Helen Entwisle is a freelance illustrator and screen printer. Whilst up to her eyeballs in black coffee she creates stationery designs inspired by her collections of mid-century kitsch.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
Hi I’m Helen. I recently move to Kendal, had a retired greyhound come to live with me, and set up a screen printing workshop at home. Its been a busy few months.
Are you right or left-handed?
You do a lot of screenprinting and working in inks… What appealed to you about working in pencil for Tiny Pencil 2.0?
I like a challenge! And my mechanical pencil. It was good to do a piece of work that finished up as a pencil drawing, not just something that started out that way.
What’s your favourite pencil? Brand? Wood? Mechanical?
My petrol blue Pentel 0.7mm mechanical pencil is a good friend.
What do you particularly enjoy about printmaking?
I love the vibrancy of the colours, and the element of layering. No two prints are exactly the same, I love the slight variations in each print, this is what makes a screen print special.
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process, from the initial image or idea to the finished piece?
I am a big collector of old things, mostly objects and clothing from the 40s & 50s. Interesting brooches, dog and bird ornaments, Bakelite, atomic pottery, western ware, enamel crockery, cocktail paraphernalia- the list goes on… Unusal colour combinations inspire me. I surround myself with my collections in my studio (and throughout my home actually…) I tend to think about what I want to produce, say a new zine or a greetings card. Then I consider a theme, spend a while doodling in my sketchbook and thinking about colours. I then move to paper, drawing in pencil and then fineliner. When I’m happy with an image I break it up into layers using my light box. This usually takes a while as it needs to be precise. I make these layers into acetates and then onto a screen the design goes!
How do you conceptualize/construct a piece? Do you think of it as a story, snapshot, or abstraction?
I spend a while thinking before I draw anything- I don’t like to waste paper. Whilst I’m gardening or walking the dog I am always thinking about new design ideas, catchy phrases that could would well as a greetings card, layouts, colour combinations. I like to consider an idea for a while before I do anything about it.
You sell your own products online and via a lot of shops around the world… what proportion of your work involves commissions vs you generating your own products? What do you enjoy about working for others and also working for yourself… is there a big difference between the two?
I spend the majority of my time working on my own products. I need to keep this moving in order to keep new work flowing. Since setting up my own screen printing workshop at home I am still getting to grips with working in this new environment. It is very different to the print workshop in Yorkshire where I used to produce my prints (West Yorkshire Print Workshop). Printing at home is much more of a challenge. The new set up is getting there after a bit of tweaking. I get more prints done each time, hopefully I’ll be back up to full speed soon! This summer I have worked on a small number of commissions, one being a set of wedding invitations. I enjoy the freedom of doing exactly what I want with my products, but I also enjoy the interaction of working to orders, working on a set brief. A bit of both is good for me.
Did you find it easy creating your own ‘brand’ as an artist/maker? What advice would you give to others with regards to setting yourself up as a small art business?
I decided I wanted to do what I do during the second year of my degree course. I’d been collecting stationery for a long time, lots of ‘memo’ pads, that’s where the name came from. It has not been an easy thing to do, I don’t have many days off. But I wouldn’t want to answer to anyone else or do a job I didn’t enjoy. If you want to do something, go for it, give it all you’ve got.
Do you have a favourite subject matter? What’s the particular attraction?
Recently I’ve been looking at atomic fabric patterns from the 1950s and tiki imagery from the same era. Both themes contain many striking colours and visually exciting patterns. The odd Trader Vic’s cocktail recipe has also featured in my research!
What size do you tend to work at? Why this preference?
I work in an A3 sketchbook and onto A4 paper. I usually work at a size I intend the final print to be, I find this easiest.
Can you tell us about a favourite piece of yours, or a favourite creative experience?
I enjoyed printing a series of Pattern themed products this year, notecards, gift tags and notebooks. Researching the New Look era of ladies fashions, predominantly those of the 1950s was fascinating.
Do you have any early memories of drawing or, what’s your first memory of an image?
I remember drawing a lot of dogs with long ears as a child, and fish. I was obsessed with the under the sea scenes in The Little Mermaid.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
I keep a small sketchbook with me to jot down ideas.
What directions are you interested in exploring in the future?
I am hoping to make a set of mini prints next. I have lots of ideas for new products stored up and plan lots of short print runs to keep my work varied.
What are you working on now? What can we look forward to from you next?
I’ve just finished two new tiki themed screen prints and a set of tiki mask drinks coasters. These are for a Masquerade themed exhibition by the Girls Who Draw which starts in Leeds Friday 13th September to coincide with a new Masquerade themed postcard book. More info on that here: masqueradepostcardbook.blogspot.co.uk
Where can people get a hold of your work, or find out more about your previous projects?
My website would be the best place to go www.hellomemo.com there are links to my blog, Facebook page, NOTHS shop and other online presences listed on there.
What was the last film you saw in the cinema?
What are the books on your bedside table?
‘The Next Step in the Dance’ by Tim Gautreaux
Coffee, nicotine, or booze?
Coffee cocktails please, I don’t smoke.
Favourite city in the world?
Favourite city to draw/sketch/illustrate/create in?
I’m more of an outdoors person than a city girl, the Oregon coast was a good place for ideas, and Cornwall is a close second.
Helen’s work appears in Issue 2.0 of Tiny Pencil, the summerzine Monsters, Mammals & Mars! Available to buy here.
This interview was brought to you by The Tiny Pencil – fine purveyors of the pencil arts and mishmosh artist Heather McCalden.
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