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Meet the Maker: Sarah Waterhouse

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hi, I’m Sarah Waterhouse and I’m a Sheffield based fabric designer and screen printer. I specialise in hand printed sustainable fabrics, printing my original designs on to hemp and organic cotton fabrics with water based eco friendly inks.

(Photo by Nigel Barker) 

How and where did you learn to screen print?

I studied Art & Design at college and immediately fell in love with lino printing, unfortunately I never got a chance to screen print whilst I was there, but the idea fascinated me so I decided to teach myself some years later. I couldn’t find any classes any where near where I lived so I taught myself with videos and books instead. It was a great learning experience as I learnt the hard way, making a lot of mistakes along the way, which helped me to troubleshoot issues from early on. Also I built most of my equipment (screens and exposure unit) so that was a great way to learn. In 2007, a year after I taught myself to screen print I launched my business selling hand printed accessories and small craft items.


Why screen printing?

I had already tried other methods of printing which had given me the printing bug, I especially enjoyed lino printing but the ability to create patterns and repeat them with screen printing really appealed to me. Also, the kind of designs I found myself drawing were more suited to screen printing, especially the photo emulsion method which allowed me to keep the nice clean lines in my drawings.

(Photo by Nigel Barker)

Where do you work?

I work from my studio in Sheffield, it’s in a building called Yorkshire Artspace which houses over 70 artists and craftspeople. I share my studio with my husband, who is also a designer, and we have our rescue pug Etty in work with us every day. I’ve had a studio here for nearly 6 years and it’s such a lovely place to work, the best thing is being surrounded by so many talented artists and makers.

Describe a typical day in your studio.

A typical day starts for me at 7am, usually with something creative like sketching or painting. I used to always get in the studio and turn the computer on first thing to catch up with my admin, but I found that by swapping this to after lunch, I got so much more done in the morning! At the end of the previous day I set out any orders, sewing and printing that needs doing so I usually start that work around 9am and work the rest of the morning on those jobs. After lunch I spend some time doing admin and answering emails then it’s back to more printing and putting orders together so that by 3pm I can start to pack up things that need posting out that day. By 4pm I’m ready for home.


How long have you been printmaking? For how long has your business been going?

I’ve been printing for 18 years but only screen printing for 10 of those. My business is celebrating 8 years in business this year.


What inspires you?

I’m inspired by so many things around me, from the buildings and street furniture on the streets of Sheffield to the mesmerising patterns in the natural world. I take my camera everywhere with me and record everything I see that catches my eye. At the moment I’m particularly obsessed with worn and distressed things so I’ve been taking lots of pictures of random rusty gates and weathered bark on trees, I’m not sure if this will lead to a new collection but it’s definitely creating some interesting drawings.


What is your favourite printmaking product?

My favourite item is definitely my squeegee, I get really excited when I get a new squeegee made up, especially if it’s one of my super large squeegees that are around 80cm wide, those are wonderful to see with a shiny new blade.


What have you made that you are most proud of?

I think I’m probably most proud of the furniture pieces where I’ve used my fabric. I love seeing the fabric come alive on a piece and also choosing just the right fabric for the style of the furniture. All of my furniture pieces are vintage pieces and so I’ve already fallen in love with them when I choose them, and tend to have a fabric already in mind that would work well. It’s great to see it all come together when the piece is finished.

(Photo by Nigel Barker)

Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?

I sell a variety of homeware pieces and furniture alongside my fabric by the metre, all of these are sold online through my own website and I also still keep my Etsy shop open where I sell smaller pieces of fabric and remnants. I also sell at galleries and shops around the country and have a number of fabric shops who hold my fabric books where customers can come in and choose fabric for a project.


What will we be seeing from you next?

I’m due to go on maternity leave soon so I’ll be taking a few months off work, but I’ve been busy preparing for a new collection and wallpaper launch which will be ready for when I return to work so that’s really exciting. I also have plans for more products to add to the collection, including some more small furniture pieces.


Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?

Doing what you love is an amazingly rewarding career and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it’s definitely hard work. If you’re thinking of running your own business then it's a labour of love and one that takes over your life so you have to be prepared for that. But whether you’re making and printing as a hobby or running your own business then my best advice would be to just enjoy what you do, don’t worry about what you create, also try to do something creative every day.

You can see more of Sarah's beautiful work on her website and in her Etsy Shop.


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