Hi! I’m Beth Louise, also known as BooLouLew Design, I am a relief print and stamp maker. I live in North Cornwall with my husband Sam and our daughter Eda, a bunch of chickens and a baby tortoise called Roger. We moved back to my homeland from Bristol to start full time managing a 28-acre ex-plantation woodland, returning it to a natural working woodland and event space for learning, weddings and parties as well as a woodland Gym for my husband to teach out of! We’ve spent a massive chunk of the last 2 years renovating our home, building my new studio and building lots of new things for the woodland business, so when I’m not printmaking, I’m painting, decorating, making furniture, designing and planning all the projects we are juggling! Next up: felling our own timber to build a beautiful barn for people to celebrate their marriages in!
Describe your printmaking process.
I sort of have two printmaking processes, on one side of my business, I design, create and carve custom stamps for other small businesses, so I spend many many hours of nearly every day carving but never really printing from hundreds of blocks/stamps a year. And on the other side, I am relief printmaking working predominantly on lino but sometimes wood too, learning and exploring on my feet making traditional prints but also some more unusual applications of printmaking onto fabric gift bags, cork coasters, notebooks, wooden toys, puppets and basically anything flat I can get my hands on, I love to find something simple and print beauty onto it!
How and where did you learn to print?
I am very much self-taught, I was lucky to do a few taster courses during art college and my design degree, but at no depth and I often wasn’t paying attention! So it’s very much been trial and error for me. Watching my peers on Instagram, buying and trying new products and a lot of experimenting, my favourite thing! I have a traditional art & design education starting at Plymouth College of Art and Design as a 16 year old, and then onto Bath Spa where I first studied Fashion Design then Graphic Communication.
It’s just magic to me! I find carving so ridiculously calming, I love the smell of ink and the constant space to learn and experiment, I know I’ll never ever master this craft and that REALLY excites me! I think printing was destined for me, my parents were offset litho printers when I was a baby, so I grew up around the smell of ink and scraps of paper to play with. Since the moment I could hold a crayon and scissors I’ve was making menus for make-believe restaurants for my grandparents, drawing dresses I would one day make, magazines to sell at primary school, song books for dreadful Christmas piano shows I put on for my poor family, and any sort of thing I could think up so I could make!
Where do you work?
This year I finally built my dream studio! I’ve always worked out of a corner or spare room, but in September we converted the old double garage in our new house (it was one of the main selling points to finally give me a working space!). I wanted a calm, tidy, versatile open space where I could make, play and also teach! I’ve clad the whole space in beautiful plywood, with loads of storage, a handy little kitchen, a hot desk for hire and 2 beautiful big tables in the middle made from our own timber that I got to mill up at the sawmill from our woodland! I painted a faux tile floor onto the loft board flooring to save some pennies, and I’m so glad I did as it’s the thing I get the most compliments about! I am really hoping 2021 is the year I can welcome learners into my space to hold workshops here in North Cornwall, perfect for anyone on their holidays looking for a rainy day activity… because it nearly always rains here!
Describe a typical day in your studio.
There isn’t much of a typical day for me in the studio at the moment, we have been homeschooling our 4.5 year old daughter during the lockdown (eek!) and we’re both self-employed running 3 busy businesses between us, it’s a juggle! But my ideal day in the studio starts with a long coffee in bed, a little potter around a quiet house whilst I come around, I am NOT a morning person, and then I head to the studio. I try and get my admin done first because its my least favourite task, then pack orders and get them to the post office, after I settle into making, starting on custom stamps. On a really productive day, I can make a new print or product (my little luxury) when my client work is running on schedule!
How long have you been printmaking?
Not very long! About 3.5 years, but I have been a designer/creative all my life. I ended up studying Graphic Communication specialising in Longset static typography (book design to you and me!) and have worked as a book and graphic designer for the past 10 years. It wasn’t until after the arrival of my daughter, when I was looking to get creative again, that I found a block of lino and some blunt tools at the back of a cupboard from my uni days that I gave it a proper go!
What inspires you?
As it is for so many artists, nature is my biggest inspiration. I’m not naturally an outdoors person, despite growing up on an organic farm, but whenever I feel at a low ebb of creativity I head to our woods or the beach and that’s usually when something clicks. Naturally, my work features a lot of botanical, natural themes but I am starting to feel myself trying to capture not just what I see, but how I feel or a sense of how it affects my world. My early work was very factual so this is new territory for me, scary and exciting at the same time!
What is your favourite printmaking product?
My pfeil 11/0.5 TINY gouge. Since I got it I’ve been able to carve even smaller details for custom stamps and it brings me so much joy to see a detail on a clients design and think… I probably should say ‘no, that’s too small’… but I do it anyway! I think I finally understand why people like sport, the competition I have with myself to carve smaller and smaller letters is addictive!
What have you made that you are most proud of?
I find it quite hard to be proud of my work, I feel like the stamps I make aren’t actually mine, they always belong to the client in my mind, so even when they go really really well, I feel more pride/happiness for the client than the actual work I created. With my own printmaking, I feel like it’s been such a short and extreme journey of learning that I too easily write off all the past prints as the newest one is better in some way. However, I do feel really proud of my recent fennel print because I feel like the new techniques I tried were something unique to me and that feels great!
Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?
I sell mainly through my website as well as a few indie shops, and on Etsy but I share the most on my Instagram, especially on stories, where I share probably way too much about my family life, printmaking and stamp making! You can also see more about our woodland journey on Instagram too.
What will we be seeing from you next?
I’ve got a new print idea floating in my head as we speak which is something quite different to my usual work, (not sure if that’s a good thing or not!), and I’m going to be releasing a new spring/summer collection very soon with lots more homewares, notebooks and lovely gifts! More colour and fresh spring designs! And if we are ever allowed, I would LOVE to get teaching again, small workshops, creative printmaking and even wedding stationary making in my lovely new studio!
Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?
Keep playing, there are no rules! Don’t be precious, put the wrong ink on the thing and see what happens, make something work for you even if it’s not been done before, print on any surface you find, and enjoy the never-ending piles of things that didn’t quite work! And carving is muscle memory, the more you carve the more you can carve! So just keep going!
To see more from Beth, follow her on Instagram.