Charlene Mullen is a homewares designer specialising in textiles and embroidery. After a career in the fashion industry, she set up her own studio designing luxury homewares in 2008. Since then she has won international acclaim having work shown in London, Paris, Milan and New York, as well as being featured in leading interior design publications worldwide.

What is your artistic background?
I originally trained in textiles and then did an MA in illustration. My early career was working for fashion companies doing print and embroidery swatches. In 2007 I started my own interior textile business. I now also do licensing projects with companies and work with hotels and interior designers on specific projects.

Having trained in illustration and print, how did you get involved in embroidery and design?
When I was doing the print swatches for fashion companies, there was a real vogue for embroidery. I really wanted to learn how to do it so I taught myself. I liked the quality you got from the translation between your drawn line to it being embroidered.

Describe how you made the leap from working in the fashion industry to starting out on your own?
My neighbour, the furniture designer Matthew Hilton, was launching his business at the 100% Design Show in 2007. I asked whether I could do some samples for him for his show and he said yes. I realised that I had this whole bank of ideas that I’d been waiting to use.

Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
It’s from a lifetime of just looking at things. I love pattern and colour and going to see exhibitions. We are so lucky in London to have amazing exhibitions on our doorstep, for example a recent exhibition at the V&A on medieval embroidery and the Joseph Frank exhibition at the Fashion Museum in Bermondsey. I’m influenced by artists like Edward Bawden, Stig Lindberg and Saul Steinberg.

Drawing is very important in strands of your work. Have you always drawn?
I didn’t do very much drawing when I was at school. When I was a teenager, I was lucky enough to meet a couple who had been to Hornsey Art School. They inspired me to want to do the same, so I learnt to draw. I really believe anyone can learn if they apply themselves.


Is pattern something you have always been attracted to?
I am very influenced by blackwork, a form of embroidery from the Elizabethan period, a technique that came over to England with Catherine of Aragon to Henry VIII’s court. You can see examples in Holbein paintings of people wearing blackwork-embroidered clothes. There are also samples in the V&A.
They always put patterns within shapes. Often the patterns are not that special in themselves but it’s the way they work next to each other.

How did you feed your interest in blackwork into your work?
I love looking at patterns on buildings. These days when architects design new buildings they will often incorporate patterns into them. The idea for my very first cushions came from going over Tower Bridge and looking at the Gherkin and the surrounding buildings and seeing all the patterns within them. That was the starting point. The buildings gave me a lead on what patterns they should be.
I wanted to find a modern take on that. I did this by joining up the cityscape idea and putting all those little patterns in.

There are many different facets to your work. How do you see all the different elements of your work fitting together?
I wouldn’t have found it just interesting enough to have just concentrated on doing scenic cityscapes. I’m interested in very simple geometric patterns, things which has been beautifully embroidered, drawing that is telling a little story. It’s just the way my brain works.

You are also continually developing the kind of surfaces that your work appears on from cushions, chair covers, ceramics, rugs, blinds and stationery…
It’s interesting for me to go in different directions. I recently went to the Surface Design Show and was really inspired by the way that patterns or images can be translated onto so many different surfaces. It gives you different ideas of what designs could go where. You also take your lead from the manufacturers as you develop ways of working with them.

You have been working with Royal Doulton for a few years now. How did that relationship come about?
Royal Doulton approached me four years ago. They were initially interested in the patterns. The cityscapes came later on. They also realised that people want what we call a gift-offering and they thought that my things would work very well for that. So that’s been an ongoing relationship with them. We did the ‘Foulard Star’, which is all the patterns and then the scenic things and now we have the geometric range. That really helped people see how my things can be translated onto other surfaces. We work closely with their design team to make something that works for them. It’s a real collaboration, even down to the packaging.

What other partnerships have you been involved with?
Last year we did a stationery range with Clairefontaine, a poster for the and the kettle and toaster with Dualit. They are all different processes. I really like the way that the design process is dictated by the product.

