Welcome to the first in the new series of Candy Conversations. Today we meet one of the newest members of Craft Candy, James Green, for a chat about the art of print-making.
- Name : James Green
- Hometown : Sheffield
- Craft : Print-making
- Company Name : James Green Printworks
- Blog Address : http://jamesgreenprintworks.blogspot.com/
- Facebook page : www.facebook.com/jamesgreenprintworks
- Twitter : http://twitter.com/jgprintworks
- Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/52757458@N02/
- Likes : Peanut butter, Erik Satie, North Wales, Camberwick Green & Red Wine
- Dislikes : Marzipan and proud ignoramuses
- Hello James! Welcome to Candy Conversations! Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and your background?
I’m 37 (I think!), and I live in Meersbrook in Sheffield. I went to Sheffield Hallam University (1992-1995), and studied Fine Art, French and Spanish.
I’m married and have a son who is three and a half. We have a cat called Otto.
- Have you always been creative?
I loved painting and drawing when I was a child. I have vivid memories of being in primary school, drawing scenes from Ancient history, probably gruesome stuff. My Mum is, and was, a keen painter, and she always encouraged me to be creative. I also remember making tons of things for my action man with my Grandpa, from cardboard boxes, paint and glue. Great times!
So, I’ve pretty much always been involved with creative projects, however after graduating this did tail off a bit. I hadn’t realised how difficult it would be to get an art-related job after uni, and spent quite a few years in tedious temp jobs, with little time or money for creative endeavours.
About seven years ago I found some lino and some cutting tools and decided to give it a go. I’d never previously tried any printmaking. I loved it! So over the last few years I’ve been creating stuff, and this year decided to sell my work in a ‘proper’ way.
- So, can you tell us more about what it is that you do?
I mainly do linocut prints. This basically involves creating an image, transferring it to a piece of lino with a pencil, cutting out the ‘white space’ with cutting tools, and then printing the image either with a press or by hand. I love the way that I’m always surprised by the result. The craft is not just my creation, but dictated by the tools, ink and lino. It is unpredictable, but that’s the way I like it!
I also do etchings. This is a similar process, but a lot more complicated (and hazardous). It involves nasty chemicals and other stuff that you can’t get off your fingers. The results are a lot more like drawings or paintings. I tend to do etchings if I want to create quite a detailed image.
I sell my prints framed or unframed, and I also produced posters and greetings cards of my work. A more ‘pocket-money’ line, if you will. I’m in the process of getting together a postcard pack, too.
I always print my work on high quality acid-free paper (so it doesn’t go brown) and use standard printing inks. The posters and cards I create are printed on 100% recycled card too.
- Where do you currently sell your products, and how do you promote your work?
I sell my work online and also at craft fairs and farmers markets, and at The Old Sweet Shop in Sheffield. I’ve also sold a bit by word-of-mouth.
I have a Folksy shop (www.folksy.com/shops/jamesgreenprintworks) in which I have copies of all my work. This is very useful indeed. I haven’t explored too many other online shops, but might explore this if time allows.
I’ve had stalls at a few fairs/markets in Sheffield, including Craft Candy, Nether Edge Farmers Market and On The Waterfront. I’m planning on doing quite a few more before the end of the year (Chesterfield Craft Fair, Nether Edge, Kelham Island Christmas Fair and maybe others) and I might also venture out of Sheffield to do the Saltaire Christmas Craft Fair!
I use Facebook, Twitter and Flickr to promote my work. I think they work pretty well, though I’m not sure I twitter enough!
I also have a blog which I use to show new work, and link to anyone else who I think is doing interesting stuff, but that’s fairly new. If anyone wants to follow my work, please come along and check out my Facebook/Twitter/Blog.
I also recent had a Sheffield Showcase shop window-front in Sheffield town-centre. I displayed a selection of my work there for a couple of weeks. It didn’t generate any instant sales, but I felt was a good way of showing my work to a much wider audience.
I do have business cards, and these seem to go quicker than anything else on my stall at fairs/markets. I’m hoping people are keeping these for future gift ideas and not just throwing them away!
- Are you able to produce one-off commission pieces to order?
I’d be happy to consider commissions in the future. I’ve not had that many in the past, though I have produced a fair bit of artwork for record sleeves. I’ve created work for James Yorkston, Pickled Egg Records, Farina, Circle Records, my own group and many others. In 2008 I was commissioned to produce t-shirt designs for Paul Smith Menswear, for their Japanese stores. I wasn’t expecting that one. I basically created linocut designs and adapted them for t-shirt screenprints.
- Do you work from home, or do you have a studio?
My studio is currently our kitchen at home. I have a printing press in there, and a section for all my equipment. Luckily it is quite a big kitchen! The natural light is really good in there, and I have a nice view out of the window of plants and such, so I don’t feel too isolated or cooped up. I keep it pretty tidy, although things are beginning to spread to the rest of the house, so I’m thinking maybe at some point I might need a studio.
- Is your print-making your main job, or do you also have a day job?
I gave up my full-time job last year (I used to work in admin at Sheffield Uni) to concentrate on printmaking and also my other passion, music. I’ve only been selling my work properly since about January, so it is early days and I think I have a way to go before the business supports me in the way I’d like it to. I love having the time to work on new projects (in the daylight!).
So, apart from printmaking, I am a musician. I’ve been doing this for about ten years now, but recently lots of good opportunities have come my way so this was another reason for dropping the full-time job. I have a group called ’The Big Eyes Family Players’. We play kind of experimental folk/chamber/pop music. It works very well with my craft. I produce all of the artwork for our releases, and often the visual element inspires the song and vice-versa (see ’Donkeys Disturbed By A Meteor Shower’ print and song).
