Manchester’s Nell Smith is one of those annoying people who’ve found a real identity through their art, who can create across different mediums and yet still retain a sense of it being ‘her’ work. I was attracted to the lincouts though because they seemed to be alive, as if they were fizzing out of the page (or screen, in my case).
Nell can still remember, and in fact still has, some of the first prints she ever cut. “I first got into linoprinting at school, I did a three colour reduction cut made up of four blocks as it was so big – quite ambitious in retrospect! I still have some of the prints, inspired by a trip to see family in Mexico, they’re quite cool and I’m pretty proud of 15 year old me….”
Nell works in large form sketching as a genesis for her prints, but also runs a business that produces baby clothes. It’s a point worth noting, as I think a childlike fun is found in the prints of hers I’ve seen online. That, and a love of animals.. “My main influences are probably the natural world, I love curious creatures and old engravings. Also just the process of lino, it’s so quick when you get into it, really physically and mentally engaging, I find it quite meditative,” she says.
Nell also says that speed is of the essence when an idea grabs her. “I get quite excited when I get new ideas, so I work quickly, doing a few sketches and then going straight to the lino, not over working too much. I like to keep that sense of energy, and I think that works well with my Staffordshire pottery prints, I love the expressions on the faces of the figurines, and wanted to capture that oddness. I’m not interested in perfection.”
One character of Nell’s I particularly dug was a slippery looking customer called Pizza Girl. “Pizza Girl is me! I was thinking one day, if I eat another pizza I’ll turn into The Incredible Pizza Girl, and quickly drew her. I was thinking of doing a range – Pizza Boy, Pizza dog, but I haven’t got round to it! I move on quickly from one idea to the next, I’m quite impatient, because my mind is so full and frenzied a lot of the time…”
On top of her whirlwind of ideas, Nell explains the more ‘regular’ jobs that take her energies up, as well as a heavy amount of promotion of the printmaking craft. “I’ve been self-employed since 2008, working and selling from Manchester Craft and Design Centre,” she says. ” I’ve always done some teaching alongside selling, running printmaking workshops in various places in the North West. I’m actually leaving after Christmas, I’ve been a member of Hot Bed Press printmaker’s studio since 2014, and have just moved into a big new studio there, so I’m going to be making the most of 24-hour access to the print studio! It’s an awesome place, full of lovely printmaking equipment including Albion and Colombian presses, I love it. We’re having open studios in November, so swing by if you’re in the area!
Next for Nell is a project with a definite scientific leaning. “I’m working on scientific illustrations for Manchester Science Festival – we’re running Scientific Studios at the Craft Centre in October, I’ll be showing people how to use my mini etching press and then overprinting with my Adana letterpress, which should be fun.”
You can have a gander at Nell’s work on her website, nellsmith.co.uk and she’s on Instagram @nellsmithprints. She also has work in the National Centre for Craft and Design, Bury Art Gallery and Museum and the Royal Exchange Theatre shop. Also, most of her wares are on etsy, here.
Nell will also be at the Manchester Print Fair from 21-22nd October and Etsy Made Local Christmas Market 1-3rd of December at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. “Come say hi!” she says.
So do. If you’re in the area of course. Or even if you’re not.