You have recently done some work with Selfridges?
Selfridges is my latest project, called ‘Makers for Selfridges’. It’s the first project that they’ve done where they’ve commissioned makers and designers to work with them. It’s curated by Friends & Co. The thing that unifies the range is the signature yellow of Selfridges. Originally I was going to do a drawing of the building but in the end they liked the people, buses and taxis I put in front of the store. Harry Selfridge had sold pug dogs so I thought I’ll have all these people with their dogs and the dogs look like their owners or the owners look like their dogs. They’ve all been shopping or they’re looking in the window. Everyone knows it’s Selfridges because they have their yellow shopping bags. It’s made from English bone china and made in Stock-on-Trent. It’s been a really nice project to work on.

What are you currently working on?
I’ve been working on some design ideas for new cushions, block prints and some big sampler panels. They are my homage to my favourite things, a collection of my drawings, found drawings of things like a Paul Klee poem, a lace sampler, a diagram, a font, or a botanical drawing. I’m mixing them all like a big doodle.

We are also working on a jacquard accessory for Case Furniture which is coming out in May.

How often do you visit the manufacturers and the people who make your products?
Any opportunity to go to the factories where people make things is a good way to give people the due respect for being incredibly skilled at what they do. And you also learn a lot about what you can get made because you can see first hand.

You have a shop and studio in Shoreditch. How did this come about and how do you use it?
Before I had the shop I worked from home by myself. The business eventually got too big and the whole house was taken over with work. I decided that I needed a studio and I needed to go out everyday. I thought that if I did a shop and a showroom/office together, it’s a way of showing everything that I have under one roof. And I’ve got my house back. Being able to have everything out together helps me feel what we should be doing.

You have started running workshops. Tell me about why you like doing these?
We decorate our own ceramics on bone china and customers coming to the store are always very interested in this. So we thought we would offer that out so people can come and decorate their own china. We’ve got lots of blank china, such as teapots, plates, cups and saucers, mugs. We’ve just done a series of workshops when people come in and cut everything out themselves and decorate. We get them fired and they come and collect them. I love how when people have free reign they do everything in a completely different way to me. With the same palette there are so many variations that people come up with. It’s still my imagery but I love giving that freedom to see what someone else does.

Why do you like being involved in the Dulwich Festival Artists’ Open House?
It’s so great to meet local people and open your house up. You put it all out there and you have such a range of people come. I get lots of things out that I might not have in the shop as you never know what people are going to be interested in.

Visit Charlene Mullen’s studio during Artists’ Open House

Emily Jo Gibbs is a textile artist, who has established an international reputation for highly detailed and exquisite portraits and still lifes. Her work has received critical acclaim, and is in several museum collections including the V&A. Between 1993 and 2006 Emily was the Creative Director of Emily Jo Gibbs, luxury handbags. While still using many of the skills honed from making handbags, Emily has firmly established herself as an artist, creating embroidered portraits and drawings of everyday items.

How much did your childhood play a part in your choice of career?
My parents are both designers and being creative as a child was really valued. I was always making things and was really encouraged to do so. My mum taught me to sew and was a big influence on me. She had studied fashion tailoring at the Royal College in the 60s so she is skilled at sewing. As children, we were always surrounded by making. I used to come up with lots of projects. She would encourage me to find the fabrics and make the things. If there was a party, we’d make the clothes; if there was a pyjama party, we’d make the pyjamas. We would see things in the shops and we would come home and make those things. When I was about 11 or 12, I saw this little hedgehog, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, made out of a stuffed fabric body with a teasel head wearing a mop hat. I went into production and made loads of these and got them put in a shop in Forest Hill. I was quite entrepreneurial. My granny used to save her puff powder boxes for me and I used to cover them in fabric and give them to people as Christmas presents.

