In conversation with Emily Sutton
In the first of a two-part interview with Emily Sutton, we talk about our new project together - Penfold Pins - and discuss how her approach to printmaking has changed over the years.
PP: Hi Em, here it is Toy Bird…our first Penfold Pin. What do you think?
E: Ahhhh, I love it!!! I wanted it to capture the spirit of the screen print The Toy Parade and it's definitely done that. The card looks great too.
PP: I’m so pleased with the Pin, it looks fantastic and is a great way to start a new collection. I know that when we first talked about the project, the two of us wanted the card to be a beautiful object in itself, why was that important to you?
"I love printed ephemera and I wanted this to be something that people kept as well as the badge."
E: I love printed ephemera and I wanted this to be something that people kept as well as the badge. I approached it with the same amount of care as any of my editioned screen prints.
PP: The card is hand printed in four colours, actually it’s the same red as we used on P is for Pantomime, then the whole thing is finished off with a varnish. I like the fact that we spent more time making the card than we needed to.
We’ve been working together for nearly ten years now. I remember the first time you visited the studio you brought with you a box of pistachio macarons you’d made specially. What’s happened lately? I see no macarons.
E: Did I?!! I can’t remember that! I’ll sort something out for my next visit, I promise. I remember that at that point the Penfold Press was in a small outbuilding just outside York. It was great but pretty cold and damp! Maybe the macarons were to distract us from the cold. I enjoyed the process of collaborating on the creation of a print though, which was quite unlike my usual solitary studio time.
PP: Looking back, were you excited to get started with screen printing?
"Over time I’ve become more adventurous in both the composition of my prints and in experimenting with different materials and mark making tools."
E: Yes, definitely, although it was a little daunting to start working in a new medium. Once I got going, I realised that the process is so rooted in drawing - an area that I’ve always felt most confident in - that I soon got a sense of what was possible. Over time I’ve become more adventurous in both the composition of my prints and in experimenting with different materials and mark making tools.
PP: Our first print together was The Silver Swan. What do you remember about making it?
E: The Silver Swan originated as a painting of the swan in the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle. I painted it as part of my first ever gallery show at Godfrey and Watt in Harrogate. I remember you asked me if I’d like to collaborate on a print and this seemed like the ideal subject matter. Working from an existing painting was a useful way to start as it took some of the planning stages away and enabled me to focus on learning the process of creating separations.
Emily Sutton's desk and her view out across farmland towards the Yorkshire Wolds
PP: I love that print; I’ve still got a copy framed on the studio wall. Has your approach to making the separations for your prints changed much over the years?
E: I don’t think so…although I’m definitely more ambitious with my mark making now. A large proportion of my prints with the Penfold Press are in the Alphabet Series, so I begin by choosing a subject for the relevant letter. I then do a series of small scale roughs to figure out the composition and the key elements I want to include.
Once I’ve decided on the small scale composition, I then scale it up to full size and make a detailed pencil drawing, as well as a colour study to help me figure out the colour separations. I use a mixture of pens, Chinagraph crayon, Indian Ink and Tusche to make the separations on film. I work with up to 12 colours, so I’ve recently begun using pegs to make sure that the registration stays on track. I like to use a wide variety of media to give a textural interest to the print. Screen printing can result in quite a flat image so by experimenting with a range of tools and materials you can create a much richer, more painterly surface. Because you’re working in layers it’s possible to juxtapose areas of very flat, graphic colour with line and more tonal marks - so I try and make the most of these possibilities.
P: What advice would you give to someone starting as a printmaker?
E: Enjoy it, work hard…even if inspiration is lacking, take risks, take opportunities and don’t expect to have it all figured out at the beginning or ever! Coming from someone with control-freak tendencies the last one was the most valuable and the hardest to take on board.
Click here to find out more about Emily's printmaking with the Penfold Press.