Print maker and illustrator Tom Frost graduated from Falmouth College of Arts in 2001 returning to his hometown of Bristol to work as an illustrator for a number of years. He now divides his time between print making, restoring his tired Georgian house in rural Wales and raising a young family. In recent years he has worked with clients including the V&A, Perry’s Cider, Walker Books, Freight Household Goods, Selvedge Magazine, Penguin, Barti Ddu Rum, The Archivist and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. His work highlights a fascination for old matchboxes, stamps, folk art, tin toys and children’s books. Tom strives to produce items that people will cherish for many years to come.
Image by Heather Bernie
Describe your printmaking process.
As a screen printer I create my positives in a number of ways. If I am doing something detailed or text heavy, then it is generally designed in Photoshop and printed onto a transparent stock. For my most recent limited edition prints I tend to work directly onto Mark Resist or True Grain with either acrylic paint, Chinagraph pencils, inks and paper cuts. My exposure unit at the moment is simply a UV floodlight beneath a sheet of glass. Very Heath Robinson! Once the screens are exposed, I use acrylic inks (safer in a house with children) and more than likely some lovely Somerset, Colourplan or Fabriano papers to print onto. No flashy exposure units, no vacuum beds, no back lit washout units, just good honest homemade printmaking which I find gives a much more pleasing result.
How and where did you learn to print?
I learnt to print in my hometown of Bristol at a small print workshop, gallery and studios called Snap around ten years ago. I was sitting in a pub chatting with one of the studio members who said I should give screen printing a go. A week later I had done the one-day introductory course and had instantly fallen in love with the process. A month later I was part of their mini print show and another month or so later I became one of the eight members of the studio and had 24-hour access to screen printing. My future (fate) was sealed.
It was a chance to try and step away from the digital. I had been working as a commercial illustrator for a number of years and felt I was treading water. Printmaking gave me the inspiration I needed to move my work forward, to get my hands dirty and inspire me to be a creative artist again.
Where do you work?
At the moment you will find me working out of a slightly chaotic, overly small space in our crumbling Georgian house in rural West Wales. Over the past few months, we have been moving ever closer to finishing the renovation of our barns that will become the first proper studio space we’ve had in the seven year since moving. Upstairs in the barn will be the main studio space and downstairs will be the workshop. It will be bliss!
Describe a typical day in your studio.
There tends to never be a typical day in the studio, and I like it that way. Some days it might be printing, others spent in the workshop making something out of wood, another day doing illustrations for a book and another might see me visiting clients up and down Wales for a branding job. With a liberal sprinkling of kids, cooking, emails, Instagram, a run here and a walk there, no day is the same.
What inspires you?
Nature, architecture, music, film, children’s books, folk art, old toys, old books, match boxes, our house, our kids, food, other printmakers, antiques. Everything!
What is your favourite printmaking product?
Not a product as such but I have a little old wooden Dryad squeegee I found at a car boot sale for 50p. It was well used when I bought it and has been well used since with many happy years of printmaking left in it.
What have you made that you are most proud of?
It would have to be the body of work I created a number of years back for Yorkshire Sculpture Park as part of my first large solo show. I’d not long been a printmaker and for a gallery to invest their trust in me to produce a show for them meant a great deal. After eight months of hard work I’d managed to produce about forty new pieces of work ranging from limited edition prints, wooden toys and even a bit of marquetry.
Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?
The best place to find my work at the moment is in my online shop. Over the past number of years my work has pointed me more in the direction of book illustration and design work. This has meant my print drawers have become rather empty and the number of galleries I supply has fallen away somewhat. I’m hoping that this will soon change with many new prints in the pipeline.
What will we be seeing from you next?
I was lucky enough to work on a recent book with Ladybird just as lockdown started which will be out next year. I was also due to have two solo shows this year which Covid-19 has obviously had other ideas about. The hope is these will happen early next year so I’m planning lots of new prints and handmade goods over the coming months.
Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?
Have fun, make mistakes and do what you love.
To see more of Tom’s work check out his Instagram.