What were your early artistic influences?
I grew up in the house I live in now. We moved here when I was 6. My parents are passionate about modern design – clean lines, pure forms, white walls – and this had a big influence on me. Crafts were also held in high regard by my parents and grandparents, and everyone was always making things really beautifully.

What drew you to textile art?
I didn’t study textiles at school or university but instead took wood, metal and plastics at Wolverhampton. However, textiles is the language I speak and through textiles I have been drawn to art.

Your first career was in handbag design. How did you make the move from working commercially into creating your own personal work?
I loved making handbags and I’m very proud of the business I built. I have two bags and a tiny purse in the V&A collection and my horse chestnut bag and heart purse featured in the V&A exhibition ‘The Cutting Edge’ in 1997.

However, after I had my two children I found it really difficult keeping up the momentum. I was also keen for my work to have more longevity. In 2006 I won an award to make a new body of work that was all about nature tables, which in turn led to my still lives. Making the first portraits of my boys really rejuvenated my passion for making. I put aside any consideration of being commercial and made them for me. I had to stop thinking of making functional objects. They took a really long time to make and I came out the other end of the process with new ideas and a new way forward creatively. Somewhere along the line I joined the 62 Group of Textile Artists, from whom I have learnt a lot.


Describe your process of making work?
My portraits are made from photographs. I like the person to be relaxed and straight-faced so I try to put the sitter at ease and to take the shot quickly so the person doesn’t get bored or stiff. When I have the right shot I make a collage from silk organza, layering the pieces to create colours and shapes. I then hand stitch the detail and trap the edges and pieces as I go. I change my thread colour often and really refer to the photograph or the object if I’m stitching a still life to get the right colours and tones. I often draw my still lives first and then stitch, referencing the actual objects.

What kind of materials do you use?
Primarily I use layers and pieces of silk organza hand stitched on to a linen ground. I use ordinary sewing thread as opposed to embroidery silk; I like the fineness and matte quality it gives you.

Are there any artists who have particularly influenced you?
I can remember coming across Sarah Ball’s work when I was first making my portraits and being so struck by how powerful and brilliant her portraits are.

How important is drawing to you and does it play a part in your work?
I aspire to draw beautifully with effortless ease and fluidity of line! In the mean time I draw as part of the process of recording the shape of things or mapping out a composition.

What are you currently working on?
Last year I collaborated on a project with Bridget Bailey that resulted in a pair of pincushion portraits, looking at depicting a person through their workspace and tools. The pincushion is a vital tool if you are working in textiles, they are often beautifully made in tiny needle point. I was interested in how I would represent stitch with stitch, but also how in doing so I imbued the already lovely object with greater reverence. I am now taking this idea forward and making more still lifes like this.

How long have you been involved in the Dulwich Festival Artists’ Open House and what do you enjoy about doing it?
Maybe five or six years? It is so lovely to meet so many really warm and friendly people who make the effort to come and see what you’ve been up to. When I first took part with my then-new portraits and still lifes, a few people who I’d never met before gave me such lovely generous feedback it gave me real confidence that I was headed in the right direction.

What are you going to be showing at the Artists’ Open House?
I’ll have a selection of portraits that I have made of my family. I’ll also show a series of little portraits, which came out of a project called ‘Kids Today’. I was really interested in stitching other people, not just my family. Loads of kids play in our street, which is quite unusual. I asked the parents if they would mind if I stitched their kids and they all came and sat around the kitchen table and I photographed them and I made their portraits. There was a really big age range, from little children to big, grizzly teenagers. I do a lot of commissions in this kind of format so people will be able to see those.

As well as my portraits I do a line of still lifes. The still lifes of sticks in jam jars grew out of my nature table work, which came in between the bags and the flat work, when I was making vessels based on trees with peeling bark. I like making these sticks in jam jars still lifes, really enjoying the simplicity and ordinariness of the subjects and then making it special by making a stitched picture of it. My work has now developed. I’m interested in looking at other makers and making portraits of people through objects. I want to celebrate other makers. I’m a big fan of people who make things.

