Meet the Maker: Fiona Carver
Artist Fiona Carver always knew she would do something creative but didn’t expect it to be printmaking. Fiona originally trained as a furniture designer, but one day bought a piece of lino, picked up her tools and started turning one of her drawings into a print. She found she could apply the problem-solving skills and craftsmanship she had learned as a furniture maker to linocutting, and printmaking satisfied an essential need to work with her hands. We caught up with Fiona to discover more about her linocuts, the inspiration behind her coastal landscapes and the changing perception of craft…
Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?
Hello, I’m Fiona Carver and I’m a printmaker making linocuts of the sea and coast. I’m from Leicestershire, which is ironic as it’s the county farthest from the coast. Funnily enough lots of people from here have a bit of an obsession with the sea, probably because it’s so far away.
I’ve always loved working with my hands and tools to create something.
Have you always been creative?
Definitely! Growing up I was always drawing, painting and making things. I’m lucky as I come from quite a creative family. My great aunt was an artist and my mother studied architecture, so it was obvious to me from a very early age that I would also go to art college.
How did you discover printmaking?
Like many people my first experience of printmaking was during art lessons at school. I enjoyed it but didn’t think any more about it. I went on to study furniture design at Edinburgh College of Art. I’ve always loved the problem solving aspect of design and also working with my hands and tools to create something. I continued to design furniture but then one day I was drawing a picture and thought it would make a nice print. I went out and bought a piece of lino and used some old tools I had left over from school and got to work. I was immediately hooked and haven’t stopped since.
I went out and bought a piece of lino and used some old tools I had left over from school and got to work.
What or who influences you?
My work is very much inspired by nature and my surroundings. I love the sea and have always spent a lot of time in Anglesey, a place that crops up in my work a lot. The colours of the sea and headlands are beautiful and the views spectacular.
I have two friends, Lisa who I met at school and Bessie from art college, who have always been enormous influences on me. They are two of the most talented artists I’ve come across and knowing them has pushed me in my own work. You can put a lot of pressure on yourself as an artist and it really helps to have people to talk to about ideas.
How do you start a piece and how do you know when it’s finished?
My prints start out as simple sketches and I try to get out and draw from life as much as possible. I’m constantly seeing things that give me itchy fingers to turn it into a print. Once back in the studio I work on the composition and colour, figuring out how many lino blocks I’ll need. Then it’s the fun part – time to get out the tools and start gouging the lino. I really enjoy both the technical and hands-on stages of printmaking – so many of the skills are the same as those needed by a furniture designer. I use a mixture of techniques for the printing depending on how much pressure I want to apply, either hand burnishing or using my press.
The best part of the process is peeling back the paper when the final colour has been printed to see what it’s like. It’s very exciting but also nerve wracking. Even when I’m pleased with the result, there’s often something that niggles me about the print several months later. This is all part of the creative process though, as it spurs me on to experiment and push myself next time. If the day came that I was completely happy then I think I’d lose a little bit of my energy.
There was a disused Victorian lean-to that was leaking and had ferns growing on the walls inside. We renovated it and it’s now the most wonderful studio.
Can you describe your workspace? Where is it and what’s in it?
My studio is at home, which is fantastic as I’m able to work when my small children are asleep. When we moved into our house there was a disused Victorian lean-to that was leaking and had ferns growing on the walls inside. We renovated it and it’s now the most wonderful studio. It has a glass roof so the light is amazing. I have my design drawing board for general artwork and an old cast iron book press for printing. I recently found a 1950s school desk at an auction that I love and that’s become my computer desk.
I have my design drawing board for general artwork and an old cast iron book press for printing.
What’s the best thing about being creative for a living?
I love the idea that I make something from scratch that gives someone so much pleasure they want to hang it on their wall and see it every day. It’s an incredible honour and I feel very lucky to be able to do it.
How would you spend your perfect day?
It would definitely start with a big cup of tea and a hug and smile from my family. Then as long as the day included a walk on a headland and a swim in the sea, I’d be happy. I’d be even happier if it was in Anglesey in the spring so the wild flowers were out and the sea was just starting to warm up a bit.
If you weren’t a printmaker, what would you be?
I’d be a musical theatre singer. Except I am tone deaf, so it’s very lucky I am a printmaker!
What does craft mean to you?
When I was at college the word craft was very out of fashion and people would look in horror at the mention of it. It’s wonderful that it’s had such a revival in recent years and it’s given so many people the confidence to create and make things they might not have done 20 years ago.
Get 20% off Fiona Carver prints with the code SUMMER16 if you order before 22 August 2016