15 March 2021
Throughout March we are sharing a series of posts in which we meet some of the makers whose work you can find in the Kettle’s Yard Shop. This week we spoke to local Cambridge printmakers and designers, Cambridge Imprint. You can view Cambridge Imprint in the shop here.
Tell us a bit about Cambridge Imprint
Cambridge Imprint is a design partnership of painter Claerwen James, textile artist Jane Powell and ceramicist Ali Murphy. All three of us were born and brought up in Cambridge, and went to classes at Kettle’s Yard when we were young. We established our business designing and making patterned papers ten years ago. The papers are notable for their intense colour and the energy and directness of their simple repeats and variations of colour and mark. Our influences are eclectic, but it has often been noted that our patterns have a particularly English quality, with a palette that is both sober and exuberant. We now export paper all over the world.
Tell us more about your studio and ways of working
All three of us use hand-drawing, hand-making, paints, scissors, glue and other pre-industrial, pre-digital design processes, as they create a livelier texture and a more living result. The exception to this rule of simplicity is the humble photocopier – an incredibly useful design tool! Ultimately we turn the design into a print by hand-painting onto a screen. This limits the complexity of the image and the number of colours that we can use: constraints that we find a spur to our creativity. In general, our aim is to preserve the quality of improvisation in our work, to maintain an environment where happy accidents can occur and be capitalised upon.
What inspired your Kettle’s Yard range?
The Kettle’s Yard pattern is a homage to Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson – it echoes in particular the colours of the cushion in the House that is covered in a 1930s fabric by Hepworth, which was hand-printed in a blue-grey and a strong red. The Nicholson fabric hanging in the lower extension was also an influence.
Do you have a favourite item in the Kettle’s Yard Shop or favourite object in the House?
There are so many! But particular mention should be made of some of the simpler, line-based Ben Nicholson prints; the Lucie Rie bowl that stands next to the grey and white William Scott painting of a bowl; Gaudier-Brzeska’s Dancer; finally, the two large David Jones pencil and watercolour drawings were images of particular fascination and delight to all three of us as we grew up.
Do you have a favourite printmaker past or present?
As you would expect, we all have a soft spot for print-making as it is applied to the decorative arts, and in that regard the early twentieth century hand-block designer/makers Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher are printmakers we particularly admire. Their patterns and colours were apparently so simple and natural, so right – so hard to achieve. Girton College had wonderful curtains of Barron and Larcher fabrics until quite recently.
What is your favourite thing about creating prints?
The immediacy: the ease with which one can improvise, and the unexpected results that you can have; the depth of the colour.