Visit Emily Jo Gibbs’s studio during Artists’ Open House

Since graduating from an MA in Print at Camberwell College of Arts, Lucy Bainbridge has become an established printmaker making atmospheric cityscapes. She also set up the Bainbridge Print Studios in 2008, which provides open access print facilities, artist studios and a varied programme of courses taught by professional artists and designers.

You work mainly with screenprint. What do you like about this as a medium?

I like the process of screenprinting, even though I try and make my prints look as if they are not screenprinted. I like the look of etching, I love the work of artists like Norman Ackroyd, but I don’t enjoy the process of etching as much. I manipulate photographs using photoshop, screenprint them, then draw on them and screenprint over the top again. It’s a long process and it’s almost like drawing with print medium.


How did this process evolve?
I’ve made it up as I went along! My work started getting a little too photographic and I wanted to make them a bit more drawing-like.

I’ll take a photo and when I come back to the studio and put it on the computer, I often need to go back to slightly adjust my position to get the right photo. It’s not until you are playing and manipulating it that you realise what you want.

Then the paper has graphite dust rubbed onto it and then I print over the top. Then I can rub bits out. It’s like a drawing into a print.

What is it about the quality of the graphite dust that you like?
I haven’t been able to work out another way to get the grey background and then be able to pull out the whites.

Graphite dust is really dirty and takes forever to black the paper up. I tried to find another way of making my work without having to use it. I spent a year mucking about with different ideas and then ended up going back to it again. I seem to keep going towards it.


Your work is incredibly atmospheric. What kind of mood are you trying to create?
I like playing with different lights, whether it’s first thing in the morning or at dusk. The periods when you are going from one thing to another. All of them are cityscapes of London because this is where I live and work. London is constantly changing. I like pausing it for a minute, knowing that it’s not going to be the same in a few months’ time. There are always new buildings going up so the cityscapes are always changing.

I’m trying to create a stillness and a quiet, that is sometimes difficult to find in London.

Tell me about the dawn and why you like working at this time…
In the summer it’s 4am. Although I don’t particularly like getting up so early to go and take the photographs, whenever I come back I’m in a really good mood. There is no-one else there. It’s gorgeous before the city has properly woken up. In the winter it’s a bit later and it’s obviously much colder.

Are you drawn to particular locations?
I live in Kennington and my studio is in West Norwood. Because I’m interested in first thing in the morning or the evening it needs to be somewhere I can get to relatively quickly. That’s the main reason they started off being set by the Thames but I really like the openness of the Thames as well, the way you get a bit of a gap between the buildings. I like to have some space and a view with some distance in.

I tend to cycle around a lot and constantly looking for new and different views even if its somewhere I’ve walked through a million times: you look at it one day and it will be slightly different, whether because there are cranes in it or the time of day so you see it in a different way. I like Battersea at the moment because it’s constantly changing.

It’s easy to ignore the changes and not notice because we are always so busy. In six months time you have forgotten what it used to be like. It’s definitely about pausing time.


You founded Bainbridge Print Studios in 2008. Where did the idea to do this come from?
I was teaching before then and I didn’t particularly like it. I’d used open access print studios for years and then it seemed like a good idea to set up my own, thinking that I would be able to do much more of my own work. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve been able to do more of my own work again, because it was all self-funded so for quite a long time, I was teaching as well as build it up. In the last two years, we’ve taken on another space in Elephant and Castle and everything is starting to tick along. Finally I’m able to do my own work a few days a week.

What kind of environment were you trying to create when you originally set up West Norwood?
Originally in the business plan, I’d said that it was going to be fine art based but that wasn’t really what happened. Now it’s fifty percent textiles, fifty percent paper printing. The criteria changed. As it’s open plan, it’s important that everyone gets on. I’ve been very lucky with the collection of artists. It’s been the same group for ages. When I started West Norwood, we were all around the same age. They have all just stuck with it. Everyone there is quite established and knows what they are doing. They have grown up together. West Norwood isn’t open access, it’s just studios with print facilities.

