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Interview: Jo Anne Butler, Superfolk's Head Printmaker

Interview: Jo Anne Butler, Superfolk's Head Printmaker

Have you always liked drawing, what is your earliest memory of it?

Yes as far as I can recall drawing I’ve always enjoyed drawing and colour. I can remember as a small child I kept some colours and paper beside my bed so that I could wake up early and draw in my bed while the rest of the house was still asleep. I loved the feeling of being fully absorbed and lost in my own world when drawing. At school art was always the subject that I looked forward to and it never felt like schoolwork to me. 

How did you get into printing?

My first introduction to printing was as a child as a part of a children’s art summer camp. I loved the smell of the inks and the sound of the roller. But when it came to my art college education I studied Sculpture. Later when I was studying architecture I found that I was always designing patterns when I was supposed to be designing floor plans. I finally got back into printmaking when I found that I wanted to do something direct and hands-on. I had been working in architecture and found it involved far too many hours hunched over a computer. 



How does your printing process differ from screen printing?

The type of printing I do is lino or relief block printing. The biggest difference is that it is a much longer printmaking process. I print from a hand-carved block rather than a screen and the blocks that I make can take me many weeks to carve. Also, the relief block allows me to roll the ink onto a block in a process that is almost like a painting. This stage also takes about an hour for each print. But I think that this is worth it as I can create a subtle depth of colour and variation that would never be possible when using a screen-based process. 



Do you need expensive machinery?

No. I believe in the motto - “the more you know the less you need”. Everything I do can comfortably be done at home, on a kitchen table. The most used tool in our studio is an old kitchen spoon. The spoon is used to rub the back of the paper to press the paper into the ink. That’s as high tech as we get.

What’s the most important thing to remember when making a print?

The print just takes the time it needs to be made. If you try to rush the print - it might rip the paper, or miss a bit. If you go too slow - the ink will dry.  I think it’s a kind of meditative activity - you just have to go with it. 



How do you think a print can influence a space?

I first began to make the prints at a time when we lived in a very old stone house where the windows were very small and the walls wee very deep. I found it impossible to keep our houseplants alive as there was just not enough daylight in the winter months. I think of the prints as replacement windows of dreams with a magnificent view out to the richest warmest colours of nature. They can create a connection to the landscape in an interior environment 



Are there any printers or visual artists that you admire?

Not to sound too soppy but I love anyone who makes work and puts themselves out there. You have to be brave and allow yourself to be a bit vunerable to be an artist.  But people whose work I come back to again and again are always the people whose work crosses boundaries between art and design and architecture - for me these are the people who remind me that these boundaries that we create between different art disciplines are a type of fiction. In that vein I like the work of Enzo Mari, Patrick Scott, Alvar Alto and also Giorgio Griffa and Eva Hess. None of these are really “printmakers” I realise and probably would not all call themselves artists. But what I guess they all have in common is an interest in our natural world and in expressing the softer more human or natural side of minimalism.



Would you like to learn how to design and make your own print from concept drawing to finished artwork?

Are you interested in learning more about our printmaking process?

Our first-ever Superfolk Printmaking Masterclass is now open for registration. Classes take place online each Thursday over a four-week period this Spring.



All class sessions will be led by Jo Anne Butler who is a design consultant, interior architect and curator with 10 years of printmaking experience. Jo Anne has developed the unique, recognisable style of printmaking that Superfolk has become synonymous with.

She has a deep understanding of colour and an interest in crisp, simplified natural forms.  Jo Anne has a BFA in Fine Art, an BSc in Architectural Science and MArch in Architecture from UCD Dublin and the Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark. Her work has been recognised by the Arts Council of Ireland and published by Princeton Architectural Press.


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