Louise Worthy: “There is an element of the unknown in printmaking that is magical”

Owls, foxes and puffins populate the artworks of artist and printmaker Louise Worthy, who 15 years ago swapped a career in the fashion industry for an art studio in the Highlands.

Oystercatchers (multilayered ink monoprint) © Louise Worthy
Curlew (ecoprint) © Louise Worthy
Mr Fox (multilayered ink monoprint). © Louise Worthy
Owl (ecoprint) © Louise Worthy

When and why you decided to become an artist?

My love of printmaking started when I was training as a Fashion & Textiles Designer at Bath Spa University. After working as a designer in the clothing trade for many years, myself and my partner had the opportunity to move to Sutherland – a nostalgic move after many happy years holidaying as a family as a child. It was here where I joined the local art club, East Sutherland Art Society, which my mum Ann Worthy already belonged to. I took a couple of group workshops with Eleanor White to realise that I loved the printmaking process and that this was what I really wanted to do.

Where do you get your inspiration?

From my surroundings here in Sutherland, a fair bit from right outside the front door in our wild garden.

I walk a lot with our border collie Willow and I always carry my camera. I can walk in one direction towards open moorland and a derelict croft where there are beautiful views over the Kyle of Sutherland towards Bonar Bridge or if I head in the other direction there are the lovely Carbisdale Woods and Loch with fantastic views further north towards Ben Klibreck. I love the deserted beaches of north and west Sutherland and Loch Fleet for the bird life.

I visit art exhibitions and galleries when I can and I read a lot of textile and print books. I frequently experiment with different methods, you can never stop learning. I recently taught myself how to create Cyanotype prints (or sun prints).

Why printmaking?

I love paper and ink, I enjoy the process of making a plate or cutting a block and the creation of a print takes a matter of days rather than hours.

With printmaking there is definitely an element of the unknown which can be quite magical; you can not only create a design but a look which is completely distinct from other forms of art. I also love patterns and textures and I am able to use certain blocks to print onto textiles as well which I can then embellish with machine and hand embroidery.

About the animals in your prints…

Barn owls often feature in my work, we have a resident barn owl nearby. I quite often see the white tip of Mr Fox‘s tail disappearing up the track where we walk as he slithers away. Swallows and skeins of greylag geese are reminders of the change of the seasons. One of my favourite birds is the oystercatcher, but I also have a soft spot for curlews, ringed plovers and lapwings. Puffins feature a lot in my work; last year we visited the Isle of Lunga where we saw hundreds of Puffins close up, a real treat!

What are eco-prints? What other techniques do you like to use?

Eco prints are natural prints made using leaves and flowers, sometimes I also use onion skins. These are arranged and layered between sheets of heavyweight watercolour paper, tied tightly with string and steamed for 2 hours; during this process the natural dyes transfer to the paper producing unique eco prints. Papers are then dried flat and overprinted using my hand carved printing blocks.

Other methods of printmaking that I use are Monoprinting, Drypoint Etching, Block Printing (Linocut), Collagraph and Cyanotype.

Who are your biggest influences?

I am particularly drawn to traditional Indian block printing and Moroccan pattern and design. I think colour wise I was inspired by Kaffe Fassett when I first started designing knitwear and I have carried this through to my multilayered brightly coloured monoprints but I also love Edgar Degas and his monochrome monotypes.

Printmakers who have particularly inspired me are Robert Tavener and Robert Greenhalf and of course Eleanor White from Bridgehouse Art, Ullapool who I must thank for getting me back in to printmaking.

Do you have a favourite spot in the Kyle of Sutherland area?

A very difficult question as there are so many beautiful places and still more to explore, but if I had to narrow it down… I think early morning up at the Loch in Carbisdale Woods.

Born in Gloucestershire, Louise is Fashion and Textiles trained at Bath Spa University and Manchester Polytechnic. She worked in the fashion industry for over 20 years before moving to the Scottish Highlands in 2005. Louise exhibits regularly and her work is included in private collections in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and New Zealand. She also teaches workshops in various printmaking techniques.


Facebook: LouiseWorthyArtistPrintmaker / Instagram: louiseworthyartist / Etsy shop

Interview by Silvia Muras

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