First off, can you tell me a little about how it all started for you?
I graduated from Middlesex University with a BA in Printed Textiles & Surface Decoration. Whilst on the course I fell in love with screen-printing because it’s a process that can be used on all sorts of surfaces. After graduating, I worked for a couple of years with designer, Zakee Shariff – a small fashion label that produced really cool, innovative prints for clothing, accessories and homeware. It was an amazing experience. I then went onto work in a number of varied roles, all within the creative industries, which were enjoyable and of course paid the rent. However, they drew me away from printmaking which I always knew I wanted to get back into so that I could start creating my own work.
And boy is that work good, where did the love of geometry come from?
I am inspired by all sorts of stuff but I guess deep down I am really drawn to simple forms, and block colour. The work of Sonia Delaunay and the textile works of Constructivists Liubov Popova and Varvara Stepanova are the kind that make my mouth water. I love the simplicity of their lines & forms as well as the organised composition and use of flat colour.
Most of my artwork starts with hand drawing from my own photograph or found imagery. I then cut up the drawing and collage it to make a new image to draw from. I might do this several times eventually picking out elements that I can manipulate to create a design. Even though the final piece may be quite ordered, behind the scenes there has usually been a degree of organised chaos!
I’m always trying to demonstrate that this industry takes plenty of guts, determination and years of hard work – how has it been for you and what advice can you offer to those thinking of giving up?
My work really started to come together when friends of mine offered me a small solo show in their bookshop. This really helped me focus, get organised and think about my work in a more cohesive manner. To my amazement I sold 8 prints, which really boosted my confidence so, last year in the run up to Christmas I applied to take part in several fairs including The London Illustration Fair. I had amazing feedback and again more sales than I had anticipated. I finally feel legitimate and my low confidence has faded into the distance!
I do keep myself in check though, it’s not always about selling work, which of course is a bonus. For me it’s also about getting my work out there, being able to talk confidently about it and connecting with people. I would say that giving up is the easy way out. Don’t get me wrong, I have felt like it once or twice in the past but I know for a fact that if I wasn’t producing work, it would torment me, so I choose to face the challenges instead. I don’t wish to sound like I am spouting out a load of clichés but I think it’s really important to be yourself and don’t concentrate on pleasing others – you’ll never win that game. Give yourself time to play and enjoy making your work but also take some time out every now and again. Speak to other people about your work as it really helps put another perspective on the things and even if you don’t completely agree with what somebody has said you can usually get something positive from a conversation.
What are you up to at the moment and what are your plans for the future?
I’m currently developing some prints that are more complex in regards to the amount of layers and colours that I have previously used. Last summer I visited the Agnes Martin retrospective at the Tate and I was really struck by the almost invisible quality of her colours on the canvas. I am going to challenge myself by trying out some very translucent layers of colour in my work. My prints quite often allude to a repeating pattern, so with this in mind I am also looking into using them as surface decoration for textiles and maybe some ceramics products. Mostly I just want to keep enjoying what I am doing!
Thanks to Jenni for providing such lovely answers and for all of her marvellous imagery. Lets hope we get to see more of Ms Allen soon (crossing my fingers for those ceramics)! Please give Jenni a follow on twitter here and Instagram here. Take a cheeky look at her website here. One thing that I personally took from Jenni is to face all challenges head on, it’s surely the only way. How about you?