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Meet the Maker: Rosanna Morris

Meet the Maker: Rosanna Morris

I am an illustrator and printmaker, working mainly with relief. I work from my large studio on the top floor of an creative warehouse in east Bristol. I also run a courses, workshops and printmaking events.

Describe your printmaking process.

I usually start with a pencil drawing, followed by a looser ink painting to design my prints. I then make my prints by using Japanese or Swiss carving tools to carve away the areas that I don’t want to be seen. I then ink up and print them on handmade papers using my huge hand-built etching press, Bubolina.

How and where did you learn to print?

I started making prints when I was 19 years old on an Art Foundation at Bristol School of Art. I wanted to turn my pen and ink drawings into large scale posters to wheat paste locally but couldn’t afford the digital printing costs. At the time, it made total sense to me that I should just transfer my images and carve them out of wood to make a giant stamp. I didn’t really consider it a mammoth undertaking, but my first print was a meter long and half a meter wide.  After that I became pretty addicted to the process and hand burnished all my prints for years until my partner persuaded me that he could build a press, and then Cato press, our printmaking studio, was built.

Why printmaking?

It’s an addictive process in itself, carving away areas methodically once an image is designed for me is a kind of meditation. And then, of course, the moment you make your first proof of a design is always very satisfying.

I think for me it’s the political place print lies in the art world that draws me to it. Printmaking with relief is, in my opinion, the most democratic of art forms. You need very little in the way of tools or specialist material to make prints and yet the medium allows anyone using it to get their ideas out there and seen by the people. I’ve always been fascinated with the way print was used during the Mexican peasant revolution to educate and inform the revolt.

Where do you work?

From my top floor studio, overlooking the Bristol skyline. It’s cold in winter and boiling in summer but it has the best light and the most beautiful sunset view. It’s nestled in Easton a multicultural urban corner of my city where I spent most of my childhood.  I love that I can choose between Indian, Turkish, Tibetan, Kurdish or Chinese options for lunch and snacks everyday and there is always something going on.

Describe a typical day in your studio.

I usually cycle to the studio after dropping my kids at school, just after 9, make a coffee and open up my sketchbooks. I try to draw first before I begin the day rather than getting bogged down in emails and general small business anxiety. I usually have a few different projects on the go at once, so my day varies from carving, to printing to design, and then I generally work on commission’s in the evening. The working day ends at 3 when I rush off on my bike, through the cycle path or the forest to pick my kids up from school.

How long have you been printmaking?

Over ten years now, on an off.  

What inspires you?

My main inspiration over the years has been farming and where it lies in our collective modern culture. I grew up in a very urban environment, on a council estate, completely disconnected from my food and where it comes from. I think my work has always revolved around going back to the land, a simpler and more rural way of life, the importance of this and our own responsibility for taking care of the land on which we rely.

What is your favourite printmaking product?

I couldn’t survive without my caligo safewash inks, I love them so much and it was such a revolution for me to be able to move away from oil based. I also love my Pfeil carving tools. 

What have you made that you are most proud of?

I think the three calendars I have worked on for the Landworkers’ Alliance would be one of my biggest achievements. Working for such a brilliant organisation, whose work I believe in has been such an honour over the years.

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

On my website and in some lovely small shops around the UK, there should be a list on my site.

What will we be seeing from you next?

I am thrilled to announce that I have a book coming out this April! Botanical Block Printing is the perfect companion on the journey of crafting relief prints from scratch, always with a botanical theme and beautifully presented in my contemporary and gentle aesthetic. The book includes step-by-step projects including making block prints on both paper and fabric are included and there are interviews with fellow printmakers who specialise in natural subjects. It’s out today and I cannot wait to share it with the world! You can find out more about the book and get your copy here.

Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?

Just keep going, keep dedicated and believe that if you spend your days doing what you love it will all be worth it. I had some very rough and very poor times starting out where I wanted to throw it all in and get a job in a café, I’m so glad now that I had the support I needed and persevered.

To see more from Rosanna follow her on Instagram.

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