to make and sell little cocktail hats to begin with before I decided to concentrate on printmaking. These days I'd really love to make and sell ceramics but I'd have to learn how to do it and see if I was any good first!!

Anyway, I've loved our interview, some really thought provoking but interesting questions!

Thank you Matthew, keep up the good work!

M: So happy you enjoyed the chat, we so have to do this again later in the year!

It was amazing chatting to Emma, if you want to see her work you are able to find it via her Etsy shop which you can find here

Thanks for reading

 


1 comment

  • That was a really interesting reading. I rather liked that you asked each other questions. I look forward to your next interview

    Amanda

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