Enjoy this series of colouring sheets of bugs and butterflies you can attract to your garden this spring and summer. Print out, colour and share the results with us!

Butterfly earwig Woodlouse colouring sheet bee

Here’s a video from our community art coordinator Emily with instructions on how to make a bug hotel for the garden.

To celebrate International Women’s Day we asked our featured maker, Rachel Larkins, some questions about her inspirations and what advice she would give to young artists starting out.

  • What challenges do you think women face in the Arts?

Working in the Arts can be hard work and is not always well paid, so it can often be a question of balancing several roles at once. As a maker, I’ve worked with students from sixteen to eighty and I think at any age, regardless of gender, overcoming issues with self confidence in terms of showing your work to others can be very challenging too.

  • Is there a particular artist or craftsperson who inspired you?

Three women who made a big difference to my early career were artist Jane Wildgoose, who gave me work experience shortly after graduating; Linda Fredericks, the founder of Artsway where I had my first studio, and Kristin Baybars, a toy designer and collector who bought one of the first collectors pieces I made (an upside down Red Riding Hood and the wolf doll). All three were very generous with their time, giving me honest feedback and encouragement.I couldn’t name just one… there are those visual artists and writers whom I admire such as Angela Carter, Marina Warner, Rebecca Horn, Kiki Smith and many inspirational craftspeople I have been fortunate to meet over the years.

  • What advice would you give young women artists who are just starting out?

To be honest my advice is the same regardless of gender (!). Try to find authenticity in what you are doing. What may appear to others as overnight success is often preceded by years of unseen work. It’s important to care deeply about what you do but this doesn’t have to be at the expense of everything else. Promoting yourself can feel uncomfortable by comparison with the joy of making, but it is necessary. I think social media has made this aspect of freelancing much easier in recent years and it does offer great opportunities to connect directly with your audience.

  • You work is inspired by folklore and fairy tales, do you have a favourite female character?

Red Riding Hood is one of those characters I return to again and again- the story itself is so rich in terms of subtext and there are many theories on its origins.

How did you start out on this path? Did you always know this was what you wanted to be doing?

I have always loved drawing and making things, ever since I was a child. I remember once when I was 11 or 12 being on holiday and moulding lots of little mice out of the dripping wax from candles – I like to do things with my hands! I’m happiest when I’m making things, but I have a full-time job doing something completely unrelated and not creative. Knowing I have my wreaths and drawing and other projects to immerse myself in at home is my raison d’etre really. It keeps me inspired and motivated.

 

How has your work evolved since you first started making?

A couple of years ago I saw a photo of a Roman laurel crown made of metal. It had been excavated and had a beautiful Verdigris patina. It really inspired me and sparked a project in my mind. I remember looking very closely at hedgerow plants and wondering how I could create little metal leaves and petals and make them look as delicate and imperfect as they are in real life. What followed was an investigative process – I trawled the internet for a long time and went to a lot of hardware stores trying to find the right materials. My Dad gave me his old soldering iron and taught me how to solder – I’m a bit of a master now! Initially I made very simple replicas of those roman laurel wreaths but I’m now making much more intricate things and I time them so they are seasonal – daffodils and bluebells for Spring, hedgerow leaves and berries for Autumn, and then lots of stars for Christmas.

 

How do you approach studio time – get yourself into the right frame of mind for creating/making?   Do you work better at certain times of the day?

As I work full time, I don’t spend as much time as I would like making my wreaths. Often I have to sit and make things late into the evening when I’m tired but it can be a relaxing and meditative process. When you have many demands on your time during the day and you face email onslaught and office stress, coming home and making something with your hands can be the ultimate de-stressor. My favourite way to work though is at weekends – I get up early and turn on the radio in my studio and try to work for several hours.

 

How do you challenge yourself within your work? Do you always see yourself working in this medium?

Whenever I go for a walk, I collect leaves and berries to take home and study at my desk. It’s always a challenge figuring out how to make a new leaf or flower out of copper sheet. I would like to experiment with different metals, and I would also love to get my hands on an enamelling kiln and experiment with enamel on copper. I have lots of ideas for the future.

 

What would/has been your ideal commission?
I’ve really enjoyed working with Samantha Allen from The Shop Floor Project. I’ve created a number of collections with them and I always feel Sam understands my work well and comes up with great ideas.

We know that social media channels such as Instagram play a pivotal role now in giving a platform to artists. To what extent has it benefitted you?

All work and commissions I’ve had have come through Instagram. It’s the greatest marketing tool I have and enables makers like myself to showcase their work and get attention. I love taking photographs of my work and finding creative ways to display them. I’ve also got two very photogenic scruffy lurchers that feature quite a lot on my page, they always get attention! 

Is there a recent exhibition that you have loved so much and encouraged everyone to go see?
I did recently see Luke Jerram’s Gaia at the Wills Memorial Building in Bristol – a huge rotating earth suspended from the ceiling in a cathedral like space – it was strangely moving. I tried to take my boyfriend to see it the next day but the queue was huge – word had spread.

 

What does the future hold for you and your work? Do you have any exciting plans for 2020?
I hope that the workload at my day job calms down a bit so I have time to do more creative work at home. I hope to build upon what I’ve done, do more commissions and create new wreaths. I’m always inspired and always have new ideas to work on.

 

 

How did you start out on this path? Did you always know this was what you wanted to be doing?

I have made things from wood and been very practically minded since I was young but growing up there was no perceived value in hand-made – it was all about cheap flatpack furniture and the throw away culture. Recently there is a very healthy backlash to this and people are thinking a lot more about where things are made and how long that will last. This movement has allowed me to start to make high-quality work with hand tools. If I am honest, I think I have always loved working with natural materials and always been a frustrated Product Designer. Designing fictional objects from wood is like a dream come true!

