How would you describe what you do?
I’m an independent designer and educator – one half of Textbook Studio, and an associate lecturer at University of Salford. I get bored quite quickly and end up with strange or silly side projects like Buffet (kind of like a grown up show and tell event) and Open Spaces (using art to combat negativity around empty shops in my hometown). I’m also part of the Engine House, a studio space within Islington Mill, Salford, which I share with some friends, who are all very talented independent creatives.
How does print feature in your work?
I’m most interested in designing books and printed matter, and generally speaking, printmaking and other messy mark making techniques often find their way into most projects I’m working on. Both Chris (Textbook) and I tend to collect and document unusual textures we find when we are out and about or find unusual ways to create new marks. I like to test new textures by asking if anyone at the studio can guess what they are, or how I have made them.
In an increasingly digital world, how important and relevant are hands-on skills such as drawing, collage, scribbling, note-making to your professional and personal work?
Hugely important! I was taught to appreciate the rawness and tactility of handmade or accidental marks. A basic principle of design is forming a contrast between elements on a page or screen, and as much as I love typography, there needs to be something to contrast the clean and minimal nature it often creates, which is where collage or drawn elements might come in. I try to describe it loosely to my students as something that gives a design ‘energy’. I make mad, scribbly notes constantly, and often draw things for a piece of work, either by hand or on the computer.
Is there a particular project or career highlight that is particularly meaningful to you?
It’s hard to choose one as they all have different memories and meaning for me. I’m especially proud of every single book I have worked on, since books are often so expensive and time consuming to produce, plus it’s nice to look back on projects and think about the legacy the print might provide, since I often get the same feeling looking at other publications. I probably got the most tingles from working on a show called ‘Coming Out’, about sexuality, gender and identity, for the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, as it featured work by so many of my heroes, and an excellent all-female curating team.
Your CV is pretty impressive. As well as being a founder and designer at Textbook Studio you are an Associate Lecturer at Salford University and run your community art project Open Spaces in Stockport. Do you think it’s becoming more common for designers to focus their attention across multiple jobs / ventures and what benefits have you found from doing this?
Yes! Absolutely. All of my creative friends and mentors have always had many ‘hats’ so to speak. I learned from my tutors early on the value of making things because you want to, and from all the friends and colleagues I have met over the years, that no one has just one job, passion or pursuit. Most notably I have noticed a big upswing in people becoming self-employed, particularly more women who are becoming independent designers, illustrators, animators, copywriters and so on, and it’s amazing to watch, make introductions between newer and more experienced women, and share with my students. Personally, switching between projects keeps me on my toes, gives me different perspectives on things, and I learn different skills through talking to different groups of people. I think everything feeds into everything else. Only downside is mixing up projects sometimes, haha.
We’d like to ask you to recommend a ‘woman in print’ to us…
I’d love to recommend my friend Amy Marsh (@YayVM) who’s sense of playfulness and insanely prolific output is always inspiring to me. She switches effortlessly between ceramic, print, digital/hand-drawn, designing exhibitions and products and she makes me laugh every day!