Meet the Maker: BearPrint Design
Jo Wright from BearPrint Design is a printmaker who specialises in linocuts inspired by folklore and animal encounters. It was one particular encounter, five years ago, that led to BearPrint Designs being created. Jo and her family were on road trip from Canada to the Rocky Mountains when a black bear wandered out of the forest, crossed the road in front of their car and captured Jo’s heart and imagination. This bear went on to become the brand signature for BearPrint Design. We caught up with Jo to take a tour of her printmaking studio and discover more about her lino cuts and the beautiful lampshades and products she creates.
Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?
Hi, my name is Jo and I’m a printmaker, specialising in lino print. I also work as a consultant and designer of environmental interpretation. One of my latest pieces of interpretation was for Chester Zoo, writing and designing an activity book for young explorers. I’ve also designed exhibition areas for the National Trust and turned a school library into a forest!
I fell in love with black bears in the Rocky Mountains – there was one particular bear who wandered out of the forest captured my imagination. He has become the signature bear on my logo.
Have you always been creative?
I guess a lot of makers say this, but I’ve enjoyed making, drawing and crafting since I was a small child. I remember one Christmas aged about six when I made presents for all my family from cardboard tubes (pencil holders mainly). They were gratefully received with plenty of smiles bordering on laughter, I think! My grandmother taught me how to sew and embroider but being left-handed, knitting proved too tricky for me to learn. Illustration was my real passion when I was younger, and I would pour over books illustrated by the likes of Jan Pienkowski, Errol Le Cain, Maurice Sendak, Kathleen Hale and all the Ladybird fairytale books. I studied Art and Design at Manchester Polytechnic and worked as a freelance illustrator for a number of years before becoming involved in my environmental design work.
To The North Pole linocut print being revealed
How did BearPrint Design start?
My family members are real life ‘Wild Thornberries’ – we’ve always liked to travel independently to far-away places in the summer holidays. In 2011, we flew to Montreal and drove across Canada to the Rocky Mountains. My partner is an ecologist and we all have a great love of wildlife watching, so we spent six wonderful weeks staring at amazing scenery, bears, beavers, raccoons, moose, elk and lynx, to name but a few. I fell in love with black bears there. I adored the comical way they walk, and one particular bear who wandered out of the forest captured my imagination. By the time we got home, I had decided to do a lino print of him and he has become the signature bear on my logo.
I love travelling, whether that’s literally or in my mind. Animal encounters and folklore are my favourite topics and what seem to ignite my creative fires.
Where else do you look for inspiration?
I love travelling, whether that’s literally or in my mind. Animal encounters and folklore are my favourite topics and what seem to ignite my creative fires – it’s often the animals I’ve seen and the stories I’ve come across that feature in my prints. Last summer, we spent five weeks driving around Namibia, so I’ve recently done a couple of prints featuring African animals. Sunset Cheetah is one of them, based on a close encounter we had with a female and her two cubs. I carry around a copy of the Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore to all the markets I do and will dip into that when it’s quiet.
I love the quality of line in lino print, it’s such an expressive medium.
What do you love about the linoprint process?
I love the fact that anyone can do it with a small amount of inexpensive equipment. When I run workshops, people are often aghast when presented with a spoon but you really can get away without spending much at all, using a little of what you’ve already got. I love the quality of line in lino print. It’s such an expressive medium and limited colours help to create really graphic images.
Who are your heroes of craft?
I love the work of Mark Hearld, who is a master of printmaking, illustration and collage, and I’m a proud owner of one of his limited-edition prints (it has pride of place on my studio wall). I’m in awe of many printmakers, including Carry Ackroyd, John Paige, Robert Gilmour and Robert Greenhalf. But my real craft heroes are my fellow makers who I share time with at markets in and around the north-west. They’re passionate, talented, creative and incredibly supportive. Many are struggling in this difficult economic climate or want to escape from jobs that have become increasingly stressful and are trying their best to build businesses from their passion for craft. The obvious love they have for their craft and their resilience are such admirable qualities.
I’ve always loved the way lighting can create a sense of drama.
We really love your lampshades. Where did the idea come from for those and what goes into each one?
I’ve always loved the way lighting can create a sense of drama. A few years ago I papered the walls in my living room with Cole and Sons ‘Woods’ paper and wanted to continue with the tree theme. I already had my Rookery Triptych print on the wall and decided to develop it into a simple drum lampshade. I got it professionally printed on to canvas and hand rolled the shade on a long table. We had so many positive comments from visitors that I decided to sell it on my market stall and in my Folksy shop. I’ve been working on a couple more designs recently and have started adding screen printed detailing – I’ll be adding these to my shop shortly.
Tell us about your studio. Where is it, what does it look like and what’s in it?
I’m lucky enough to have a room in our house overlooking the back garden. I recently redecorated, partly because we had some work done on the house which left the ceiling in a bit of a state, but also because I really wanted to get more organised. My New Year’s resolution is definitely to be more organised and I’ve started early by signing up to the Design Trust’s ‘Dream Plan Do’ campaign. I’m hoping the diary will offer a lot of useful business advice and ideas of new places and ways to sell, as well as giving me something rather lovely to scribble in.
I’ve got just about everything I need in my studio: a long table for printmaking and hand-rolling shades, sets of drawers for storing my prints, a desk near the window where I work at my computer and do a spot of urban wildlife watching and lots of shelving for my other equipment and books.
Craft is a great way to de-stress and have something lovely to show for it at the end.
What does craft mean to you?
It’s a hugely enjoyable way to spend time. I run occasional print workshops and most people who come are in stressful jobs looking for a way to relax for a few hours. Craft is a great way to de-stress and have something lovely to show for it at the end.
What are you looking forward to this Christmas – what’s on your wish list?
The lead-up to Christmas is such a busy time of year for me, so I’m really looking forward to relaxing with my family. My daughter is going away to volunteer in Sierra Leone for three months in mid-January, so I’ll be spending extra special time with her over Christmas. I opened a mini shop in my Folksy shop to help her fundraise for her trip and the work she will be doing with Y Care International. She’s a music lover and a big Jeremy Corbyn fan, so do take a look at her things! [You can find Amy’s mini fundraising shop here.]
Get 10% off Bear Print Design with the code HYGGE16 until Christmas Eve 2016