This week Brighton Journal spoke to Amy Louise Baker, a Brighton-based graphic designer, illustrator and textile artist. She also works as a lifestyle and product photographer. Amy‘s work combines her scientific and creative interests, primarily exploring the tension between “the natural and unnatural” and “representation versus abstraction.” In 2007 Amy graduated from the University of York with a degree in Biology, and consequently finds inspiration in nature across all scales – from the cosmic to the molecular. She has since graduated from Kingston University with a HND in Graphic Design, and has recently moved to Brighton to continue her artistic journey. We discussed the one conversation that led Amy to consider a creative career, as well as what it was like moving to Brighton during the lockdown. Keep reading to find out more about Amy and her wonderful work.
What are you doing today?
I’m slowing down for the Christmas Holidays, so am getting round to working on a few more personal projects. Later today will be working on an illustration as a Christmas gift for a friend. In the past I have worked mostly in Adobe Illustrator to create symmetry and geometric shapes, but my recent purchase of an iPad, and the use of the app Procreate, has made creating symmetry so much more enjoyable. I get to see it reflected in real time, and it has a softer hand done feel which is what I’ve been looking to do more of. The challenge today is to start and complete the illustration solely on the iPad. Often I default to finishing things off in Photoshop because it’s what I know, so I’m trying to learn new ways of doing things.
Describe where you do most of your creative work.
I’m very fortunate to have a spare room at home that I can use as a studio. But currently most of my work has come from me sitting on the sofa in my living room! I moved to Brighton in the summer from Canada (but am originally from London), so as a result came with very little and the studio was the last room to be finalised, so in the next few weeks that’s where most of my creative work will be done.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?
I hadn’t really explored textiles before, it was just something I had dabbled in as a child, but a few years ago I came across this wonderful abstract embroidery piece. I was really drawn to the tactile and textured surface and was very curious about how it was made. That sparked a researching frenzy which led me down many fibre arts paths I had never considered before. It was an exciting time as previous to this I never considered myself an artist or allowed myself to dedicate time to making art.
What made you decide to become an artist?
I certainly didn’t take the direct route! I have always loved being creative but didn’t know how to make a career out of it. At college my two biggest interests were science and art. I really had no idea what I wanted to do in terms of a career, so I just picked my favourite subjects, which were Chemistry, Biology, Geology and Art and Design. I remember people looking at bit perplexed when I’d walk into the lab holding a huge art folder! For Art class I didn’t get the grade I was hoping and concluded that science must be the career path I should follow. In 2007 I graduated with a degree in Biology from York University. During my time there I almost completely stopped being creative.
One evening I was at my local pub and I got chatting to a drunken stranger. She asked me what I did and I said I hadn’t quite figured that out yet, and that I had a degree in Biology. She asked, “If you could do anything, what would it be?” I replied, “Something creative, a designer or an artist perhaps.” She replied “Well, why cant you just do that then?” And I didn’t really have a decent answer! From that very simple conversation, I started to seriously consider a creative career. With a lot of financial help from my family, and evenings and weekends waitressing, I graduated from Kingston University with a HND in Graphic Design.
In 2016 I moved to Vancouver, Canada. Creatively that was a turning point for me. I was lucky to find a job that allowed me a lot of creative freedom and to meet a lot of other amazing creatives. Only now do I feel I am allowing myself to make art and feel comfortable thinking of myself as an artist.
What are you currently working on?
I love to approach projects with a multidisciplinary approach. I work as a Designer and Illustrator and have some experience in lifestyle photography, product photography and video. I have a new set of illustrations I just finished up, but want to showcase them a little differently using cinemagraphs. These appear like still photos, in which a minor and repeated movement occurs to form a video. Am currently in the process of filming these. I’m also working on a new selection of embroidery mosses. The intention is to open up an Etsy store (the shop is currently empty and needs to be rebranded, but it should be up and running in the new year) and start selling them. This initial set will be smaller and slightly simplified so make them more economical for people to purchase and for easier shipping. After seeing how that goes I’ll maybe move onto creating larger and more intricate pieces.
What are the key themes in your work? Who or what inspires you?
My two biggest passions have always been science and art. I find anything that brings those two subject together incredibly exciting. I love exploring the tension of the natural and unnatural, and representation versus abstraction. I’m inspired by patterns found in nature across all scales; from the very tiny, like molecular or cellular structures, to the very big, such as galaxies and everything in-between. I am fascinated by symmetry, balance, minimalism, cosmic elements and otherworldly landscapes, and love to explore these themes with forms stripped down to the essential.
Also… people! My friends and family. Talking to others about their creative ideas and sharing mine. I remember when I was studying one of my teachers talking about when two people come up with ideas together, it’s like a third person is created. Individually you wouldn’t have come up with these ideas, and it isn’t just a mish mash of your ideas either, but something new.
What attracts you to the medium you work in?
I feel like I have two distinct styles. My background is Graphic Design, so I love grids, perfect lines, geometric shapes and symmetry. A lot of my illustrations require a lot of planning and sketching and often have an idea of what I want them to look like. Using a computer certainly lends itself to this style of working. But I really enjoy stepping away from the screen and making things by hand. I think that’s why textiles really appealed to me. It’s a nice contrast to my illustration style. The process of stitching is a slow one, meditative, there are no perfect shapes, straight lines, there’s minimal planning. I just start stitching and decide as i go, I’m less concerned about it turning out a certain way.
What equipment could you not do without?
Ah this is very difficult to answer as I feel I need it all! To be honest if I didn’t have a pen, paper and access to the Internet to allow me to research and write and sketch ideas, I would be lost. After that it would be the Adobe programs and my camera. When it comes to creating the embroideries I need a hoop, fabric, needles, yarn, felt, beads…the list goes on!
How is your work affected by living in this area?
I only moved to Brighton recently during the pandemic! But still, have had really positive interactions with all the people here. Everyone seems warm and friendly, they say good morning and smile. My neighbours are lovely and Fiveways is just a short walk away. A little further on theres the Wild park nature reserve, and of course theres the sea. My family live in London as well so they are just a short train ride away. When I have been indoors all day working, it’s lovely knowing I have all that around me. All these things have an impact on my day to day happiness and general well being, helping me to continue being creative.
What’s your favourite thing to do locally?
Again I moved here during the lockdown so am sure the answer to this will be very different in a years time! In the summer I loved getting chips, sitting on the beach and looking at the ocean, and laughing at the possible attack from hungry seagulls.
What’s your favourite gallery (or place to see/experience art)?
The Wellcome Collection in London. I haven’t been there in years as I have been living abroad, but have seen some amazing exhibits there. I’m always very excited to see projects that blend art and science.
If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be and why?
I would love to spend the afternoon with Matisse during his time making paper cut-outs! Matisse used the cut-out technique with the help of his assistant after being confined to a wheelchair following surgery. He made these colourful and vast pieces by freehand cutting coloured papers into shapes. I love that he used these limitations to his advantage. With a few simple tools you can still create something amazing. It’s something I certainly like to consider in my own work, by placing limitations on things, it often lead to much more creative ideas.
What’s your favourite colour?
Tricky! it depends, but if I had to pick I would say white.