“I enjoy seeing peoples reactions when they engage with the artwork and then go on to notice the element that is out of the ordinary.”
Strangford’s Ecological Background and Printmaking Passion
Jo is known as Strangford in her printmaking and artistic pursuits, a name inspired by the lough where she resides. Despite her background in Ecology and Infectious Disease Control, she discovered her passion for printmaking through her involvement with Extinction Rebellion’s art groups in 2019. Since then, she has continued to pursue her passion under the name Strangford, inspired by the lough where she resides.
Strangford’s artistic style reflects her ecological background, incorporating recognizable creatures with a unique twist. Her prints often feature multiple contrasting colors, and she continually explores new ways to find the most vibrant inks. Strangford specializes in carving Marmoleum, a type of flooring lino, producing prints on a larger scale from her home studio using an adapted “cold press laminator.”
Innovating with Linocut and Riso Printing Techniques
Although Strangford has yet to experiment with a traditional printing press, she has developed a keen awareness of the strategic placement of uncarved areas to create a striking contrast between light and shadow, especially in linocut prints. Strangford’s prints are typically produced in smaller editions, as she prefers to keep her work fresh and inventive.
When an edition of her linocut prints sells out, Strangford digitizes the image to create a Riso print using an innovative and eco-friendly process. Since Riso printers are currently unavailable in Northern Ireland, she collaborates with Risotto Studio in Glasgow, where she enjoys the fluorescent hues produced by this technique.
Strangford finds inspiration for her creative process from unexpected sources, such as social media, and acknowledges the power of seemingly insignificant stimuli to ignite her imagination. Despite her non-artistic background, Strangford’s passion for printmaking is evident in her work, which continues to evolve and grow.
A Creative Journey Filled with Joy and Surprises
For Strangford, printmaking is a deeply satisfying and rewarding creative pursuit. Her artistic journey has been filled with ups and downs, but the joy she derives from her creations remains constant. One of her most successful series is the “Silly Billies,” featuring goats, which initially left her feeling uncertain during the carving process. However, the final printed versions exceeded her expectations and were well-received at the Royal Ulster Academy’s 2022 annual exhibition, marking Strangford’s first experience showcasing her artwork to a larger audience.
While all her creations hold a special place in her heart, two pieces stand out for Strangford. The “Ribbit for her Pleasure” print of a curvaceous frog never fails to make her laugh, although she admits it may not appeal to everyone. She is also grateful for the “Long Otter” print, which proved to be a significant success on social media and helped establish her reputation as an artist in that realm.
Collaborative Printmaking and a Message to Aspiring Artists
Strangford has always dreamed of creating a massive artwork that necessitates a steamroller for printing. In the summer of 2022, she was granted the opportunity to participate in a collaborative endeavor alongside three printmakers from the southwest region of England. This experience provided a delightful departure from the typically solitary nature of the printmaking process, enabling Strangford to engage in a collective effort.
In addition to the creative process, Strangford has discovered that reducing her workload in her teaching position has been an effective strategy for managing her stress levels. Moreover, she has had the delightful opportunity to meet exceptional individuals both within Northern Ireland and beyond its borders. At present, Strangford is travelling from Bristol to join fellow printing enthusiasts and participate in the “Lino Print 3” exhibition curated by the esteemed Ben Dickinson.
Reflecting on her journey, Strangford encourages aspiring artists to utilize the supportive and inspiring print community on Instagram to showcase their work. Her experiences have taught her that the creative process can be a solitary one, but by reaching out to others, artists can find the support and encouragement they need to thrive.