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Inspired by regional Australia, Visual Arts Teacher, Sarah, creates original lino-print artworks with hand-painted details, from her home in Echuca, Victoria

04 September 2020

Designer Spotlight: Handmade by Hemmings

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Art teacher, printmaker, painter & watercolour artist, Sarah: ‘Creating handmade artwork is about slowing down the creative process and producing prints…that people fall in love with and want to enjoy for more than a short time.’

My name is Sarah Hemmings and I live in Echuca, Northern Victoria. I am a printmaker, painter and watercolour artist. My lino prints are inspired by the birdlife in this region and across Australia and I create prints using imagery of farm animals and Australian butterflies.

Kingfisher lino print handcoloured with watercolours by Handmade by Hemmings

I was born and bred in the city, growing up in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. I passionately studied Studio Art/Textiles throughout my secondary schooling and went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Teaching (Secondary), majoring in painting and performing arts.

Inspired by regional Australia, Visual Arts Teacher, Sarah, creates original lino-print artworks with hand-painted details, from her home in Echuca, Victoria

Despite my city start, I feel more attached to the country after more than five years living in a regional town. I love camping and hiking and exploring God’s creation and its natural beauty. I love walking along the river and listening to the bird life that is so prevalent in our local area.

A handwritten note: ‘God is always with you’ hanging with the rollers and lino cutting tools of Sarah’s home workspace

My husband is an Anglican minister and we serve in the local Anglican church here. We have four boys, Micah and Joshua (9), Jacob (7) and Isaac (5). Much of my life over the last nine or so years has been caring for my family. Sleepless nights, washing, feeding and at times just surviving with little time or indeed energy for creative pursuits.

Sarah of Handmade by Hemmings with one of ther native bird hand-coloured linocut artworks: ‘Creative pursuits helped me to feel a sense of achievement and accomplishment.’

However, throughout the years of looking after four small children I quickly recognised that I needed creative projects to keep me motivated and to fill my creative cup. I needed to finish creative projects so that I felt a sense of achievement. So much of motherhood is completing monotonous tasks day in and day out. Creative pursuits helped me to feel a sense of achievement and accomplishment.

Close up of a kookaburra linocut in progress

We live on a tight budget and so much of our furniture is second hand. Restoring chest of drawers, buffet units, bookshelves and coffee tables gave me something to focus on aside from the needs of our family.

Some of Sarah’s artworks on display in a local café; ‘I am passionate about community and making connections within my community’

I am passionate about community and making connections within my community. I am passionate about sharing God’s love with those around me and do this with my husband and boys through our ministry at the church and in our local community. After many years at home with my children I had the opportunity to return to teaching at Moama Anglican Grammar, a K-12 school across the Murray River in New South Wales. I teach primary and secondary Visual Art and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program. I am so thankful that I get to work as part of this beautiful school community, alongside these students while teaching subjects that I am so passionate about.

A Handmade by Hemmings linoprint of a sulphur crested cockatoo in the process of being hand-coloured with watercolours.

My Madeit journey began when a colleague from school who makes beautiful children’s clothes told me about selling online using this website. I loved that it was for Australian Makers and also that it was so reasonably priced. I was nervous about putting my artwork online, but after much hesitation I decided to give selling my artwork on Madeit a try. Most of my sales up to this point were from friends and family.

A brown paper package with hand-stamped ‘Handmade by Hemmings’ logo; ‘Madeit has exposed my artwork to a much wider audience and enabled sales from all over Australia.’

Madeit has exposed my artwork to a much wider audience and enabled sales from all over Australia. I love that Madeit is Australian made and that it reaches Australian customers from all over the country and indeed the world. The payment and listing process is very straight forward and easy to manoeuvre and they are active on social media and provide opportunities like this to a variety of artists that work in a variety of different mediums. I have since recommended Madeit to other artists and they have also found success in selling their original works.

The busy desk of Handmade by Hemmings sports a laptop, a linocut in progress, a number of lino prints, animal images for inspiration and a vast collection of tools and paints.

My creative space is minimal and after the children go to bed I often end up lino-printing on the kitchen bench. As my children have grown and moved to a bed I have converted one of their old cots into a desk. It is perfect for hanging rollers and art supplies and has space underneath to store my watercolour paper, framing materials, mountboard and sheets of lino.

