Haggy Tea: “In an increasingly insane world, observing nature keeps me sane”

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Sometimes a print just speaks to you. You see it, it grabs you and then you want it. Before you know it, all your walls are full up and there are prints on top of cupboards and behind the sofa and under the bed.

What I mean is, when you see a print you want, it sort of haunts you for a few days. I had that with a piece by the elusively named artist Haggy Tea, and her two-colour print of a bird on a spade’s handle really stuck out as I browsed online. I’m wasn’t even sure what the bird was – I’m not Bill Oddie.

Then, on further inspection, I discovered birds were her ‘thing’ – and I really admire people who specialise like this. So you can guess what happened next…

 

Watcha Haggy. When did you start linocutting?

In 2014, after being bought a one-day black and white linocut workshop taught by Nick Morley, aka Linocutboy, as a birthday gift from my boyfriend. Unlike many people I’d never done it at school, so had no previous experience, but I instantly fell in love.

I then received the two-day colour linocut workshop for Christmas 2015. Together, the workshops taught me all the fundamentals. I’ve been pretty obsessed ever since. I have a lot to learn still, but I can see real progress in my work and I just love printing.

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What influences your prints?

Most of the ideas start out with the desire to create an image as a gift or greeting card to give to a family member or a friend, or just for personal interest. From the beginning I have particularly enjoyed printing images of nature and book-related images – nature and books are great loves of mine.

Recently I’ve experimented with a print of a local manor house, which was my most challenging and largest linocut to date, but I was very pleased with the outcome and it’s encouraged me to keep trying new things!

Why are birds so important in your prints?

Over the last few years – lefty that I am – I’ve been increasingly feeling like the world is on the edge of a political, environmental and societal crisis, and in direct correlation to this feeling my love of nature has grown.

In an increasingly insane world, observing nature keeps me sane. Nature carries on, I take heart in it buzzing and tweeting around me. In this time, I’ve become more and more interested in birdlife. I’ve been trying to get better at identifying birds and birdsong, and essentially I just think birds are incredible in their behaviours and intelligence.

My favourites are Corvids (Crows, Ravens, Magpies), Owls, and Swallows/Swifts. If you read about the intelligence of a Raven or the flight/sleeping behaviours of a Swift, you can’t fail to be amazed! It’s become a bit of a running joke with some of my friends that I have some kind of condition where I can only linocut birds. I have linocut other things!

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You have a very nice minimalist approach to using ink, why do you think this is? There’s never too much on the page…

That’s an interesting observation. Partly I think it’s because creating clear prints is very important to me, but partly I think it’s because I seem to have a bit of a hang-up believing that starting with a black background and essentially drawing with the tools to create white lines on the background is kind of cheating – I think this might be linocutboy’s fault!

I sometimes wish I could work larger block areas into my designs, but they always come out minimalist and line-y. I guess it’s my unconscious style. Often my prints seem to be one item in the middle of the page, so one of the reasons I was so happy with my latest Country House and Barn Owl print was because it was my first linocut of a large and complex scene which filled the page.

What sort of printing set up do you have?

I’m lucky enough to have a room I can use pretty much solely as a studio – it’s a cellar room but it has a window. I have a table and two desks down there and a cupboard of materials.

I started out printing using a wooden spoon, and then progressed to a Jackson’s Art Supplies 10×8″ lever press, but last birthday my boyfriend (he really has been instrumental in my progress as a printmaker) bought me a Victorian Book Press from eBay. It’s a beautiful cast iron press in perfect condition with its original paint job. It would have been used to bind books the old fashioned way. I’m restricted to A4 prints with it, but that suits me fine. I use Pfeil tools and battleship grey lino and I print using Caligo Safe Wash Relief Ink, which is a lovely pigmented ink made of vegetable oil that can be cleaned up without the use of harmful solvents.

What methods do you use to sell your work?

I started selling at the very end of last year as a way to pay for my materials and make my hobby self-sustainable, and because it’s fun and so lovely when somebody wants your artwork enough to part with cash for it.

I started out by selling a few Christmas cards through a local gallery. Since then I have sold work through my Etsy shop and I’ve had a stall at three craft fairs. People often discover my work through my Twitter and Instagram profiles.

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What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve had a few weeks off recently to enjoy the summer, but I’ve just started working on my Christmas card designs. So far, I’ve sketched four designs onto pieces of lino. Surprisingly two designs feature birds!

Once I’ve got my Christmas Cards printed, I have many, many other ideas to be getting on with. I have too many ideas and not enough time!

Where can we see your work?

The best place is online on Etsy, Instagram and Twitter. I’d love to have some of my work in a gallery or have my own exhibition some day, but I haven’t been brave enough to go down that path yet. One day…

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