How has your work evolved since you first started making?

I believe very firmly that anyone can be creative if they simply practice very regularly in their chosen medium. This practice forms a feedback loop which helps move one’s work forward and an artist find their own voice. I started making with a project to design and make a wooden spoon each week for a year and publish the results online. As well as giving me a strong foundation in edge-tool use, this year long project helped me find my voice as a maker. My current passion is to go deep inside the slate mines of north Wales to bring out 100 year old oak which is full of rich colour and make from this. The objects I made from the oak can’t help but be influenced by the experience in the mines and quarries the wood is recovered from.

 

How do you approach your time in the workshop to get yourself into the right frame of mind for creating/making? Do you work better at certain times of the day?

I believe in finding a state of ‘flow’ in working with green wood. This is where you are not consciously working the wood but letting your hands feel the shapes emerging and the tools feel the grain of the wood to make the outcome a sum of what I initially intended to make, plus, what the wood dictates. Achieving this state requires being fresh, relaxed and open to the environment around me. I am a daytime maker really as my lovely ten year old son is demanding of my time in the evenings!

 

How do you challenge yourself within your work? Do you always see yourself working in this medium?

The challenge for me is two-fold. There is the technical skill in green woodworking and understanding different woods, which is really a lifetime of learning. The second challenge is design and coming up with original and satisfying ideas.

 

What would/has been your ideal commission?

 

I love commissions from talented chefs. Chefs often have a specific dish or ingredient in mind and would like me to come up with a creative solution to serving the dish, using wood. This might be as simple as spoon or fork, or as complicated a bowl from a huge hunk of wood.

 

We know that social media channels such as Instagram play a pivotal role now in giving a platform to artists. To what extent has it benefitted you?

Social media gives me the opportunity to reach a global market, which is huge, but mainly I enjoy the story telling side of producing photography and comment around my work and the natural world around me. I treat social media as an art project in its own right, not a marketing chore. That changes everything.

 

Do you think it’s possible for it to ever truly replace a traditional bricks and mortar gallery?

No, I am inspired constantly by things I see online, but I only really have an emotional connection / memory of work I have actually seen in the flesh in the controlled environment of a gallery.

 

Is there a recent exhibition that you have loved so much and encouraged everyone to go see?

I haven’t seen the Cardiff David Nash exhibition yet, although I love his work. The exhibition of his 50 years of making has moved to Eastbourne on the south coast now, about as far from north Wales as it gets! I am working on getting there however.

 

What does the future hold for you and your work? Do you have any exciting plans for 2020?

On a very practical level, I need to work on the business side of making in 2020. I would love to be able to make a comfortable living from what I make, but that takes a really solid business plan with multiple income sources to be sustainable as a maker. That’s the real goal for me now – to be able to do work hard at what I love for the long term.

How did you start out on this path? Did you always know this was what you wanted to be doing?

I had no idea I would end up as an artist, and actually when I was at school wanted to be a meteorologist, though ended up studying linguistic theory at university. I hadn’t studied art at school and started doing art for fun at my local college’s evening classes. It just went from there.

How has your work evolved since you first started making?

Actually I studied ceramics (under- and post-graduate) at art school, so it has changed quite a lot! But even my textiles work has changed dramatically since I started doing it in around 2006. I was just playing around to begin with, as I have no textiles training. The development is organic – I have no definite plan for how it evolves.

How do you approach studio time – get yourself into the right frame of mind for creating/making?   Do you work better at certain times of the day?

I have no particular way of approaching the day’s work, other than getting the coffee on. I can’t concentrate fully on work unless there’s a mug of coffee on the desk! And time of day doesn’t seem to make a difference.

How do you challenge yourself within your work? Do you always see yourself working in this medium?

I find repetition stultifying (though enjoy remaking a handful of characters such as bad bunnies and bees), preferring to embrace change. I’m not naturally a one-medium person, although working with textiles seems quite natural and inspiring, because of its flexibility and potential for variety. My studio, however, is packed with other materials, and bits of projects that are not strictly visual art. Time is the biggest constraint – if there was more time available I would be working in a variety of media. So for the future, who knows.

What would/has been your ideal commission?

I don’t do many commissions, and am not sure what my ideal would be, but I have to say that making the lobster for The Table has been my most fun commission to date!

We know that social media channels such as Instagram play a pivotal role now in giving a platform to artists. To what extent has it benefitted you? Do you think it’s possible for it to ever truly replace a traditional bricks and mortar gallery?

I think these days a mix is needed of different ways of showing and selling work if an artist is to succeed. But seeing work online is no match for looking at the real thing – it’s a completely different experience, and it’s hard to really look properly at a piece of work, or contemplate it fully, in an image, just as looking at a picture in a book is a remove from the real thing. So I don’t think galleries can be replaced. We need to be able to experience works of art directly to fully appreciate them.

Is there a recent exhibition that you have loved so much and encouraged everyone to go see?

The recent exhibition of David Lynch’s visual art at HOME in Manchester was wonderful. I’m a long-time fan of his films and TV, so to see his artwork for real was hugely inspiring. I also found the Alice Kettles exhibition at the Whitworth last year awe-inspiring. An incredible body of work, and very moving.

What does the future hold for you and your work? Do you have any exciting plans for 2020?

I admit I’ve had little time to think about future plans, though would like to try and progress some of the many other projects (not all sewing) that have been started over the last year or so. I think the work will just keep going on and evolving in the organic way it has in the past. I rather like that way of working, not knowing how things will turn out. A definite for 2020 though is that I’ll be at the wonderful Craft Festival in Cheltenham Town Hall in March, for the third time. Very much looking forward to that.

 

 

 

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