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Meet The Maker: Strangford (Jo Pearson)

Meet The Maker: Strangford (Jo Pearson)

Hi! I’m Jo, working as a printmaker under the name 'Strangford' in Northern Ireland - though I’m originally from South London.

Describe your printmaking process.

I make large, bright, unusual relief prints from my home studio; mostly of animals. I carve into flooring lino - it’s a pain to sand but it comes in huge rolls. I roughly sketch out an outline of the design directly onto the lino, but I never include too much detail. Partly because I’m not a very accurate drawer, but also it’s fun to let the carving loose a bit.

I use Pfeil and Flexcut tools… I like both. I print with Caligo Safe Wash inks pretty much exclusively (in tubes, I’m too messy for the tins). I love the finish they give and they are easy clean up. To press prints, I use an adapted version of something called a cold press laminator… it has two rubber rollers and a width of about 65cm. It’s been pretty reliable for me and it was a cheap way to make big prints when I was just starting out.

How and where did you learn to print?

I have no artistic training. I was working as a secondary school science teacher in North Belfast, becoming increasingly concerned about the state of the planet and the climate crisis; as were the students that I was teaching at the time. I joined Extinction Rebellion and found their art group was a good way to get involved… from there I learnt printmaking for banners and signs, and fell in love with the process.

Soon after I picked up lino tools for the first time, the pandemic hit. As the world was a lot to deal with back then, I started to drift away from climate protesting. The lino tools stuck around though; and four years later, printmaking is my full time job.

Why printmaking?

It's a nice cycle of meditative (carving), chaotic (printing) and routine (the admin). And it’s less stressful than teaching.

Where do you work?

At home! In theory I have one room, but in reality I’ve encroached into most rooms with storage of some kind… I live in a scenic part of Northern Ireland by a place called Strangford Lough. It’s where my name and goose logo came from. I couldn’t use my own name, as I was teaching in a school - so social media had to be a bit incognito.

Describe a typical day in your studio.

I don’t have a typical day - I tend to get quite fixated on one task at a time. But in an average week, I would expect to split my time between admin, packing orders, carving or printing - and then waiting hopefully for inspiration. I have two dogs and one of them is keen to maximise the amount of time she is connected to me, so I do all of these tasks with at least one dog on my foot / shoulder / head. I try to get all the less fun tasks out of the way before lunch, and then it leaves the rest of the day to get stuck into something more creative. I have a little network of printmakers that I regularly chat to / message / voice note; I’m so glad they put up with me.

How long have you been printmaking?

4.5 years.

What inspires you?

Funny things and silly things. Sometimes weird things… I like making people smile. My first degree was in Ecology, so of course I’m inspired by nature, but isn’t everyone?

What is your favourite printmaking product?

Caligo Safe Wash inks and Pfeil Tools in sizes 12/1 & 11/1. When I first started printmaking, those were the things that made the biggest difference to the work I was producing.

What have you made that you are most proud of?

I like the new owl print that I’ve just finished. There’s a sad story behind it though, which is in contrast to most of my other prints. 

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

Instagram is the best place to see my work - it links to my website and most of my prints sell directly from there. I have some lovely galleries and stockists with a selection of my work though too - they’re all over the world which is exciting.

What will we be seeing from you next?

Over the August Bank Holiday (23rd-  29th) I’ll have a joint exhibition at Centrespace Gallery, Bristol. The exhibition is with the fellow printmakers @gemmatrickeystudio, @printsbythebay and @harrietpopham. I’m sure I’ll make some more prints between now and then, but the plan is somewhat loose at the moment…

Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?

Find your people somehow (social media was useful for me) and get into the routine of asking each other questions and sharing ideas. I am good friends with a small group of relief printmakers, including the ones I’m doing the exhibition with in August. It started as a WhatsApp group and resulted in trips to make big collaborative prints. They have been a huge support to me over recent years and I wouldn’t be without them.

Follow Jo on Instagram and visit her website for more fun.

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