Q&A with Jane Kemp

Q. Tell me about your route into illustration?
A. After moving up from London around 16 years ago and bringing up my 4 children I needed a new challenge. I had previously been a surface pattern designer in the rag trade when I lived in London but now I wanted something new to do. I started by joining a local watercolour group which was just once a week this then lead to me enrolling at City College in Norwich to do the Access to Art and Design course which was a full time course which was completed in a year.

Q. Like a Foundation?
A. Yeah. You do a bit of textiles, sculpture, a bit of everything print, graphics, life drawing, and it was during this course that I wanted to take on a bit more and I applied to do Illustration at NUA. I think it was being back at college and doing something creative again, I didn’t want to stop. I had to wait for my youngest children got into high school so I deferred for a year and then started my degree at NUA.

Q. And when did you finish that?
A. Two years ago.

Q. Can you tell me about your process?
A. My process is print based. I’m quite flexible in what print I use, but at the moment it’s mainly lino cut. And I do some screen printing.

Q. How do you get to an image for lino cut?
A. I sketch first, I always start with sketching. I have my idea, go and reference it, research it, sketch, then try and work out in black and white, because that’s generally what you have to do with lino. Once I get my final design, final size, I then trace everything because in lino you have to work in reverse. I just use the tracing paper to help me to work it out, see how it’s going to look and then just draw it onto the lino block before I cut away, and sometimes when you’re doing it you’ll change it as you go along because it might not look right and you often have to take a  print of the image and then make adjustments because it’s not quite right.

Q. Why would you decide to do a screenprint rather than a linocut?
ALino cut is quite chunky, it is very difficult to get fine detail with lino, but as a way of working it is very therapeutic. I really enjoy the process of cutting away at the lino as the image develops and there is always a bit of a surprise when you finally get to print. 

Q. So you do your linos here in your studio and otherwise you do your screenprinting at Print to the People?
A. Yes, I work in my studio at home. I have a small press I can use for my lino cuts or I print by hand if they are bigger than A4. But if I want to screen print then I use the excellent facilities at Print to the People.

Q. How did you find out about Print to the People?
A. It was through the university. It was promoted so that we knew we would still be able to use printing facilities after graduation.

Q. Where do you find inspiration?
A. In lots of places. Books, vintage magazines, I look at a lot of old stuff really. I love museums and spend time there looking for inspiration. I have recently screen printed a series of Toby Jugs which started when I saw one at the Castle museum in Norwich and then a friend mentioned that she had a collection of them  which I photographed. This is the starting point for a project. 

Q. Because you’ve done other museum stuff haven’t you?
A. I have because I really love museums. I love going to them and I love looking around, and when I was at Uni I did a project on the Bridewell Museum on the weaving loom. And then for my final project I went to the John Jarrold Printing Museum.

Q. How did you find out about that?
A. A tutor told me about it because I didn’t know it existed. And it was an  absolutely fabulous museum.

Q. What do you do there and what you like about it?
A. The John Jarrold Printing Museum is a working museum run by retired print workers, just down by the river at Whitefriars and it has been going since about 1982. It shows you how print was in its hey day before it moved over to computers. It is filled with working print machines from early Stanhope presses to later motorised Heidelberg machines. They also have lots of type, wooden and metal of varying sizes, draws and draws of it. When you walk in it smells of printing ink and it is laid out as it would off all those years ago with a composing area first with the tall cabinets with sloping tops into the printing area with a variety of machines ending up with the bindery section. 
I went into the museum for my final project at university and originally taped them talking about there experiences in the print trade. A lot of them were quite similar enrolling at 15 and doing the 7 year apprenticeship. This became the start of my project which ended up with me producing an A3 size concertina book based on the museum with lino cut illustrations.

Q. It’s still owned by the Jarrold's family?
A. Yes, it’s still in the Jarrold’s family and Caroline and Peter come in a lot. Peter used to run the print works division, he’s really keen and he always comes in and asks about what you’re doing and shows an interest. And Caroline does the same, she’s interested in what people are up to.

Q. And what about type? Because I feel you have some sort of passion for it.
A. Yes, I do love type! When you work with a Mac you’ve just got this prescribed list of type and it’s all really boring and not very exciting, and then you look in an old type book or go to the museum and see the drawers of type and there’s such a different range it’s really exciting. And there’s something about printed type, letterpress, that’s much more exciting and tactile than something you can get off a computer. I get lots of ideas just from looking at type.

Q. So it’s not a sideline, it’s like another avenue?
A. Yes, I’d say it is one of my main interests actually. If I can I try and get type into my images. I have started to use letterpress as well. I recently purchased a small table top printer, an Adana 8x5. I also have bought some type and have started to produce letterpress greetings cards

Q. Do you collect anything?
A. Well because of my printing press I have stared to collect type, like these 3 boxes of Gill. Which is a favourite type face of mine, I use it a lot. I also have some really large letters that I pick up from boot fairs some are shop sign letters and I have a gigantic letter S which was a Safeway s that is now on my studio door.

Q. Is there something addictive about letterpress?
AYes there is. They are very tactile objects and so many varieties of type. I get very excited when I open up the drawers/cases in the museum or if I see some for sale. 
I have a condensed sans serif type in wood which is beautiful and this larger wooden type which has a similar look to Playbill, I got this from a boot fair for £8.
It feeds into the work I do, I have just printed the shipping forecast using lots of different typefaces.

Q. And you did a list of dogs didn’t you?
A. Yes, I love dogs and I did a series of lino cuts of different breeds and included the breed of the dog, so using type and image.

Q. How do you get past creative blocks?
A. I just go to a museum or look at a book. Just have a look out there.

Q. What are you working on now?
A. I have just completed a series of lino prints that are 10 by 10 cms for a print exhibition in Bury St. Edmunds in November.

Q. What new medium would you like to try?
A. Cyanotype. I went to a cyanotype workshop at Print to the People and I absolutely loved it. I really enjoyed the process and I love that blue you get. I did a print of eels because I like the story of eels and how they go to the Sargasso Sea to lay their eggs. I hadn’t known how to make an image of that, but using cyanotype worked very well. You use a black image on acetate and then expose it to treated paper, then you wash it off and your image comes out. I got really excited by that, it’s a nice process.

Q. Which artist do you admire?
A. Christopher Brown, Ed Klutz and Jonny Hannah all use lino cut and are very exciting illustrator/ artists.

Q. What is your favourite Bowie song?
A. Golden Years.


John Jarrold Printing Museum
Whitefriars Norwich Norfolk NR3 1SH

email: enquiries@johnjarroldprintingmuseum.org.uk

The Museum is open from 09.30 to 12.30 every Wednesday
and by special arrangement

Questions: Paul McNeill Editor: Yasmin Keyani