Norfolk author creates stunning prints in her spare time
- Credit: Sue Welfare
Some people are natural-born creatives.
Whether it’s writing, making music, or crafting with their hands, some are lucky enough to just have creativity flowing through their veins.
Sue Welfare, of West Norfolk, has spent the last 25 years working professionally as a successful author. Readers may also recognise her under the pseudonyms Kate Lawson and Gemma Fox, with some of her penned reads including A Few Little Lies, Mum’s The Word and Caught in the Act.
Romance and crime novels are her penchant, but just a few years ago she added another string to her bow – the skill of printmaking.
Following a two-day course with wildlife artist and printmaker Lisa Hooper, Sue became enamoured with the artform - and hasn’t looked back.
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“I totally fell in love with the process,” she explains.
“I’d tried lots of other arts and crafts, but printmaking felt like a great fit. I love its mix of creativity alongside the technical and practical challenges.”
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She has since become revered on the East Anglian arts and crafts scene, with her pieces taking inspiration from her surroundings and local nature.
A lot of her pieces feature birds that can be found here in the region, including avocets, oystercatchers, lapwings, and swallows.
“I was born and raised in Norfolk, and although I’ve briefly lived in other places, I’ve always ended up back here. I love and am hugely inspired by the diverse nature of the region – from the flat expanses of the fen, through to the softer landscapes of high Norfolk. And of course, the amazing coast.”
Sue handprints all of her pieces with lino, using the reduction method. This is where each layer of colour is printed from a single block.
“I begin by drawing my design onto the lino, which reverses the image. As the print is built up, more lino is cut away from the block, and each colour is then printed on top of the previous one. The printable area of the block is reduced with each colour.
“It takes some planning to work out the sequence of colours and cutting as once you’ve cut a section away, there’s no going back.”
She then handprints her work using an Ironbridge press.
“Each design is a unique piece of art. Because the prints are individually hand-rolled and print, each one has subtle differences. I print very small editions, and there’s usually no more than 20 of each print, and more often only five.”
Process and challenges aside, what is it that she loves about printmaking so much?
“I enjoy every stage – from coming up with the idea, to developing it into a composition that works as a print, through to carving it into the block or making it into a collagraph or drypoint. I love mixing the ink, and the excitement of pulling the first print. It’s never quite how you anticipated – and that in itself is really wonderful.
“When I was younger, the idea of having a career doing anything artistic was actively discouraged, so I’m excited and delighted to find that all these years later I can make a living based in the arts.”
Just a few years ago, Sue began to sell her printed pieces locally.
“It got to a point where some of my work was sellable, so I began to sell at craft fairs and galleries. At that point, I was making rag rugs, mosaics and felted pictures. As I began to spend more time making and printing, it seemed natural to go the same route with the prints I was creating.”
While Sue was unable to sell her works during lockdown due to markets, fair and galleries – she continued crafting, and said she found the process helped keep her grounded.
“During the first lockdown, I found it impossible to concentrate and really hard to work, but in the second one I found a rhythm and found I could totally lose myself in the process – which had been the way I worked pre-Covid. I also took the time to try out some new techniques that intrigued me, including collagraphs and multiblock printing.
“Printing is really physical as well as mentally absorbing, You have to concentrate on what you’re doing, so it’s a great way to find focus and lose yourself in the process. There are lots of steps to making a print, so you find rhythm and become focused on the next step or stage.”
Finding printing, and crafts as a whole, a great way to unwind, Sue recommends anyone try it – and that it’s never too late to learn something new.
“I never imagined I would end up with a second career as a printmaker – so if you want to try something, get on and do it!”