What about your studios in Elephant and Castle. How long have they been running?
I got the keys two years ago but then it took over 6 months to get it up and running. They used to be shops but have been derelict for 40 years. One of them had been burnt out. Our landlord is ASC, Artists Studio Company. They are the landlords for all the units which is why they are all creative spaces. They go above and beyond. We had to knock walls down to get the screen tables in.

There are 25 people artists working now in Elephant and Castle. Everyone is a little bit younger. A lot of people have just graduated so the atmosphere is quite different. People are still finding their feet, they come and go and bit more often, people give up on London because it’s too expensive.

We also rent out studio spaces and do courses in etching and screenprinting twice a week. There is open access studios in Elephant and Castle – there are 40 members who come in and just use the facilities. Half of those people need some help, so you need to be a bit of a technician too.

What do you like about Artists’ Open House?
I’ve done it for years. I started off doing it in a friend’s house, when the festival was tiny, before I had the studio. It must have been about 12 years ago. Over time, it’s got bigger and bigger. There are such nice people who come round, they are really interested in what’s going on. I’m always surprised at how busy it is over the two weekends. There is a really loyal following of people who want to collect work.

Visit Lucy Bainbridge at Bainbridge Studios, West Norwood during Artists’ Open House

Artist Jo Lewis works primarily with paper and watercolour and uses the ebb and flow of the River Thames as inspiration for her painting. Drawn to shorelines, the places where water and land collide, her work has evolved from a life-long love of being in the landscape.

What is your artistic background?
I took an Art Foundation in Edinburgh before moving to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Valence, France to pursue a degree in painting and then moved to London in the early 1990s. For 7 years subsequently I attended Maggi Hambling’s weekly painting class and she is a brilliant teacher.

What artists do you admire and have influenced your work?
For years I have looked to Chinese ink landscapes, and Japanese scroll paintings. The contemporary Yang Yanwen is a favourite. It’s about their use of the watercolour and ink, their approach to space, and the journey they take the viewer on through the landscape. And of course working with watercolour in the landscape I love many of Turner’s watercolours. At the moment the work of Richard Tuttle reminds me of the importance of keeping a sense of playfulness and experimentation at the centre of my practice.

Water is an important theme in your work. Why do you think this is?
I’m not sure why, and that’s maybe why I’m still doing it. It’s both experiential in that it’s about being in that place of flux and movement at that moment, and yet it’s also indexical, in that I’m trying to find ways to let the water ‘write’ its own record. Water makes up two-thirds of our bodies: there may be something in that connection.


Describe your process of working?
The majority of my work is made outside. I carry my watercolours, inks and paper to the waters’ edge, put on my big wellies and take it from there. There is a simplicity and almost ritualistic routine to the preparation but once there every day is different dependent on tides, weather, and of course the water. I love that Heraclitus quote, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Although, of course, it should say woman too.

How did this way of working evolve?
I think it evolved from a time when I was doing a lot of walking along the river Thames, and the Grand Union Canal, thinking about how I and my materials interact with the landscape and, more specifically, the water. I slowly moved from making work on the paths and shores to actually putting myself and my paper in the water, creating situations/collaborations whereby I can then ‘welcome’ the water’s unique intervention.

Which materials do you prefer using and why?
Watercolour is a medium I love – it is very ‘honest’ in that everything you do is evident, and yet it is also a very humble and portable medium. It doesn’t require a room full of equipment or expensive stuff – I can literally pack a small rucksack and go. I feel the same way about paper and ink. Artists working in the landscape for centuries have used these things and I like thinking about that connection and the continuity of these media through time.

What work will you be showing at this year’s Artists’ Open House?
I will be showing work made since last year’s show. Some of it was made during the time I was working on a large commission I received last summer that is now installed in Beijing. This is a new series of quite large paintings. Other works will be new smaller work, which I hope will give a sense of where my work is taking me now.

