INTERVIEW: Belinda Robbie

INTERVIEW: Belinda Robbie

Here at Slowdown Studio we love collaborating with emerging and established artists from across the globe. We had the opportunity to chat with our recent collaborator; Belinda Robbie, about the process of screen printing, her studio, and balancing art with motherhood. 

1. Can you tell us how you got into screen printing?

I went to Edinburgh College of Art in the late 2000s and did a BA specialising in printed textiles. That was a great experience, and I was working with some very talented people including my twin sister Lucy. We both did that same course and went on to work in womenswear print design and followed pretty much the same career path.

I got into screen printing during that period and worked a lot with it as the main part of my degree. More recently I’ve got back into it and have really enjoyed the process. I found the Sonsoles screen-printing studio in south-east London, near where I live, and have spent many enjoyable afternoons down there. I’ve been experimenting with printing onto paper rather than fabric.

2. It’s quite a technical medium, how have you honed your screen-printing skills over the years?

It’s partly trial and error. I find that I have to be in the studio working with the equipment and doing lots of test-runs. I also tend to plan quite meticulously in advance before having a session in the studio for real. For example, I tend to use small screens at home to test different colour mixes before I go to the studio to do the large prints. That gives me some confidence that I have
the right colours and palettes. It also reduces the amount of time wasted when doing the large prints, and saves money on studio time. So, it’s a combination of meticulous planning and also giving yourself space and time to experiment and go through the process.

3. Can you talk us through your home studio set-up?

There isn’t much to talk though really. Haha. I have a ‘bedroom’ studio at the top of our Victorian semi in south-east London. It’s a loft conversion with lots of light and a small bathroom next door that I use to wash my brushes and pots. I have a height-adjustable desk, a plan chest, a few large work surfaces, and a desk for my Mac.

A few years ago I rented studio space in shared units in Hackney Wick. I enjoyed the routine of cycling up there through Victoria Park most days to work. I’d like to get back to that at some stage, but for now, with three children under the age of 5, I find that the ‘studio in the loft’ is the better option. I can nip up there when the kids are in bed or whenever I get some time during
the day.

4. Your colour palette is quite distinct regardless of subject matter, style or medium. How would you describe your colour palette?

I’d say warm earthy neutrals, with tones of blue, and black and white for contrast.

5. You recently had your third child, all five or under. How do you find both time and creativity to make art while managing everything that motherhood throws at you?

I haven’t done any art since my third child Rose was born five months ago. And I haven’t posted on Instagram for best part of a year. So, art and creativity have taken a back seat.

But prior to that I was doing quite a bit in the evenings after the children are in bed. For the blanket, it was a combination of some late nights working through colour and design combinations, and then a few afternoons of clear time to paint the final artwork. My husband and I end up trading chunks of the weekend with each other. One of us can get on with some work while the other entertains the children.

When you pay for child-care there is a lot of pressure to be creative and do your best work within a set timeframe. That can sometimes be really difficult and counterproductive. You need time to go through the process to reach a creative outcome, and that conflicts with this pressure to deliver artwork within the time constraints of child-care. I have to remind myself that it’s ok to have some non-productive time, in fact it is an essential part of the creative process.

6. What makes London such a creative city for the DIY artists that Slowdown loves so much?

That’s a hard one. Certainly London offers a bewildering richness and diversity of influences. It is difficult not to be inspired by all that London has to offer. There’s also the facilities and opportunities nearer by. For example, the Sonsoles print studio that I mentioned is only a short drive for me. I have this inspiring place on my doorstep. I can spend the afternoon there, meet people with similar interests, and share in the collective experience of producing artwork. All of that creates new impulse to create and collaborate. This is just one small example of how creative opportunities can multiply in a city like London.

7. What music are you listening in the studio?

It varies. This morning I was listening to The Knife. I tend to fall back on Nils Frahm and Tycho. I’m also partial to Desert Island Discs back catalogue, and Dr Chatterjee and Rich Roll podcasts.

8. How do you like to slow down?

Before Rose was born, I was doing night classes in pottery. The process of producing a finished pot forces you to slow down. I still love to go for a short run when I can. And being in the garden is a lovely way to take the pace out of life (cutting the grass is often therapeutic too).

Belinda's Pollard Throw is available for purchase here!