Guest Blog - Kate Millbank
I am very excited to introduce Kate Millbank to those of you following the Designed & Created Guest blog. Kate is a printmaker and designer who works with lino printing and birch ply
Kate coincidentally worked in fashion design as I did, but she made a life changing move from London to East Lothian, which has taken her in another direction.
Kate is inspired by debris left on the beach after high tide and has sustainability and craftsmanship at the heart of her design ethos.
Drawn to nature for inspiration like many artists, Kate is no exception to this but I love the way Kate brings out the small elements that you get on the coastal landscape. From shells, to birds, to fauna and flora and each piece is so simple in detail but so beautiful with a lovely organic feel about them. I fell in love with Kate's work and her back to nature colour palette.
Lets find out more from Kate herself.
Welcome to Guest Blog. We’d like to know a bit about you, and where you’re based?
Kate: I am a printmaker and designer, working primarily in the medium of linocut printing and birch plywood I am based right by the sea in the beautiful county of East Lothian. Scotland. I grew up and went to Art College in London, but from a young age always felt the need to escape to a more rural lifestyle and the coast
L: Tell us about your journey to becoming an independent Artist/Printmaker/Designer?
K: I have always loved print and surface design but it is only since moving to Scotland that I have been able to set up my own studio as a printmaker.
I studied a Foundation course in art and design at Wimbledon School of Art followed by a BA honours degree in fashion design at Central Saint Martins. After graduating in 1999 I worked in the fashion industry for several years (including some time in Paris). However I became very disillusioned by the amount of waste and negative environmental impact this industry causes. I joined the Ethical Fashion Forum and wrote a number of magazine features on the subject of sustainable fashion and design. My increasing concern for the environmental impact of products and materials led me to study a Master‘s degree in sustainable design and energy use, at the Centre for Alternative Technology. I wanted some science to back up my creative decisions! From here I worked with a wonderful interior and product design company helping them to make more sustainable and environmentally sensitive choices.
It wasn't until several years later when I relocated to Scotland with my young family that I felt empowered to revisit my love for printing. I joined Edinburgh Printmakers, where I enrolled on several printmaking classes and worked in their open access studios, gaining as much experience as I could. When my second son was born. I relocated all my printmaking to our home in the coastal village of Aberlady. Here I set up a home studio so that I could continue with my design practice whilst also looking after my two young sons.
L: How would you describe your style of work?
K: I would say my work has a real sense of naive Britishness to it, combined with a tendency towards covering everything with some kind of pattern! The British landscape and coast, its flora and fauna are a constant source of inspiration to me. More recently I have also been drawn to looking at our relationship with the land and have been spending a lot of time drawing gardens for a forthcoming exhibition that I am working on.
My current range of work includes a variety of hand printed plywood decorations including a flock of native and migratory British birds. I also make limited edition lino prints and have just started venturing into the world of repeat pattern watch this space!
At the heart of all my design work is an ethos of sustainability and craftsmanship with everything that I make
L: What gives you the greatest enjoyment from being a printmaker and designer?
K: I can honestly say that I love being a printmaker. Printmaking seems to be the perfect medium of expression for me. I love the translation of an idea into a sketch and then a lino print. I have a naïve drawing style and I ﬁnd that lino printing, in particular, reﬂects this brilliantly. I love its honest simplicity. There is a craft and skill to carving the lino which can only be improved with experience and making a lot of mistakes. Thinking about how each layer of the print will interact with each other is also a challenge that I relish and then there are the colours. What can I say? I love mixing colours and can take days playing with combinations! Once complete the carved blocks are a thing of beauty when they are all inked up ready for the press. Lino printing is without doubt my meditation
L: What or who are you influenced by?
K: I ﬁnd inspiration all around me, often in the smallest things! I have already mentioned the role that the British landscape plays in my work but other artists and designers will often be a source of new ideas to me, especially those that have also found their inspiration from nature.
The ﬁrst of these that I can remember is Barbara Hepworth and Alfred Wallis. As a child we used to go to St Ives for our holidays almost every year, I loved visiting Barbara Hepworth‘s studio, with her megalithic like sculptures rising out from the coastal foliage of her garden. The Tate was also a highlight of the trip where I was fascinated by Wallis's paintings of Cornish seascapes, ﬁshing boats, light houses and stormy seas. I loved the fact that he played with the composition and scale of his subject matter. He seemed to break all the rules of a formal art training, often working from memory and on any material he could get his hands on. I found all of this inspirational. I suppose looking back this was the starting point of a lifelong love of folk art.
Since then I have been inspired by a huge array of artists (too many to mention here), but those whose work I admire include Angie Lewin, Mark Herald, Peggy Angus, Robert Tavener, Cedric Morris and the Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Many of these artists work across a range of different disciplines often mixing printmaking, ceramics, textiles and painting They cross the boundaries between ﬁne art and design and as a result, their work has an energy to it that I ﬁnd infectious and motivating.
L: What's your next project?
K: I have a few things in the pipeline, but I think the most exciting is a new exhibition that I am working on for next September that will be held at a local walled garden near to me in East Lothian. Like most creative people though, I have more ideas than time to implement them, so there is always something bubbling away in the background!
L: What do you do when you're not printmaking?
K: I am mostly out and about having adventures with the kids or attempting to renovate our house (progress is very slow). I enjoy being out in nature, especially the sea and a friend is teaching me to surf which is exciting! I love the garden too, so am slowing creating a wildlife garden and allotment with the help of the children. Our next project is to dig a pond
L: Where can we see and buy your work?
(Kate’s work will also be for sale here at Designed and Created come the Autumn so watch this space)
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