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Studio: Before and after

What attracted you to your current work space?

In March 2017 I converted my dusty cold garage into a bright, light, warm inspiring space to work. I’ve lived here for 10 years and had always dreamed of making better use of the space.

It’s one of the best thing I’ve ever done. It just goes to show that there’s always a silver cloud to redundancy.

What did you do?

I spent time planning the space and drew up my own plans. The most important thing was to add light and making the space warm. I wanted four sky lights but that went way over budget, so I compromised at two. I replaced the existing windows with double glazing and windows that would actually open.

The whole space is insulated with foil faced insulation board, 45mm in the walls and 25mm on the floor. It’s made a huge difference and really holds the heat in winter. I have a small convection heater and it doesn’t take long to heat the space at all.

To keep costs down, the walls are just painted plaster board and the floors painted chipboard.

My builders where amazing. It only took 6 days to do the work. I laid the floor, filled gaps and painted it.

Where did you source your furniture?

I love finding second hand furniture and giving it a new lease of life. I bought the big grey cabinet with the oak top from a car boot sale in York. I saw it and just had to have it. A lick of paint, some handles and wheels and it’s perfect storage and to work on.

My sturdy etching press table was kindly made by a local business I work with in exchange for some design work.

Other things where found at my local community furniture store. My stools came from a skip (I did ask permission). I made the light shades from papier-mache.

Does your work space influence your work?

Most defiantly.

When I’m working in my studio I feel like I’m outdoors and in my garden. Being surrounded by nature, plants and bird song has a very calming influence. Carving or printing a design can be very meditative.

Quality of light is very important to me. I have a keen eye for colour and mix my own inks. Light from the skylight floods in. Even on the dullest day it seems bright in there.

I like to be away from technology and to do lists when I’m creating my prints, so my Mac and paperwork is banished to the house.

Does your studio always look that tidy?

Not always. I often use every surface when I’m working but it’s always fairly organised. I keep anything inky confined to my printing area. This is important as I frame my work in the same space and the tiniest bit of ink will mark other things. I use oil based transparent inks, so small amounts aren’t always that visible.

I always clean up my studio when I’ve finished a print or at the end of a day printing. It's important to take care of rollers and things, cleaning them at the end of a days printing.

Where did you buy your printing press?

Before the garage make over, I mainly used a trusty wooden spoon to hand burnish prints. Something that takes a while and lots of muscle! Hawthorns Printmaker Supplies kindly lent me an etching press to test.

I soon realised that it was worth the investment and so I bought a Hawthorns Etching Press. Mine is the 405 model that will print up to A3 easily. I worked with Barry and Michael on their branding and buy all my print supplies from them. So I asked if I could have my press powder coated in a specific RAL colour, rather than their Hawthorn green.



About the author

Michelle Hughes is a North Yorkshire landscape artist. Much of her work depicts the Yorkshire landscape and Yorkshire coast, including the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.

Michelle loves exploring the British countryside by bike or on foot, camera in hand, capturing ideas for her next prints. Back in her garden studio, Michelle creates simple but stylised silhouettes based on her photographs, and hand carves these shapes into lino. She hand prints with an etching press, using oil-based inks to create tonal blocks of colour.

Michelle’s original linocut prints are limited editions.

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