Celia Hart is a printmaker and illustrator born and bred in East Anglia. She translates the world around her into block prints in hazy colours reminiscent of old book illustrations, as well as blogging about cosy studio life and the rich harvest of her walled garden.
She edits out the sad things of life away from her blog, instead using it to celebrate good things and showcase the stages of printmaking that the printbuying public don’t normally get to see. It has become a story of the studio assistants (feline), the under gardeners (chickens) and life lived close to the land – very comforting.
“My family comes from Willingham, on the fen edge just north west of Cambridge, and that’s where I was brought up and learnt the names of wildflowers and varieties of plums, apples and chrysanthemums before I went to school. So I’m definitely a true Flatlander. I now live in the corner of Suffolk bordering on Cambridgeshire and Essex and I think it’s hilly!
“The subjects for my prints are inspired by things around me – in my garden and the surrounding countryside, with influences from travels abroad playing a part. I can’t imagine not gardening – it’s in my genes. Keeping hens was along standing dream too, but only became a reality since we moved to Suffolk – they’ve brought the garden to life (and made it more messy!)
“Being in East Anglia definitely influences my work. Apart from the obvious – the landscape, plants and animals I see when I go for walks along the footpaths – there are all the beautiful buildings and museums we have in and near Cambridge. The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge is full of wonderful things that have become familiar ‘friends’ since I first saw them on school visits – that gorgeous jade water buffalo, Cezanne’s apples, the slipware pottery and illuminated manuscripts … it’s great to be able to pop in to see them regularly. One of my favourite walks is along the Devil’s Dyke, it’s sparked off a fascination with Anglo Saxon art and culture and this region’s links with Scandinavia – I’m sure this will start to appear in my work soon…
“I do think where I live influences my work. Just think how the landscape in the background of an Italian Renaissance painting or the trees and rocks in a Japanese print really come alive once you’ve seen the countryside around Florence or the pathways around Kyoto. If I lived somewhere different for a long time of course my work would change, but it would be a fusion of my inherited culture and the new things I encountered.”
What are your goals/future plans as a printmaker and artist?
“After working as a freelance book illustrator since 1991 I’m still very much involved in supplying digital illustrations for publishing projects – and I never know what’s coming along next, that makes it interesting! As for my own printmaking work – I feel my own voice is emerging through the linocuts and I can now build on this. I have developed a style of digital illustration influenced by traditional printing methods, this is something to take further. And I also want to return to painting – I think concentrating on block prints for a few years will have changed the way I approach working in watercolour and acrylics.”
What about as a gardener?
I love growing vegetables, fruit and herbs and using them in the kitchen – each season is different and there’s always the next season to look forward to. I’m completely hooked on growing heritage vegetables, they are part of our culture just as much as vernacular architecture or regional recipes. And I enjoy supplying novice veg growers with ‘Purple Podded Peas’ – children especially love vegetables that look colourful, who can resist sweet bright green peas in little purple purses!
And a blogger?
I started blogging in March 2007. I’ve always liked the idea of keeping a garden diary and a record of my work, but apart from travel journals I’ve never sustained a diary longer than a couple of weeks! But the ease of including images and photos into a blog seems to have inspired me to keep at it – the comments from and contact with other artists, makers, gardeners and cooks were a big surprise and make posting on my blog even more fun. More seriously, I like to show the creative process and inspirations behind my prints – ‘limited edition hand pulled prints’ is a meaningless term to lots of people and confusing when there are so many scanned and digitally reproduced images. The process is so much part of a hand printed image and you can show this step by step on a blog – like an on-line ‘open studio’.
Are there any gardens other than your own that particularly inspire you in the area?
As a member of Garden Organic and The Heritage Seed Library, I love visiting their showcase walled kitchen garden at Audley End. As for influences on my own garden, Joy Larkcom is my all-time gardening hero. She used to garden just north of Bury St Edmunds, she now lives in Ireland. I would recommend any of her books, but ‘Creative Vegetable Gardening’ is my favourite and it’s the book that has most influenced my garden. Other gardens which influence me are the plant combinations of Piet Oudolf at the Millennium Garden at Pensthorpe and the wonderful containers and gravel garden at East Ruston Old Vicarage, both in Norfolk.
How about printmakers?
A visit to Japan and interest in Japanese printmakers sparked off my return to printmaking six years ago. I also love the work of Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious – and the wonderful English tradition of block print illustrations in books. Linocut seems to be having a renaissance at the moment – is it a reaction against the ubiquitous full colour printing at the click of a mouse?