Monday, 21 May 2012

Sketchbook Peeks - Sarah Hancox

So tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are now in your practice
Since moving to the Peak District my lifestyle and surroundings have become my greatest source of inspiration.  Landscape; the colours and scents of the changing seasons, textures and patterns of the moorlands; sights and sounds of local birds and wildlife are always inspirational and provide starting points for all the things I want to explore; I am always short of time rather than ideas, but a walk with our beloved lurchers and border collie always provides an opportunity to re-evaluate my priorities.

I live with my partner Steve in a tiny stone cottage in a historic Peak District village so the luxury of a dedicated workspace surrounded by all my fabrics and photographs for inspiration is not possible. Everything I’m working on gets cleared away when I’ve finished and I still produce everything on a little pine cricket table in front of a log burning stove surrounded by our dogs, but if I’m honest, what more do I need?
Domestic home wares that celebrate our cultural heritage seem to be the perfect vehicle for the techniques and imagery I love working with; our homes have increasingly becoming a refuge from the pressures of the outside world and somewhere where we can express ourselves. For me creating a reassuring and peaceful retreat is essential in maintaining a healthy work / life balance.

For my tea cosy’s I like to use traditional materials, with a focus on recycling and reworking; tweeds and felted woollens supported by velvet and utility cottons are evocative of days gone by and reflect my love of traditional British fabrics, the idiosyncrasies of British culture, heritage and tradition.
Inspiration often come from the fabrics themselves - my favourite knitwear stitches, cables, traditional Aran’s and Fairisle patterns are often the focus of the individual pieces and what makes each unique. Ideas for nostalgic, eccentric or quirky motifs can come from anywhere, the fabrics themselves, childhood memories, a poem or proverb, in fact anything that celebrates how wonderful it is to live in Britain and what a rich source of inspiration it has become for me.
Using textiles instead of a digital medium to communicate is a more recent development for A VERY BRITISH AFFAIR and combines both my love of typography with my desire to create something functional and personal to the individual.  These typographic pieces combine vintage prints, Victorian household linens with freehand machine embroidery and currently adorn our beloved camper van.

I have used a sketchbook since I went to Art College myself a very, very long time ago! As a design lecturer I instil in my students that a sketchbook is essential to recording their thoughts and ideas - and the visual language of communicating the creative process; I am not however very good at taking my own advice!

How often do you sketch?
Not nearly frequently enough. There is always a discrepancy between what I teach and what I actually do myself; I know that we only get better with continual practice, but I frequently struggle with the confidence commit an idea to paper.

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?
I love sketchbooks, but if you talk to many creative people with a design background, the first crisp white page can be extremely daunting – I might colour my pages first with watercolour, or collage a number of surfaces in order to get over ‘first page nerves’. I really wish I could see my sketchbooks simply as everyday tools or works in progress, but my graphic design background means that I cannot help judging the overall aesthetic – which is very controlling and limiting to the creative process.

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?
I’m not sure really, I guess that working in a creative environment means that there is an endless supply of inspiration – but there are never enough hours in the day to follow them! If one of my colleagues is looking into an artist or style, we may share ideas and research sources which I may follow up in the evenings. I would love to have got to the stage where drawing comes naturally and becomes a relaxing process but after a day’s work I never seem to be able to dedicate sufficient time to improving.

How would you describe your creative process?
I try to make the most of my time whilst travelling to and from work; I always take the scenic route over the hills and roads less travelled. I am always bird watching on the journey and it’s always a thrill to watch curlew feeding in the fields in early spring and lapwing displaying with their distinctive strobing flight. If there is time and I am early enough I will stop the car and just listen to their magical and eerie calls. Last week I watched a hare running down the edge of a field right next to the road, I stopped to watch and when I looked up, there was a queue of four cars behind me; nobody seemed to mind – maybe the creative process is dangerous if it starts in the car! There is always something to see if you can be bothered to look - it gladdens the heart and inspires the next range of imagery I work on.

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?
Probably; I am now more confident in trying a greater range of materials and adding my own notes and ideas along the way – I am now trying to incorporate my initial training in typography into my craft work – it helps with synthesising what I can do with what I would like to do. I am still however, battling with the desire to control the page instead of letting it evolve.

What is your favourite medium to work with?
I’m not sure I have a favourite – I’m not a natural drawer and I’ve always regretted that I have never tried to develop this further. I try to stick to the media that best allow me to express my ideas – initial photographs, simple line drawings, monoprints, mixed media collage and often poetry or the written word. I use these simple techniques to develop machine embroidery ideas and typographic images.

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?
I wish I could say yes – I love bits of all of them but am probably too critical to see the value in some of the ideas, if I was able to cut my sketchbooks up and only keep the pages I was happy with, then maybe I could answer yes.

If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why?

I am very fond of birds as a source of inspiration therefore one of the lapwing studies would definitely be a contender. When a sketchbook page can evoke a memory of place, sound, smell, feeling and the foundation of an idea, then it’s always a favourite with me.

Well I don't know about you but I've really enjoyed that visual journey through Sarahs sketchbooks, and it has definitely made me want to do some mono printing...

If you want to find out more about Sarah you can visit her blog here and her shop here. You can like her over on Facebook here and also follow her on twitter here

Thanks for taking part Sarah, happy sketching!!


  1. Sue, thank you so much for featuring me on your blog! - I've never thought of my sketchbooks digitally or in context before and I'm thrilled to have been asked.

    Lots of love and thanks, Sarah xx

    1. Hi Sarah
      You're v welcome, glad you have taken part. We've had lots of views so I hope it has brought some new people your way.
      all the best
      Sue x

  2. Replies
    1. me too alex, and the birds too, it has really made me want to do some printing and get my inks out and get my hands dirty again!!


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