Meet The Maker: Ariana Martin
Hi, I’m Ariana - a pattern designer and printmaker from leafy Sheffield. I create joyful patterns and illustrations, which are particularly inspired by 20th century design, and I produce my own range of stationery and homewares.
Describe your printmaking process.
Screen printing on paper is my main focus; it suits me as I tend to design using a limited palette of 2 or 3 colours and I love the dense, powdery finish of the inks. Mixing colours is a big part of the process for me - I spent weeks perfecting my ideal cornflower blue! I’m also developing my lino printing practice, using an etching press.
When starting a new pattern or print, I'll roughly map out the composition in pencil. Once finalised, I'll draw each colour layer on separate sheets of paper in black Indian ink or a brush pen, using the lightbox. This way, I can easily scan in each element and vectorise them in Adobe Illustrator, making colour separation and production prep really easy. I think I'm more of a designer than an artist in this way, as I'm always thinking about the production method ahead, whether it's screen print, letterpress or offset litho. I prefer not to actually draw digitally, as I like to retain the hand-drawn imperfections, but will play around with colour palettes within Illustrator. I get my screens exposed by Handprinted, which is so handy as I don't have space for an exposure unit in my studio at the moment.
How and where did you learn to print?
I’ve taken classes in relief and screen printing, both at uni and independent studios, but mainly it’s been self-taught. A fair bit of trial and error (and a helping hand from Handprinted’s YouTube channel) seems to be the best way to learn.
I’m obsessed by all things 20th century print; I have a particular passion for interwar modernism and Art Deco. The traditional print methods - lithography, woodcut, screen print - used by designers a hundred years ago create the most distinctive, spirited results that I think has been lost in the digital age.
Where do you work?
I rent a studio in an old Victorian workshop with big blue doors in Sheffield.
Describe a typical day in your studio.
I live with chronic pain, so can never spend nearly as long at the studio as I’d like. But it usually involves tea, music and podcasts, whilst printing or drawing a new idea with the lightbox. If I’m screen printing, my partner, who is also an artist, often comes to help me out and do the washing up (thanks Ben).
How long have you been printmaking?
I’ve dabbled over the years, but have only been printmaking consistently for the last 3 years. Now that I’m hooked on printmaking, I wish I’d studied it at university 15 years ago. It’s not until you leave university that you realise how invaluable it is to have access to those facilities and brilliant tutors at your fingertips.
What inspires you?
After doing an MA in Design History and researching 1930s furnishing fabrics, I fell in love with interwar modernism in all its forms - fabrics, wallpapers, book covers, interiors, graphics. I love to trawl online museum archives and find hidden gems. I also write about 20th century designers in a Design History blog; sometimes I miss the academic research aspect of my MA, so it's a way to keep my hand in.
I love to use colours that are simultaneously vibrant and a little muted. Over the last couple of years I seem to have developed a palette that I return to. One combination I can't resist is vibrant tomato orange and dusty cornflower blue. I'd like to do more overprinting - there's something extremely satisfying about seeing a third colour emerge when two colours are overprinted.
What is your favourite printmaking product?
Not strictly a printmaking product, but I use a lightbox all the time. I use it to draw different layers of an illustration or pattern and see how they will look together; it also makes colour separations much easier.
What have you made that you are most proud of?
I've screen printed a series of Alphabet prints, that I'm really pleased with. It’s a slow-paced ongoing project - so far I’ve done 8 letters. Will I get to all 26? We’ll see…
Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?
Instagram is the best place to follow my work. You can buy my products via my website and in some lovely shops around the UK - see my stockists here. I have also designed a range of letterpress cards and matchboxes for Archivist gallery, which you can buy here.
What will we be seeing from you next?
I’m working on a series of linocut mini prints that express more personal themes; I’m still relatively new to relief printing so it’s partly an exploration to get more familiar with the process.
Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?
Don’t worry about feeling like an imposter - everyone has to start at the beginning. Notice what lights you up and stay close to it.
Check out more of Ariana’s work and follow her on socials below