I also run a tiny record label called ‘Early Winter Recordings’, which exists to release limited edition CDs, all with lino-printed sleeves, so yet again the craft fits in well!
- Who or what inspires you, and how does this come through in your work?
Art/Design/Craft inspirations : Egon Schiele, Francisco Goya, Max Beckmann, Vaughan Oliver, Rob Ryan, Kid Acne, Jonathan Wilkinson, Elodie Ginsbourg. And anyone who specialises in pugs.
Books : style-wise, old kids books from 1950-70s, and for reading the works of Paul Auster and James Kelman.
Landscapes : interesting old architecture, especially in Paris, Prague and Barcelona, the hills of North Wales and Sheffield.
Animals/people : all sorts, although I’m rather fascinated by old people.
Photography : Sebastiao Saldago, Martin Parr
Music/film : Rachel’s, Shirley Collins, The Dirty Three, Tindersticks, His Name is Alive, Alasdair Roberts, the films of Mike Leigh and Werner Herzog.
I feel particularly inspired by Mike Leigh. It’s not in an obvious way. His manner with film has a deft touch and a very subtle humour that I feel is somewhat reflected in my work (you may not agree). I try not to take myself that seriously, and check myself if things are getting a bit sophisticated! I’m certainly drawn to the melancholy side of life, as probably displayed by a lot of my inspirations.
- Which of your contemporaries do you admire and why?
Elodie Ginsbourg – a good friend of mine, and a creative one-of-a kind. She creates fantastic comic books and illustations with very funny personal observations that very much appeal to me. I’ve known her for ages, and have a a fair few of her works. http://elodieg.canalblog.com
Jonathan Wilkinson – another friend, and again, someone who seems to be completely on their own, creatively. No one does what Johnny does (though some do imitate, badly). He creates architectural-esque illustrations of buildings, some still standing, and some not. He is very clever at selecting building that are close to people’s hearts and produces very unsentimental reproductions of them. Great stuff. www.welivehere.co.uk
Kid Acne – You can’t live in Sheffield without seeing this guy’s work. Graffiti-artist, illustrator and rapper. I love how he has turned the macho sport of graffiti into something much more elegant, and also filled the city with interesting slogans, stuff that actually makes you think. His figures are just so odd. Lord-knows what is going on in his head, but it is all good! http://www.kidacne.com/blog
Neil Woodall – etching guru and all-round good egg. He’s a great artist, based in Sheffield, creating mysterious landscapes and beautiful imagery. He also knows everything you could possibly know about printing. He has taught me an awful lot, and helped me a great deal with my printing too. http://www.neilwoodall.co.uk
- What is your favourite thing about being creative?
It’s all I know! Ok, I do know other things, but I love being creative, and being able to earn money from what you love is great! The freedom aspect is a little daunting sometimes, but you get used to it. Doing this for a living certainly focuses the mind, and I’m a lot busier now thinking up new ideas than when I was a lazy student!
I don’t really think about the competition, though perhaps I should. I feel that if I did, it would interfere with what I do, and I’d end up creating work because people might like it rather than because it felt right.
It’s really good fun selling stuff at fairs, and answering questions from the punters. I’m not too good with the answers, but I’m fascinated by their response to my works. It’s often quite different to mine!
- What is your favourite item that you have made and sold?
I think my favourite work so far is ‘Tribells, Llandudno’, a linocut of three men outside a ‘legendary’ fish and chip shop in North Wales. I think of it as a classic scene. The three men, probably all in their 60s, are having a chat, putting the world to rights, in their slippers. It says a lot about the place, and makes me laugh when I think of it. I’m not judging them, or the place. I just love the mix of sunday-best, chips, seaside-glamour and slippers.
- Do you have any other interests or hobbies?
Apart from printing and music (which doesn’t leave much time), I love spending time with my family. I have a young son who keeps me on my toes. We write songs together, none of which make any sense.
I also like running. I’ve been off the road with an ankle injury for a while now, but am on the mend, so pounding the streets yet again.
I’ve also recently joined Craft Candy, and am a committee member, so am looking forward to getting involved with things!
- Why do you love belonging to Craft Candy, and how do you think you will benefit from being a member of the group?
Well, it is early days, but it is great to be able to talk to people about their work, their craft, and share ideas and information. I’ve learned a lot already, especially at a recent social I went to! Everyone seems very friendly.
I’m certainly going to help promote the group, and hopefully use some of my ideas to benefit it. It’d be nice to have more men in the group (I am the only one!) and I’ll be thinking up ways of attracting male crafters. I certainly think being involved with Craft Candy will help bring my work to a wider audience.
I have attended one Craft Candy fair previously as a stall-holder and will be having a stall at the next one on 27th November (Candy Cane).
One thing that I am planning on doing through the group (in the new year) is to run a workshop on linocut prints. I’ve never done anything like this before and am looking forward to the challenge!
- Finally, what are your plans for the future?
To produce more prints, sell more stuff, diversify (bags/t-shirts?), have an exhibition or two, collaborate with others, do more craft fairs and generally keep busy and productive. I’d like to get my work in more shops too (am working on this).
Oh, and I’m trying to get to grips with screen-printing, but not having much luck (it’s a lot harder than it looks!).
- Thanks for taking the time to share some of your work with us James, it’s been lovely talking to you, and great hearing all about what you do!