What do you like about being involved in the Festival?
I always love the fact that people actually bother to come and see the work. The only downside is that because I’m here I don’t get the chance to go out and do the same thing.

Visit Jo Lewis’s studio during Artists’ Open House

John Jukes Johnson lives and works in south-east London and makes work using a wide variety of methods. He has participated in every Artists’ Open House of Dulwich Festival.

When did your interest in art start?
Aged eight, in central London, during the war, I created a strip cartoon called ‘The Underworld’. My aunt said it was peopled with criminals. Mine was not. It had ladies in high heels & pointed hats, Peter Rabbit with floral material in his ears & Coco, my doll, trim in a gold edged waistcoat & velvet trousers. Times change.

Which artists have inspired your work?
Rauschenberg’s use of photo transfers on screen prints & shadow imagery were long an influence, as was Antoni Tapies.

Describe the way you work and how you create your images?
Some images start as exorcisms of the past, others are a response to political events. They are built up in layers of, I hope, not too obvious narrative.

One strand of your work explores life drawing. What are you trying to achieve in these works?
Initially, life drawing was an attempt to become more controlled in my ability to observe and reproduce. Rodin’s fluid watercolours were an inspiration. Now the object is to create a more complete pictorial setting.

What other subject matter are you drawn to and why?
The idea of the ‘young’ spiky mountains of Corsica, the sea & sky, not literally, but as suggestive imagery layering cut out prints, reflects a place I love to return to.

You use a variety of medium, from drawing, printmaking, painting and ceramics to create your images. What is your preferred way of working?
Printmaking is my natural realm, now without a press, using techniques Paul Klee favoured.

How long have you been involved in the Dulwich Festival and what do you like about showing your work in the Artists’ Open House?
I have been involved in the Dulwich Open House scheme since its inception. The pleasure lies in conversations with the those one knows and newcomers one doesn’t.

What work will you be showing in the Artists’ Open House this year?
This year the focus will be on mounted work on paper plus some ceramics.

Visit John Jukes Johnson’s studio during Artists’ Open House


Lucy du Sautoy is an artist living and working in South East London. She graduated from The Art Academy in 2015 with a First class diploma and the same year she had her painting ‘Daydreaming’ on show at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

When did your interest in art start?
I’ve always loved painting. I did Art A-Level at school and was always looking for an excuse to escape to the art room. But I ended up doing History of Art at University, and then went on to work in professional services marketing. It was not until I was married and I was at home with our young children I thought this could be my opportunity to start to painting again. When I could I did short courses at Camberwell and Chelsea, which I loved. I ended up studying for a diploma in Fine Art at a private college in London Bridge, called The Art Academy. At that time I had just found out that I was pregnant with my fourth child, but the college were very supportive and I was able to do the course on a flexible basis over six years. That was perfect. Inevitably there were times when I felt that juggling a young family with my art was too much but I was always encouraged and I managed to keep going.

Where does your work come from?
One day I was going home from college on the train. I was staring out of the window on the train and I was trying to work out what that moment is when you don’t feel any emotion. It’s almost meditative, or an in-between state where the mind wanders and you often become focused on tiny details, which for me at that moment, were tiny raindrops travelling on the window. I decided to paint a window with raindrops on it, and since that time much of my work has been based around the theme of everyday views created from a spirit of daydreaming and distraction. I’m not interested in telling my story or making an argument. I would rather give people a painting of something that can connect with them on a fundamental level and perhaps trigger recognition of an experience that is personal to them.


Describe the way you work and how you create your images?
I have always worked from photos. I don’t want to make something photo-realistic but photos give me the information I need to make a painting. People often say that my work is photo-realistic but I don’t think it is. I try not to be enslaved to photographs but they are almost always my first point of reference.

