Today we’re talking to printmaker Michelle Hughes, whose lively multicolor landscape prints are based on the real-life locations she finds on her journeys around Yorkshire and beyond.
Michelle left the fashion industry behind nearly half a decade ago, and slowly settled into becoming a printmaker over the years. Today she teaches linocut classes from her gorgeous workshop overlooking the British countryside.
Tell us about yourself. What do you make?
I’m a printmaker and designer. My inspiration focuses on landscapes and nature.
I enjoy walking and cycling as a way to explore and capture the essence of a place. I use photography to document my journeys and provide reference back in the studio.
Much of my work depicts the Yorkshire landscape and Yorkshire coast, including the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.
I create linocut prints using the multi-block method. The designs are hand-carved into lino blocks, one for each colour to be printed. I ink up each block with oil-based inks, then I use an etching press to hand-print each of the editions.
Tell us about your workshop
My studio is near Holgate Windmill in York. I converted my garage 3 and a half years ago, turning it from a cold, dark space to a light-filled inspiring studio.
It’s nestled in my garden, which is full of birds. It’s also where I teach linocut workshops for small groups.
How long have you been doing your craft? Who taught you or where did you learn?
I trained in fashion design and then worked as a surface pattern, fashion, and homeware designer for leading high street retailers.
I first tried a small linocut at a craft fair about 6 years ago. After taking redundancy 4 and a half years ago I had time to explore it further.
I’ve always loved making things with my hands and loved the craft of printmaking. I developed my style and taught myself further markmaking techniques and how to create multi coloured prints.
I probably learnt the hard way but then isn’t that when you learn the most!
I can draw parallels to many of the previous skills I’ve used, such as working with colour and pattern cutting for clothing. Since I mainly use a multi block linocut technique, where each colour is carved into a separate lino block, every piece requires a lot of thought and planning.
Any advice for beginners to your craft?
Play and enjoy the process. It’s much more about the enjoyment of making something with your hands, than the end result. I get completely absorbed in carving lino.
I’ve always made my Christmas cards for friends and family. Linocut is a great way to try out your skills and get feedback on your designs. Who doesn’t love a handmade card!
Start by creating a simple one colour print. Practice different markmaking techniques to grow your skills. It’s helpful to look at other people’s work to understand things like how they have created light and tones.
I think making mistakes is the best way to learn. I certainly did and still do!
Who/what inspires you? Any shoutouts to fellow makers?
I’ve always been inspired by artists of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. I love the watercolour landscapes of Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden’s linocut prints and vintage travel posters.
My linocut prints take their inspiration from British landscapes. In my spare time I go walking and cycling and I’ve always got my camera with me to capture inspiration.
My head is always whirring as to how I could reimagine the landscape in lino. I’m looking for interesting shapes, lines, and features. I love the individual characteristics of trees too.
Anything else you’d like to share?
When I went self-employed, I didn’t intend to become a printmaker. I started out as a graphic designer. I joined a local group, York Printmakers, and got involved in their first group exhibition. Things snowballed from there!
Being part of a local creative community is very important when you work for yourself. I take part in York Open Studios too and have made many friends through that too.
Now the majority of what I do is linked to my linocut print, whether that’s original prints, workshops, or sometimes creating logos and branding.
When the pandemic started my world turned upside down. My workshops have been put on hold and all this years events and exhibitions postponed or now online.
My lockdown silver lining has been having the time to make an online linocut course. Something I’ve been meaning to do but not had the time. It’s been a great success so far and means I’ve been able to share my skills across the world!