I'm a curious type; I like to know what informs an artist. Who or what do they look to for inspiration? How do they work? Each month I will be asking an artist I admire a few questions, this month is Cally Conway.
Cally, many of your prints are made using a linocut process, what is it about this process that you love?
With linocuts, I love how egalitarian they are. You don’t need fancy equipment or a big studio, you can get hold of fairly cheap tools and just carve away, and then print it all by hand with the back of a spoon if you want! That’s how I started. I also love the physical process of carving an image, I find it really meditative.
The intricacy of your prints is staggering, how long does it take to go from an idea to a finished print?
Sometimes it can take me an age from starting an image to finishing. It really does depend on what I’m doing, the size of it, intricacy etc. And the fact that I teach means I can’t work on a piece continually every day. It can be anything from a few days to weeks or months even. I seem to need to do a lot of thinking at every stage too. I’ve realised recently just how I work, and I reckon I’m quite slow...!
Nature and folklore are your biggest sources of inspiration, what is it about recording nature that appeals to you and how do you use folklore in your work?
For me, nature is not only beautiful and essential, but it continually inspires and sustains me. Being in nature makes me feel that everything is alright with the world, even if it’s not. And I think too many of us have lost touch with that. So I like to try and capture its beauty if I can, and maybe distill some of that. With my interest in folklore, sometimes it’s not that obvious, but I love finding out stories and meanings associated with plants or animals. When I’m creating a print I will research any folklore associated with what I want to include so that there might be a connection between the different elements.
You are based in London and yet your work is mostly nature inspired, where do you go to source inspiration for a new piece or series of work?
Ah yes, living in London you could say it would be hard to find any aspect of nature to work from, but in truth there’s actually lots in London if you know where to find it! I spend most of my time at Kew Gardens and Hampstead Heath. I’m lucky enough to live really near Hampstead Heath and just a short train ride from Kew. Since becoming a member of Kew Gardens a few years back I can honestly say it feels like a second home.
Tell me about your studio or creative space.
My ‘studio’ is actually a small rectangular space off my front room, where I’ve managed to fit a work table, inking table, and printing press. No idea how I managed to squash it all in. I’d love to have more space but it just about works as a mini studio. It has a large window great for light, and for watching the local foxes and birds. And it also has the added bonus of being the place my cat races in from outside- usually with muddy paws and straight onto any print I’ve left laying around!
What artists (living or dead) inspire you?
There are tons of artists I admire so I’ll mention some of my long time favourites: I’m fascinated by Louise Bourgeois’ work, I began experimenting with printmaking after discovering her work at art college. Marthe Armitage creates the most wonderful linocut repeat prints for wallpaper and Agnes Miller Parker is a long time favourite for her exquisite wood engravings.
I love learning random facts about people, tell me three things about yourself.
- I’m a bit small, probably 5ft (I never measure myself, maybe I should?) every item of clothing is always too long...!
- My cat Arwen is named after the beautiful elf in The Lord of the Rings, her middle name is Monkey (do other people give their cats middle names?!)
- I’m a proper insomniac which is really frustrating. Once I read an Alan Moore biography (called ‘Storyteller’) in two weeks just in the hours I couldn’t sleep. It became my ‘not sleeping’ book (great book if you love the writer Alan Moore!).
Finally, where can people follow your work online?
I have a website; callyconwayprints.com (which I must get better at updating) to view my prints.
@callyconwayprints on Instagram
@callyconway on Twitter
@callyconwayprints on Facebook
And my prints are for sale on: Made By Hand Online and Folksy
Thank you to Cally for taking part in my artist interview series. I just love Cally's intricately detailed prints of botanicals and find her animal pieces enchanting. To purchase a print from Cally please take a look at her store on Folksy and Made By Hand Online and be sure to follow her creative endeavours on social media using the links above.
If you'd like to take part in my artist interviews series then please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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