I manipulate photos in Photoshop, by cropping, blurring bits out, and altering colour saturations. It is relatively easy and it gives me a good sense of the composition, and whether what I have in mind can work as a painting. Sometimes I’ll combine different photos, or take stills from a video.

I try to paint what our eyes might see when we are daydreaming or distracted. I deliberately blur out areas and try to bring other details forward. Even though I use photographs to make the painting, I don’t want my paintings to look like a photograph. Surface is quite important to me. I want people to be able to enjoy the medium as much as I do – where in some areas brushmarks are visible, and layers of glazes are obvious.


Which artists have inspired your work?
I love Gerhard Richter. He’s my hero. I went to the huge retrospective exhibition, Panorama, at Tate Modern back in 2012 a number of times. I was absolutely blown away. There was so much in the show – from photo realistic work to squeegee paintings, fat paint, thin paint, colour and tonal paintings, all painted over fifty years from varying subjects on wildly different scales. What I came away with, more than anything, was that above all else he has a huge passion for painting and the remarkable skill and freedom to explore and manipulate. There are limitless possibilities. I think many artists feel they have to put themselves into a recognisable box – “Oh yes Lucy du Sautoy – she paints daydreaming , mostly views from window, blah, blah…” We could all learn from Gerhard Richter!

How do you know when your painting is finished?
It’s very difficult. But I think it is essentially down to gut feel. I recently created a series of four paintings of doodles drawn on a foggy condensation–covered window. I built the paintings up in layers using stand oil. I was working across all four, painting in rotation so that I always had a painting which was dry and ready for another layer. It was quite difficult to know they were ‘finished,’ because inevitably one or two paintings would seem to have an advantage over the others. They had to work as a series but each also had to be successful in its own right. There were times when I thought I might just keep going round and round all four paintings in a cycle and never be finished! In the end I felt they came together. However, I’m sometimes guilty of over-working and there are always paintings you are never entirely happy with because deep down you know you overdid it.

I find it helps to take photos at the end of a painting session so I can track the progress of the work. I have learnt that there is often a pattern to how I feel about my paintings. At the end of the first day I usually feel great, because by that stage I’ve already spent a lot of time thinking about the composition. I have put all the information down on to the canvas very quickly and loosely. At that point I’m usually quite pleased with myself and optimistic about the outcome of the painting. Then I can start to play. Sometimes I take it too far though. I can become so focused on one area of the painting that I stop seeing it as a whole image, and I am in danger of losing the essence of the thing. I like things to look bit too neat which is frustrating because I think it can inhibit me. Taking photos of the work as I go keeps me focused on whether it works as a coherent whole. I find I can usually spot pretty quickly which areas I need to push back and which parts need a bit more attention.

There are times when the only way to see what a painting needs is just to walk away for a while. For this reason I try to have three different paintings ‘on the go’ in the studio at any one time.

Inevitably there will always be one or two works consigned to the “paint over me” shelf. It can feel disappointing at the time but you always learn from the experience and every unsuccessful painting will inform the next good one.


What do you like about showing your work in the Dulwich Festival?
This will be my fourth year doing Artists’ Open House. I first did it in 2012. It was the first time I had ever shown my work to anyone outside college. It was as good as bearing my soul, and I was terrified, but I was amazed and delighted at the positive feedback I received. Showing your art is incredibly nerve racking and exposes the core of you as an artist on a very personal level. But I would encourage anyone who enjoys making art to show their work. After all, all art is made to seen – and sharing what you love with others who might appreciate and get benefit from it themselves is a very special thing indeed.

I will be showing my work alongside four other artists this year, showing paintings, prints, ceramics and jewellery. The spirit of the open house is that artists of all persuasions and at different stages on their own artistic journeys can come together. The Dulwich Open House allows us to show our work free from the constraints of galleries and commissioning agents, in an atmosphere of support and appreciation. Long may it continue!

Visit Lucy du Sautoy’s studio during Artists’ Open House