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Meet the Maker: Grace Gillespie

Meet the Maker: Grace Gillespie

Hello! I’m Grace Gillespie, a printmaker specialising in reduction linocuts and based in Bristol. Most days you will find me in my teeny home studio, adding layers of colour to my prints, thinking about future designs or working on the never-ending administration side of running your own business!

Describe your printmaking process.

Making reduction prints is quite a long process, with a fair bit of planning and organising before you even get started. I would usually start out with a design that includes the different colours that will make up the layers of the print. I then spend a LOT of time tearing down paper, making a registration sheet, and adding tabs to the paper so that each layer aligns. Then I start carving and printing the first layer, usually the palest colour in the design, but not always! I have to be quite patient waiting for each layer to dry and usually end up changing my plans as I go along. I love playing with colour and often can’t resist straying from my original plan...

How and where did you learn to print?

I learnt to print during the pandemic when I was living at home with my parents, having abandoned our teeny flat in London. Both of my parents are printmakers and my mother (Sarah Gillespie) is lucky enough to have a press in her home studio. Neither of them have much interest in linocut, but there were a few ancient bits of lino lying around some very rusty old tools were dug out. Weirdly they had a hunch that i would get on with the graphic lines of lino - and they were right! I was immediately addicted, and spent the rest of lockdown happily carving and printing away. I was very lucky to have them guiding me as well as a very strange series of circumstances that led to me living there and having the time to learn this new skill.


Why printmaking?

As mentioned above, I very much stumbled into printmaking. I had, in fact, mostly avoided it because of the fact it was very much ‘mum’s thing’ and my ’thing’ had been music for almost all of my 20s. Having tried to make a life in music and really struggled, I came to print with a very different attitude, determined not to get bogged down in meaning, genre or what other people think, and instead to just follow my instinct and not worry too much about end results. It was immediately very refreshing for me to be able to work independently in this way - rather than relying on the host of support you need to even make one song in the music world - and I was able to create pretty much whatever I wanted, in a time-scale that suited me, and I loved it!

Where do you work?

I work mostly in my tiny home studio, where I recently invested in my first table-top etching press. I love working from home and being able to pick away at things at all hours. I like to work in quite a sporadic way, doing lots of different tasks at once, and also changing my mind a lot… so being at home works for me as I have all the different papers and colours I need right here, rather than splitting all my gear between home and a separate studio.

Describe a typical day in your studio.

I generally split my day between a whole host of different tasks, but a typical day usually includes: some admin in the morning (stock checks, ordering, replying to messages and emails, social media), printing in the middle of the day and then packing prints in the late afternoon when I have run out of creative energy! Typically the admin side of things can really eat into printing time, which is a shame, but it is an inevitable and crucial part of the reality of running your own business.

How long have you been printmaking?

Since 2020, so not long really!

 What inspires you?

I think my main inspiration comes from the plant life that surrounds us in the every day - so, houseplants, gardens, allotments etc. It felt really important during the pandemic to find joy and inspiration in the ordinary and I have just continued with that train of thought. There is so much once you start looking! I love trying to grow flowers and veg and a lot of this year’s inspiration has come from my own little garden.

What is your favourite printmaking product?

I am obsessed with handmade paper.. Using textured, irregular paper really brings designs to life and makes each print a little different.

What have you made that you are most proud of?

I am most proud of a large reduction print I made called ‘Morning Light’. It took me months to complete and is by far the most ambitious reduction I have taken on to date. The image is of my Grandmother’s flat, where my partner and I lived for two years while we were looking for our own home in Bristol. It's special to me as it reminds me of her and also of quite a difficult time in my own life, lots of complex feelings and memories all woven together and embodied in an image. I thought it would be too personal to sell alongside my other prints, but people seem to really like it too.

Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?

To get the best idea of my work and how I make it I would recommend looking at my Instagram where I have made a lot of videos of my reduction processes. I sell my work via Etsy.

What will we be seeing from you next?

So next I am very much focussed on having my baby! It’s a strange time for me creatively as I figure out how I will navigate becoming a mother whilst also continuing to run my business and create. Things will definitely shift and change, but in ways I can’t be entirely certain of just yet. I can say that I am working on a few collaborations with clothing/fabric designers, and that I will be able to reveal more about that early next year.

Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?

My advice would be to plan less and intuit more. We get so stuck planning things out sometimes that we never even get to starting a project! Not to mention the fact that it can really suck the joy out of the process. I have talked about this a lot on my Instagram - it’s so important to remain in love with the process, and planning too meticulously can really dull the joy and discovery of the magical printing process.

To see more from Grace, follow her on Instagram!

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