Printmaker Alison Headley on fairies, salt and pepper and how lino stole her heart

Printmaker Alison Headley on fairies, salt and pepper and how lino stole her heart

This week, we had the pleasure of interviewing printmaker Alison Headley, lover of lino and a muted palette. Alison is a full-time artist based in Middlesex and her prints often contain portraits of women with mythical touches such as fairy wings and incy wincy spiders. Alison is preparing for two exhibitions this year, so we thought it was the perfect time to catch up with her and see what she's working on.

Hi Alison, what are you working on at the moment?

A couple of things, I usually have several images on the go at one time. I always normally have artworks that are only yet sketched or even still floating around my head, waiting to be let out.

However, at this very moment I'm focusing on a still life of my favourite plants, which I'm combining with pattern. This piece is at the cutting stage and should be completed in a few weeks.

What made you decide to be an artist?

Like lots of creative people, I have always loved art and drawing since I was able to hold a pencil. However, it unfortunately took me many years of working in uncreative jobs to finally arrive at the point that I am at today.

The birth of my daughter and returning to the UK from Italy which had been my home for 20 years were the catalysts that spurred me on to change career path. I figured that if all these massive changes were happening in my life anyway, then I might as well go for the complete package. And so I finally began to proactively look at ways that I could turn what had been just a passionate hobby, into a proper career.

Now I try to manage being a mum and an artist, by using every spare minute that I have free to make as much art as I can. This for me, I suppose is the closest I can get to being a full time artist!

You describe lino printing as being the perfect medium for you, what is it about it that you love?

That's a difficult one to answer. Although I have always drawn and painted, I always felt that something was missing in my finished paintings or illustrations. I felt that there was a certain quality or dimension that was lacking in whatever I worked on, like a dish of food without salt or pepper. Now that I work with lino, I feel as though the the seasoning has been added to my artwork.

How did you discover lino?

I discovered lino printing soon after I moved to England, just over 4 years ago. There was an 'Open Studio' event in my local area and I went along to a workshop held by a printmaker in her studio. She introduced me to drypoint printing, which I really enjoyed so I looked into evening courses in general printmaking, and found one nearby that taught an array of printmaking techniques. Before I actually carved into any lino we spent months etching, screen printing, drypoint printing and creating collographs. The last technique we were introduced to was lino printing and I fell in love with it!

Have you revisited any of those techniques?

For the moment I'm too absorbed and obsessed with experimenting with lino printing, but I would like to try to combine screen printing and lino at some point.

Are there any particular themes you like to explore through your work?

I am drawn to the unusual, the slightly dark and the strange. I love thinking up ways to introduce a quirk to my image, such as adding butterfly wings to a fashionable Parisian girl or spiders to the neck of a hiding woman. Just a few examples of the peculiarities you can find in my work.

But as themes go, I don't have any which are deliberate or premeditated. Images constantly mill about inside my head and I pick out the ones that have a certain relevance to me at that given time. My work is loosely exploring the inner strength (or insecurities) of the women that appear in my the images.

What's your favourite subject to depict and why?

I love portraying women and have a passion for pattern and the decorative arts. I don't really know why, but water and plants are also commonly featured in my work. I feel unwittingly compelled to connect these elements to a strong female presence. But then again, I can't resist a beautiful landscape or still life. There are just too many beautiful things in the world that can possibly be created into an image, it's impossible to stick to just depicting one.

Alison's lino block inked up, ready to put through the relief press

Alison's lino block inked up, ready to put through the relief press

Where do you like to create?

This is a bit of a sticking point with me. I would love to have my own space to call a studio, but for the time being I create wherever I can within in the flat that we live in.

Mostly I work on the dining table, which means occasionally finding bits of lino on your dinner plate (luckily if digested lino is a natural substance!) If silence and concentration are in short supply then I move to the bedroom. Once a week I go to print my lino blocks at a local college, where they have fantastic printmaking facilities.

How has your experience of Artfinder been so far?

I had researched a fair few sites before I finally decided on opening up a shop on Artfinder 2 years ago. I was primarily attracted to Artfinder because it seemed as equally interested in printmaking as it was in painting, unlike other sites which didn't seem to have the same enthusiasm and interest for printmaking as an art form.

Within a short amount of time I was selling my work regularly, which spurred me on to believing that I could actually make art for a living. That was definitely thanks to Artfinder!

Do you engage with the community of Artfinder artists?

With Artfinder, the added bonus is the fact that there is a wonderful community spirit thanks to the forum and the hugely supportive and talented artists that converge on it for some fascinating debates and wonderful advice. It can be a pretty solitary thing being an artist, so to be able to read and discuss with like minded people, can be a real godsend.

There are some amazingly talented artists on Artfinder, from painters to photographers, sculptors and of course some really fantastic printmakers - it would take me hours to list them all.

What do you have planned for the future?

My main plan is to just keep experimenting and getting better at what I do. I do have a few ideas brewing about ways that I can print lino onto different substrates and formats.

Do you have any exhibitions coming up?

Yes! I'm getting myself prepared for a couple of exhibitions planned for February and March. Both local, one of which will be at the Rose Theatre in Kingston, which I am excited about.

'Morning View', £53 by Alison Headley

'Morning View', £53 by Alison Headley
'Of Course They Exist', £27 by Alison Headley
'Of Course They Exist', £27 by Alison Headley

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