A passion for print - Sue Lewry
Printmaker-artist Sue Lewry has recently been part of a residency which included four months of access to the specialist print facilities at Ocean Studios. Sue is a graduate of both our BA (Hons) Graphic Design and MA Printmaking programme, where she achieved a distinction and the Principal's Commendation for a high level of engagement and excellence in externalising her practice-led research through social practice.
Over the summer Sue also successfully fundraised over £8,000 with Crowdfunder and Arts University Plymouth to grow Colossal, her mobile screen-printing workshop and limited edition print shop, including raising £3,500 of iMayflower match-funding from Creative + Digital Plymouth. We sat down with Sue to find out more about her passion for printmaking, why she recommends returning to education as a mature student, and how joining the residency programme at Ocean Studios benefits her artistic practice.
Photo credit: Rae Warne
Sue, can you tell us about how your passion for print began?
I had previously worked in London as a Graphic Designer for over fifteen years. My husband was in the military and his career led us to Plymouth. After my return to education, initially on the BA (Hons) Graphic Design course, my passion for printmaking ignited when I made a typographic screen-print during my studies in 2014.
Now having discovered my passion for print I continued developing my screen-printing skills, and for my final major project I created a large scale multicoloured screen-print to go alongside my fashion branding project, which got me recognised at D&AD New Designers in London in 2015 when I won Best in Show.
Winning on a national platform amongst the country's graduates reinforced my belief in myself as a creative practitioner. For the first time I felt like I could return to my graphic design career alongside raising my young family. Gradually I moved away from digital and became enamoured with the tactile nature of print and the possibilities it presented to me.
Tell us about your relationship with Ocean Studios.
After graduating in 2015 I successfully applied to receive a private subsidised studio space at Ocean Studios for a year, partially funded through Arts University Plymouth’s alumni association. This gave me valuable space and time to further explore my creative practice, develop my printmaking skills and grow my graphic design business.
I spent some time acting as a print technician at Arts University Plymouth after graduating and then in 2016 I took on a role as a print technician at the Ocean Studios print workshop, which allowed me to share my technical skills and knowledge while offering guidance to other professional creative practitioners working in the facilities. It was also great to be able to practise my skills in a live situation and I soon found myself managing the studio space.
I had always planned to do an MA in printmaking but wanted to grow my skills and experience first. Ocean Studios gave me the time and space to do that. In 2018 I knew I was ready to return to my research and study after the experience I had at Ocean Studios. It was time to move on.
Photo credit: Kinga Krzyminska
What are the advantages of taking up creative residencies?
For me personally it has been an opportunity to continue my masters research project, and have a chance to scale up my printmaking explorations. It gives me access to all the equipment and space to develop this. My familiarity with Ocean Studios through previous interactions meant they notified me that the residency was coming up and they encouraged me to apply.
To get the most out of a residency you need to be very self directed and organised, this will allow you to utilise the time and facilities. Scale and labour have been recurring themes in my artistic practice, they are inescapable realities when you are busy juggling work, life and family commitments, so organisation is key for me to get the most out of any experience.
Photo credit: Kinga Krzyminska
How do you see your practice developing?
I am currently part of the thriving creative community at Alma Yard, part of EAT.WORK.ART, where I share Studio 50 with artists Sas Fraser and Sarah Smalldon. The open nature of the studios is reminiscent of Arts University Plymouth, it’s a cross-collaborative environment. This feels like the right place to grow my creative business and I’m excited by how it can open new directions for my work.
I’m continuing to develop my small-scale mobile workshop, Colossal, to offer print experiences. I want to make printmaking accessible and nurture creativity at any age, stage and ability, bringing people together, establishing community connections and building creative confidence. It’s really important for me to offer well-thought-out experiences where people feel seen and heard, inviting them into a space where they can take risks and explore their creativity.
My project was shortlisted to be match-funded by Creative & Digital Plymouth through the iMayflower programme after I had completed a business development programme as part of the IGNITE: Festival of Creativity in May 2022. I intend to spend the money locally in Plymouth, sourcing mostly sustainable materials from independent businesses where I can. The small-scale mobile workshop allows me to interact with a cross-section of people in different places and spaces that experience barriers to creative education. The funding will allow me, with the help of Fab Lab Plymouth in Arts University Plymouth and local independent creatives and organisations, to make additional equipment to offer a fully equipped mobile print and share my passion for print.
Photo credit: Dom Moore
What was your experience like studying for an MA with us?
My MA in Printmaking was the most enriching and challenging experience. I had access to a wealth of tutors who had different views on things and I felt I knew who to go to when I needed a particular reflection. It created a very fluid dialogue and opened my mind. In fact I still find myself pondering some of the questions posed to me by tutors!
Professor Stephen Felmingham was particularly helpful in supporting me to blend new and old approaches within my creative practice. I'm interested in social sculpture and the intangible things that happen in socially engaged practice. My ability to break down complex information has always been one of my strengths, allowing me to create unseen frameworks for projects that might superficially appear simplistic or commonplace. During my MA, I developed my intentions for practice, which helped me to question potential projects and find organisations to collaborate with that align with my values.
Every new project informs my practice, helping me to enter a productive continuum where each idea leads to the next as I claim my unique and individual space in contemporary arts practice. Finding fluency and this kind of progression in my visual and spoken work was a key outcome of my research; Stephen Felmingham helped me to see this.
Photo credit: Dom Moore
What would you say to anyone considering returning to education after a break?
Do it! No matter what age or stage you are in life, bring your uniqueness and individuality. That's what is required for Arts University Plymouth to support and nurture you. Even if you feel you are not fully ready, it has a way of sweeping you along and holding you up until you are ready to spread your creative wings!