Rosanna Morris has long been interested in sustainability, food sovereignty and growing. Many of her prints explore themes of horticulture and the natural world and we have all been super fans since first being introduced to her work through her calendar collaboration with The Land Workers' Alliance.
Her distinctive style which manages to simultaneously conjure a contemporary illustration aesthetic whilst evoking the traditional feel of British Wood Engravings seems to us to mirror the resurgence of the return to regenerative farming practices in Western culture. Something that feels to us radical and revolutionary but at the same time traditional and time honoured.
HOW DID YOUR EXPLORATION INTO PRINTMAKING BEGIN, AND WHY?
I started with printmaking at 18, I really wanted to scale up my ink drawings and didn't have the funds for expensive digital print services. I'd been gifted a set of Japanese woodcut tools and for me it rather foolishly made sense that I carve the image from wood. My first woodcut was one meter high and half as wide and took a good few days to carve but by the end I was completely hooked on the process.
I like the physicality of sculpting my materials, the thick and bold images it creates and immediacy of utilising materials that would otherwise end up in a skip.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO IT AND WHO DID YOU LEARN FROM, IF ANYBODY?
After that first large woodcut I carve multiple large scale blocks, the size of the print was determined by the wood I found and it really rolled from there. I didn’t receive any formal printmaking training, although when i came to study at uni i did pick my campus on the best printmaking studios available. I studied illustration At Camberwell in South London, and although I was mainly discouraged from printmaking as it's a rather slow process for the speed of the illustration world, I still spent the majority of my degree hiding in their print workshops.
HOW DID YOUR INTEREST IN SUSTAINABILITY, FOOD SOVEREIGNTY AND GROWING COME ABOUT?
I think it's always been a big part of my outlook on the world, my mother was very conscious and growing up she was vegan, had an allotment and mixed with a lot of anarchists. We went to tonnes of climate protests as children and I guess as I raised my own children these ideas seemed to come to the forefront.
THE IDEA OF BUILDING COMMUNITIES IS HUGELY IMPORTANT TO US, WE’VE READ YOU MENTION THE INTRINSIC LINK BETWEEN COMMUNITY AND PRINTMAKING, CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THIS.
For me printmaking is the most democratic artistic medium, it's a way to get your ideas out into the world with very little outlay.
As I mentioned before, what I love about the medium is the way you can literally pick wood up from the streets and transform it into a medium for imparting your ideas on the world. I've been very influenced by the printmaking studios of Mexico and Paris, where the print shops were a practical vehicle for creating social change. They were social hubs of activity and gave normal people a voice. I've always found that really inspiring and our printmaking Studio in Bristol, Cato Press, was intended to be a nod towards this, a sort of DIY community hub for taking the creation of propaganda into the hands of the people.
RETURNING TO TRADITIONAL PRACTICES AND A MORE ROOTED WAY OF LIFE FEELS INCREASINGLY NECESSARY FOR US, CAN YOU TALK TO US ABOUT THE CONSCIOUS DECISIONS YOU’VE MADE TO LIVE AND WORK DIFFERENTLY?
I've always been very inspired by The Romantic and Pre Raphaelite movements, the Anti industrialisation viewpoints and Ruskins deep appreciation of Craftsmanship. I think these things have influenced the way I wanted to live my life, with my hands rather than at a desk in a suit. I've been lucky enough to be able to carve out a path on these lines, but also to be surrounded by other crafts people. My partner, a bladesmith, crafts beautiful Japanese knives from scratch, whilst my mother is a Soapsmith and runs a whole soaping empire from our home.
THERE IS A REAL SENSE OF ACTIVISM ABOUT YOUR WORK WITHOUT BEING AT ALL AGGRESSIVE WHICH WE FIND REALLY INSPIRING. ANY TIPS ON HOW TO ENCOURAGE CHANGE POSITIVELY?
That’s really kind, thank you. I truly believe the main function of art in the world is to bring about change in whatever form. I guess my tip would be, never be afraid to say what you truly think, and never ever hide behind pretty pictures of flowers because you think your audience doesn't want to hear the hard truths...
HOW DOES THE PROCESS OF PRINTMAKING MAKE YOU FEEL? HAS IT IMPACTED THE WAY YOU RELATE TO OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE?
Printmaking especially in relief creates bold images, perhaps bolder than I would naturally be. I think the strength of the images it creates have allowed me to become bolder in myself and stronger in my beliefs.
HOW DO THE SEASONS AFFECT YOUR PRACTICE, AND DAY TO DAY, NOT JUST IN YOUR WORK AND ART, BUT IN YOUR OWN ROUTINES AND PHYSICALLY TOO?
I've been thinking about this a lot lately as it’s getting colder and darker. In the winter I tend to get big creative bursts. I naturally want to be in the studio a lot more and particularly carving lino (which is ironically much harder when it’s cold!). Then in the summer the only place I want to be is in the veg patch digging.
I think there's an addictive link between carving and digging and how it makes you feel, but I haven't found a way to put it eloquently yet.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR GARDEN/ALLOTMENT? WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH LIVING THINGS?
I've always harboured a dream of becoming a farmer but never knew how to put it into practice, growing up on a council estate I didn't really have any role models. I think my want to grow food/farm comes from a slightly naive and nostalgic view of countryside living and also a need to know where my food comes from. We had a huge allotment in Bristol before we moved to the countryside and were completely sufficient in a lot of our vegetable consumption. I haven't brought an onion in a couple of years now as we grow so many! It may sound cheesy but growing food just makes you feel so good, and watching your kids grow and eat it as well just seems to make so much sense.