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Friday, 10 February 2017

Meet the maker: Printmaker and textile artist Benjamin Partridge from The Owlery

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Benjamin Partridge from The Owlery.  Producing bold homewares and gifts, Benjamin uses original lino cut and screen print surface designs featuring British woodland and coastal motifs.

In a challenging and competitive retail world, The Owlery offers more than just homewares. Quality manufacturing and an eco-view on the environment makes this maker very different to your average high street offering.  I spoke with Benjamin about how David Attenborough inspired his work, his thoughts on conservationism and his advice to fellow illustrators wanting to start their own business.

Q. Tell us a bit about The Owlery

The Owlery is the trade name for me, Benjamin Partridge. I am a printmaker and I specialise in traditional lino cut and screen printing methods. I work primarily with textiles and paper, however I also work with wood and ceramics, while some of my work is illustrative I have a bold, block printed style.

I am based in Sheffield and work from my studio in Yorkshire ArtSpace, fact... is (or at least was), the only purpose built studio complex in the UK.  It is home to hundreds of independent designs, maker and artists. 

I have a hand in almost every part of my business. I design everything in my studio and make the majority of my items here too by hand. I have a few items that are manufactured in small batches by local companies but I am very conscious about supporting local business so nothing is made outside of Yorkshire and Derbyshire. 

Q. How did it all come about?

There is a long and a short answer to this. 

The short answer is, I built the business from my kitchen table over the past 3 1/2 years and have periodically moved to bigger and bigger space, building my output and skills along the way. 

The long answer takes us back a few years when I was training to become a teacher. I worked as a special needs teacher full time while running my business initially and no work part time alongside running the business and the studio. My love of printmaking was developed from teacher training and running projects with students in school and via the kitchen table has evolved into me running my own print studio in Sheffield.

My love of nature is deep rooted in a childhood spent watching David Attenborough documentaries and and reading children's storied about animals. 

I also have very vivid memories of being very scared of classic animal based films such as Jurassic Park and Jaws (among other nightmare inducing movies which I am now obsessed with). Oh and I may or may not have also had a teddy bear which was a badger wearing green dungarees. I may or may not still have this.

Q. With your illustrations you seem to draw inspiration from British wildlife, how important is conservation and the environment to you?

I gain a lot of inspiration from ethical issues related to conservation and my bee design was drawn from issues related to the plight of the honey bee and the badger design from the badger cull. 

I try not to let these issues come out through design and allow it to speak for itself. More recently I have been considering some 'under the sea' themed designs which are inspired by issues related to plastic pollution in our seas and water.

When I create my work, it is important to me that each item has the smallest environmental impact as is possible. I ensure that all my work uses Eco friendly inks and where possible my papers are recycled or from stock which is replenished. 

"it is important to me that each item has the smallest environmental impact as is possible"

Q. What inspires you when coming up with your creations?

The natural world is a big inspiration and there is no one finer to refer to at this point than Sir David Attenborough! He has always been a hero of mine and his work in TV has inspired a lot of my design work and my ethical standpoints. 

I spend far too much time watching Attenborough documentaries and not actually working in the studio but I can call it research right?

Q. Why should people consider your homewares over the high street alternatives?

The one thing I can guarantee when buying my work is bold, bright, original design and quality craftsmanship. Each piece is lovingly handmade by my own fair hand and this attention to detail is something you will not find on the high street. 

Every time you buy a piece of my work you are supporting an individual, not a huge corporation. You help me to build a business, support a family and buy lots of nature DVD's.

"Each piece is lovingly handmade by my own fair hand, this attention to detail is something you will not find on the high street"

Q. What’s your top tip for any illustrators out there wanting to make a career of their skills?

Don't be afraid to just go for it and don't put limitations on yourself. 

I hear so many people say 'I'm not ready for that' or 'I can't do that' but why? 

Just take on the opportunities, throw yourself into the next challenge and yeah you are not always going to come out on top. You won't always feel like you know what you are doing, but if you did know it all then you wouldn't be challenging yourself. 

Throwing yourself into a career in illustration will provide you with experiences that you wouldn't get in a 9-5 job.

>>> For more info or to see the full collection click here <<<

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