A spell at Staithes Studios

January 9, 2017

walkintostaithes

I was very lucky to spend 12 days of December working at Staithes Studios on the North Yorkshire coast. The studio belongs to Staithes Studios Gallery owners and printmakers, Stef and Ian Mitchell who had invited us to work there in response to the locality. Staying beside the studio and working alongside my partner, letterpress printer David Armes, we fell into an easy routine, to keep warm, refuelled and on task; both restful and stimulating.

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Each day we walked for an hour or so and then returned to the studio to print. Often David would go ahead of me, find a path, take photos and notes for his own letterpress prints while I walked round the harbour to draw the water meeting it’s banks whilst the tide was in. The natural bay and man made harbour at Staithes was a great place to continue my study in contained and flowing water.  I plan to work these drawings up into woodcuts.

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Later over coffee David would describe the walk to me and then I would go, with scribbled notes, to find the path and take down my own notes and drawings on foil card to ink and run through the press on my return.  This routine varied a little depending on planned routes or the weather. A couple of walks were a bit longer and needed two heads to find the paths – we always walked without maps. Some days it was bitter in the harbour but warm up on the cliffs. Some days too cold or windy to draw much and I realised that the metal etching needle I drew with was conducting the cold right to my bones!  This actually helped as my preferred drawing style is sparse and in the poor weather I relied on the briefest of marks and the impact of the view on my senses to ink the plate effectively on my return.

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There were so many wonderful textures around Staithes to draw the eye but when I came to walk and draw the landscape my eye always followed the posts, the lines that demarcated paths and skirted the contours. Though the drawings and plates remained largely linear and figurative the textures stayed in my mind and at my fingertips and led my approach to inking.

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My intention had been to walk and draw a card at allotted spots throughout each walk. These would then be printed individually and together to give the impression of sequence and shifting perspective through a walk. I’ve always enjoyed layering images to convey a sense of movement and time. I had used the approach with (lightweight and easy to carry!) foil card to document a walk done over 5 days in 2009 and then reproduced in my artist’s books From Cromer to Hunstanton  and also as original plate and prints in Line and A Line, 2008 to convey the incremental changes of the cracks in my studio ceiling. Still, most recently I have been mainly focussed on relief printing and it took me a few days to warm up to drypoint on foil card, both in drawing and printing.  I’ve never actually had the opportunity to work solidly for such a period of time; there is always paid employment and life to distract. For those 12 days the shift in my printing practice was palpable and I’ve resolved to take time off  and schedule myself out of life next time I want to focus on a project.

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By the end of the 12 days I had made 23 plates and 69 prints. I’ve brought them home to contemplate and perhaps compile a few into an artists book. Then a select few will get framed for an exhibition back at Staithes Studios Gallery at the start of March.  I’m looking forward to revisiting Staithes in the spring.

A big thank you goes to Stef and Ian Mitchell of Staithes Studios for giving us the opportunity.

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “A spell at Staithes Studios”

  1. Karen said

    Lovely, Gemma – it was obviously an immensely stimulating time out from your usual routine. Perhaps it really takes that distance from home (with all the attendant things we know we should be doing instead) to concentrate on response and creation.

    • gemmalacey said

      Thanks Karen. I certainly think that for me it takes that much distance or isolation to work at such a pace and intensity. There’s also no energy wasted trying to resist the usual daily chores and other work distractions. As you put it ‘the attendant things we should be doing instead’, but, matters of life and limb withstanding, who says so? Response and creation can still happen in the midst of daily life but my brewing times are much lengthened!

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