The converted cot that now serves as Sarah’s work desk and a collection of prints hung from string to dry on the wall behind; ‘I am a sentimental person and didn’t have the heart to part ways with the boys’ cot and so, with some adjustments, it has become the perfect compact working space’

I am a sentimental person and didn’t have the heart to part ways with the boys’ cot and so, with some adjustments, it has become the perfect compact working space. My prints dry on string against the wall and I have a space where I can create without little fingers adding their own original touches to my work.

Sarah sketching a detailed ram’s head to be transferred onto lino for cutting, then printing and hand colouring.

I begin the process by researching nature photos of the animals and foliage from their habitat. I sketch out my ideas in a sketchbook and once I have finalised my drawing I transfer the image onto the lino. I am using a Japanese vinyl lino which is slightly easier to cut than traditional materials but can still be linocut with fine lines and detail. I use Caligo safe wash relief ink in black and print onto high quality watercolour paper.

A detailed linocut of a ram accompanied by the bright blue cuttings of Japanese vinyl lino and cutting tool; ‘The pressure required to print the image on the paper often causes neck and shoulder pain if I print for hours on end.’

The pressure required to print the image on the paper often causes neck and shoulder pain if I print for hours on end. I dream of a printing press that will transform the number and quality of the prints I can produce.

A tray of vibrant watercolours and paintbrushes on a wooden desk; ‘They were a big investment for my practice, but I am so thankful that I invested in these liquid watercolours to colour my artwork’

Once the oil-based ink is dry (which can take several weeks), I use Dr PH Martins Hydrus watercolours. They are lightfast and the pigment quality produces colour that is bold and vibrant. Perfect for adding colour to the prints I produce. They were a big investment for my practice, but I am so thankful that I invested in these liquid watercolours to colour my artwork.

A colourful linoprint of a native bird; ‘Living so close to the Murray River has really influenced my Subject matter’

I am definitely inspired by nature and living so close to the Murray River has really influenced my subject matter. My father in law is a farmer and we are surrounded by primary producers in Echuca. This has also been an influence on my work.

An early photo of Sarah (aged 2) with her Nana, the dress-maker; ‘My Nana was a dressmaker/designer, my grandfather a painter and my Great Aunt was always pursuing artistic endeavours’

Growing up I was surrounded by artistic grandparents and family members. My Nana was a dressmaker/designer, my grandfather a painter and my Great Aunt was always pursuing artistic endeavours despite suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis from an early age. My parents were always supporting my artistic pursuits and my mum in particular has always supported my practice.

A linocut of a Diamond Firetail native bird ready for printing

In Echuca, there is a fabulous community art space called The Foundry. It is a place where local as well as other artists can come to learn, collaborate and exhibit their artwork. Other than a small go at lino-printing in secondary school, I had little knowledge and understanding of this medium.

The completed Diamond Firetail lino print after watercolours have been hand applied to some details; ‘Other than a small go at lino-printing in secondary school, I had little knowledge and understanding of this medium’

Deborah Halpern, a well-known Melbourne based sculptor, exhibited at The Foundry and held a lino-printing workshop in 2017 and I enthusiastically signed up. Halpern inspired my VCE Studio Art and I was keen to meet her and learn from her practice. After a day of exploring lino cut and the printmaking process I was keen to experiment further.

A native bird linocut in progress

After much research and trial and error, I invested in some high quality pfeil tools and oil-based ink that would work with water colour. I enjoy problem solving and researching the materials and techniques used by other printmakers and have used this to my advantage, learning from the wisdom of other artists.

Printmaking has become a passion of mine. An opportunity to fill my creative cup and even sell some artwork along the way. I am pushing myself in terms of subject matter and scale and look forward to what is to come in in the future.

A deviation from Sarah’s animal prints, a lino print of a foot bridge leading to ‘Lord Somers Camp’

So much of what we enjoy in this world is mass-produced and only enjoyed for a short time. Creating handmade artwork is about slowing down the creative process and producing prints with high quality paper, ink and paints; prints that people fall in love with and want to enjoy for more than a short time. Artworks that evoke childhood memories or favourite things; artwork that gets caught up with the comfort and safety of home. And this is especially important when we are confined to our homes during this current season.



Visit Handmade by Hemmings to find more original hand-coloured lino prints: Handmade by Hemmings

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