The countdown to festival of crafts 2021 is well and truly on! Taking place on Sat 16 & Sun 17 October, the festival will be marking its 25th anniversary. In the lead up to the festival, we're catching up with some of our exhibitors to find out more about them, their work and their passion for craft.
Farnham-based artist Mim Winsor, works with historic photographic processes to create unique pieces made in collaboration with nature and the elements. We caught up with Mim to find out more about cyanotype.
How would you describe the process of cyanotype and what first attracted you to the art form?
Cyanotypes are an early historic photographic process that dates back to 1842. For me, it’s photography in its purest form – a light sensitive chemical reacting with sunlight to create an image and that’s part of the appeal, it’s stripped back and simple. The solution on the paper reacts with sunlight to become a deep Prussian blue and any part of the coated paper that doesn’t have light falling on it remains white, or perhaps somewhere between the two if a thin petal has blocked some but not all light. The result is a reverse silhouette with variations in light and tone depending on the plant specimen, and a beautiful, simplified representation of the plant’s shape and characteristics.
I first discovered it during my photography degree – we did a workshop on historic photographic processes and from then I was hooked! From painting the emulsion on to the paper, watching as the sunlight changes the chemicals and then the moment when you rinse the print and it begins to turn blue… it really felt like magic!
No two cyanotypes are ever truly the same, so for me it represents the element of unpredictability – the levels of sunshine, humidity and temperature when making the print all have a bearing on the result, as well as the moisture levels of the plant used. I love that natural elements are influencing each print – for me this adds to the sense of magic I’ve described.
What advice would you give to someone who’d like to try cyanotype?
It’s a rewarding, fun process for beginners, there’s not really much special equipment required, so my advice would be to give it a go! For me, I find a simple clip frame and clothes pegs to keep the paper in contact with the plant specimen useful as my work needs a crisp outline of the plants, but it’s possible to get a successful print just by putting objects on top of coated paper on a window ledge.
Depending on how you prefer to learn, you can dive straight in with buying the raw chemicals and coating your own paper or if you prefer, pre-coated paper and fabric are available. If you’d like to learn from someone experienced there are workshops available with experienced artists and if you hit problems, there’s a huge online community of practitioners full of advice and ideas.
Where do you find the inspiration for your designs?
Most of my inspiration comes from the plants I work with. When I was doing my photography masters I spent hours researching so-called weeds, and found their tenacity and resourcefulness a metaphor for overcoming difficulties in our own, human lives. I found it comforting and inspiring to engage with these plants that just kept on trying to do their thing (think of a dandelion growing in an inhospitable crack in the footpath!) The more I learned about these plants and flowers, the more I wanted to represent them in a positive way and celebrate them. They are so often overlooked, but there’s a fascinating world of green life we walk past every day, with their own unique place in the ecosystem. Whilst I work with cultivated plants as well as weeds now, they’ll always be my favourite plants to work with. I hope that my cyanotypes encourage people to look again at familiar plants and perhaps engage with them in a new way.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m enjoying making my mini framed cyanotypes most. It’s currently autumn and the seed heads of plants are featuring in my work a lot. As well as making prints I’m currently researching and working on information cards about every plant I make work with so that when someone buys one of my pieces they’ll be able to learn about the plant it was made with. Engaging with the overlooked elements of the natural world has given me so much comfort and joy, I love the idea of sharing that with people who enjoy my work.
What are you most looking forward to about festival of crafts?
Meeting the people who come! It’s easy to get lost in my own little world by myself at my studio, so being part of an event that’s going to attract those who enjoy handmade craft and art is really exciting. I think Farnham’s World Craft Town status shows that there’s clearly a lot of wonderful craft being made locally, but the last 18 months have meant that we’ve all become rather remote. Being a part of this curated festival means that I’ll be able to meet other makers as well as people who are interested in my work – it’s a really exciting weekend.