We caught up with Angela Thames, our current Artist-in-Residence, to discuss her artwork, her inspirations, and her residency at Chawton House Library!

Angela Thames - artist-in-residence at Chawton House Library

Angela Thames – artist-in-residence at Chawton House Library

Tell us about your background and how you first became an artist:

After leaving school I originally qualified as an Electronic Engineer at Kingston College of Further Education. I spent over 20 years working in the electronics industry in various roles from Calibration Engineer to Operations Manager for a start-up company bringing products in to the UK from the Far East. That industry was becoming very competitive, aggressive and demanding and after 20 years I decided to change my pace of life and seek out a more fulfilling career. I went back to education and took a degree in Fine Art at UCA Farnham. I wanted to enjoy the learning environment and decided to take a part-time degree over 5 years. So that I could fully immerse myself in the change of discipline, I also took a job as a picture framer to be closer to the influences of the art world. After graduating, I continued with the picture framing job and started to teach adult art classes whilst practising my own work as a printmaker and maker of artists’ books.

Why do you predominantly print using lino cuts rather than other methods?

I have used many printmaking techniques including etching and screen-printing, but I am most comfortable with lino and wood cuts. Linocuts are more immediate than other printing methods and easier to accomplish on my relief press in my studio. No chemicals are required and the size suits my work as a book maker.

Is it important to your work that each piece is unique?

Sometimes I am organised enough to do a print run but really I prefer to make a small quantity of maybe ‘five-off’ or just one-off prints. I like to respond to each print as it comes off the press and not have a pre-arranged idea. I overprint using 3 or 4 lino cuts on one piece of work, so each time a new colour is added the image changes, and as such, each piece becomes unique.


Angela at work in her studio

You work a lot with texts, whether appropriated from books or your own – will you focus on a particular genre or theme during your residency at Chawton House Library?

I enjoy reading texts differently to how they are intended to be read, or to take them out of context. I find that the imagination brings texts to life; we have become very lazy with constant digital interaction of images and as a result we do not use our imagination enough – as soon as a certain image is placed with a certain text, we do not imagine anything differently. I had no preconceived ideas when I came to Chawton House Library as Artist in Residence. All I knew was that I wanted to respond to the books I found and for the books to suggest possible visual interpretations. Some of my ideas may be very contemporary and possibly challenging but I hope they will be fresh and new.

How are you planning on using the books in our collection to inform your artwork?

I have already started two pieces of work in response to two books I have read: The Adventures of a Pin Cushion and The Adventures of a Seven Shilling Piece. It is too early to say what these pieces of work will eventually look like, but I think that one of them will be a book of photographs and the second will be a modern set of prints inspired by James Gillray’s political and social satire cartoons. I have a number of books on my list to read which are following the theme of Adventure Books, but again this may change depending on my exposure and response to the information I gain from each book.

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Our beautiful (and hopefully inspirational!) gardens.

Aside from text, it is also clear that natural imagery plays a key role in your artwork. Will you be using the gardens alongside our library collection for inspiration?

I am like a sponge at the moment, soaking up everything I see and read at Chawton House Library; as a keen gardener and walker I am sure that the garden will not escape my attention. I have wandered around the garden and taken lots of photographs, spoken to Alan the Head Gardener and eaten some of the delights of the kitchen garden already. Only time will tell if the garden has inspired a piece of work!

Watch this space for workshops with Angela and her exhibition in 2016! Find out more about our talented artist in residence on her website: