We’ve been featured in one of our favourite local magazines, Scout! Click on the link to read Thalia Stopa’s thoughtful interview with Sam.
We are always intrigued and inspired by artists' process and work space. When the multi-talented Sarah Hammond snatched up one of our plant-dyed wool pieces, we thought we'd take the opportunity to visit her space and learn more about her story.
Tell us your origin story, how did you end up in Vancouver?
I used to Freelance in the UK in Sportswear design back in my home town of Nottingham. Although it was great being back close to my family for that time. I knew if I stayed there I would probably never leave and I got bored of the work I was doing it was quite repetitive. I previously lived in Amsterdam and loved that experience of living in another country. Then an opportunity came up to work at Lululemon. So I took it. I didn't expect to be in Vancouver 5 years later. But I love it here.
Best thing about living in Vancouver? Worst?
Living by the ocean, mountains yet still being in the city. I grew up on a farm with lots of open space around me. Then moved to the London and after Amsterdam then back to Nottingham. So Vancouver has the best of both worlds quiet and nature within reach but still has a city vibe.
The worst is not being able to have Roast dinners with Yorkshire puddings on Sunday at a pub with my family & friends.
You have a really distinct style- how did you develop that?
I really just draw. I had a moment and I thought it was quite a serious moment in my life where I thought I would become a full time taxidermist. I did a course in Scotland in 2010, got laid off in my job in Amsterdam then travelled to Central America. With a bit of time to think about my life decisions. I came home and truly thought I would pursue a career in taxidermy. I joined the guild of taxidermy in the UK made friends with other taxidermist. Made a little studio in a shed at my parents farm. (Please note all animals & birds had either died of natural causes or road kill.) Reality kicked in and I ended back up in sportswear design.
I think my style is realistic. I don't know whether thats because I like to understand whats inside fur, the bones and muscles. I guess its a little similar to my experience in working in sportswear and being very aware of muscles and how the body moves. Also since coming to the Pacific Northwest, all the new animals and birds that I get to see here is amazing, so accessible and new to me so its really captured my interest.
So I have my PNW range that just keeps growing and growing. I much prefer wild animals to domesticated animals. & I think we as humans need to protect it as much as we can so I donate 5% of my sales to http://cpaws.org/ it's a Canadian charity that helps protect the wilderness. I'm trying to be the best I can when it comes to the sustainability of my work and how it impacts the world around us. This is just a token gesture. As I grow I want to get better at this.
Wow, I didn't realize that you donated 5% of sales. I think all gestures (token or not) are valuable and reminds us that we have a greater responsibility beyond ourselves. Going back to your style, I think a big part of that is your medium, which is predominately in pencil. Why pencil drawings?
Pencil drawings generally just because its easy, you can go anywhere and there's not too much commitment in terms of cost if you make a mistake. Its also easy to just do a little bit put it down and come back to it later. I do plan to do more experimental work next year with different media. That's where a studio would be nice.
What do you love most about your space?
Although I live in a basement suite. The living area has a small garden which is private and when sunny it really fills the room with light and the plants outside seem to merge with the plants inside. Oh and the Raccoon in my garden. He features in my prints.
How do you balance work and home in your space? (I'm asking because my apartment is permanently in a state of disaster, between it being a home, a storage space, photo studio, etc.)
Good question. Its like I'm always tidying up. I think I might look into studio space next year.
Yeah, I think having a studio would be a dream. There's something about having space dedicated to being creative. Where you can let your process flow and evolve without having to constantly tidy it up and put it away.
Do you listen to music when arting? If so, what do you usually listen to?
Yes most of the time either the British Radio station 6 music. Iggy Pop does a show he's great to listen to for new music. Or podcast's I like to educate myself. Russel Brand under the skin is one that I'm loving right now.
Tell us about the process of creating a intaglio print.
Intaglio etching and printing, Is done on a copper plate. Basically you paint a layer on the copper then using a scribe its like sharp nail, draw into the layer on the plate. Then you put that plate in an acid bath which etches the lines into the plate, creating the image. Then you do a test print. Which involves adding the ink to the plate rubbing it in and away so the ink just stays in the etched lines in the plate. The plate is then placed on the printing press, a damp piece of paper placed on top and you turn the wheel and physically hand print by using the pressure of the press to almost stamp the image into the paper. For most plates you will etch more times to add depth to your image and repeat this process. For example the hare that I did has been through the acid bath 4 times until I was happy with the final image. Then you print your limited edition run.
That sounds very involved. I'd love to see that process in person. What’s the longest amount of time you've spent on a piece?
To date it would be the "Noir Emotions" ravens and crows in terms of sketching it would of been over 30 hours. I lost count in the end. Or the Hare intaglio print. That one just takes more time in the studio to create the plate and the physical printing.
Those are both my favourite pieces. The time and effort clearly pays off.
Who’s one artist we probably don’t know about, but really should?
I really love Jessica Albarn she also uses birds and insects with a lot of symmetry worked into her art. It is very beautiful.
Art is important because…
Because its all around us. Coming from a farming family, I remember my Aunt being very confused why and how I was going to earn money going to Art college. I told her art and design is everywhere you look.
What’s the piece of clothing that makes you feel the most powerful?
A good bra.
Much thanks to Sarah for taking the time to let us learn more about her process and journey. Sarah has an incredible show up of originals and prints at Kafka's right now until January 31st. Be sure to grab a coffee and check it out!
The making of our Mitlas, Ember and Limestone starts with a watercolour painting. Many many watercolour paintings actually.
Everywhere I look, in the forest, up in the sky, on the streets, I'm constantly inspired by rich and unexpected colour palettes.
With these paintings I go to Alejandro in Mitla and he is always kind to my outlandish designs and helps make my visions come to life. Next, we choose the threads.
Before a textile is even woven the family spends a full day just to prepare the loom. They wind the warp onto a single large spool, meticulously pulling each thread through one of the four pedal frames.
Then each scarf is manually woven. A technique that involves the perfect sequence and tension of pulling the weft through the shuttle and switching pedal steps. It is a physically and mentally demanding skill that requires immense coordination and focus.
We're so grateful to have met Alejandro and his incredibly skilled family of weavers 3 years ago. Visiting with them and watching their business and family grow year after year is one of the highlights of our business. Working with them feels less like business and more like an artistic exchange and friendship. We often talk about their upcoming projects and brainstorm the new fibres and techniques that they're trying. This past year we made sure we could make it to Emiliano's birthday (fully set with Mariachi band, mezcal and of course tons of delicious home cooked food). When I went to visit once (or twice) hungover, his priority was to make me a Michelada. Year after year, its so sweet to see his children get a little older and our trust grow a little deeper.