Interview: Yay Nature
Ruth Keating is the founder of Yay Nature and is a self-taught lino printer. I was lucky enough to interview Yay Nature about their work and shop.
Hello! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?
Hi, you are very welcome. This is a new experience for me! I’m very well thank you!
Tell us a little bit about your background.
My name is Ruth Keating and I am the founder of Yay Nature, and a self-taught lino printer! I started experimenting with print as I really felt I needed a creative outlet from my hectic job as a nurse. I loved art in my early years, and even went to Art College in Edinburgh to study Animation. This didn’t work out for me, as I think many things don’t when you are young and unsure of what you really want to do. Nursing has allowed me to have a flexible life, and I fit in Yay Nature around it.
I have a massive love for all things natural, and really enjoy capturing the beauty of the nature’s small things in my prints. I started by printing different kinds of mushrooms, and found that lino allowed me to bring them to life and give them character.
I adore your business. What made you decide to set up Yay Nature?
Yay Nature is a fairly new venture for me. I was very lucky last year, and was asked to produce a series of repeat prints for a beauty company who wanted some unique paper to wrap their goods in. I had experimented with repeat printing before, but this allowed me to really go to town. I researched lots of different botanical ingredients and recreated them in repeat. It was very enjoyable, and I was very pleased with the results. I realised that the repeats would really lend themselves to fabric.
I experimented with hand printing onto fabrics, but found that couldn’t get the durability that I was looking for. I learnt how to digitally transfer my prints to fabric from a company online called Spoonflower. I did a lot of experimenting with sizes and colours, and came up with fabrics that I really like.
My mum (Christine) is excellent at sewing. I’m not bad, and getting better and quicker by the day. Mum and I worked together to design and create some lovely products from my fabrics.
Yay Nature was born!
What does your shop sell?
My shop has a wide selection of lino prints of different sizes, all printed by me on my press in my studio.
I have lots of fabric goods; makeup bags of different sizes (or treasure bags as I like to call them), aprons, tea towels, tea and cafetiere cozies (to keep your hot drinks toasty), and lots of cushions!
Why did you call your shop Yay Nature?
Nature is something that has always kept me grounded and inspired. I think so much time is spent these days looking at little screens, and being too bothered about these funny virtual worlds we have created. Getting outside is good for us, looking at green stuff reduces stress, and fresh air is incredibly beneficial for our physical and mental health. My prints and fabrics are a celebration of this, and I wanted my business name to do the same. That, and I do say ‘yay’ quite a lot!
How has your creative process changed since the start?
My inspiration process is much the same as when I first started, I like to get outside and look at stuff in real life, and collect things to bring back to my studio. I also find a lot of inspiration from old botanical books, we have a great charity book shop in Cheltenham, and I always find something interesting in there. I love old botanical illustrations, the older the better!
I started off with potato printing, so things have moved on a little since then!
How did you manage to learn and hone your craft?
From beginning my potato prints, I found that the process was the thing I loved the most. I wasn’t really that bothered about the final outcome, but loved the planning of the print, the cutting out, the inking up, and the pressing. I could immerse myself in the process, focus on what I was doing, and forget all about the crazy hospital.
With that in mind, and with very little experience, I basically just played around.
I tried different materials to find the one that worked the best for me. I now don’t use traditional lino, I use a soft cut variety. I find it much easier to use, as it allows me to carve curves and small details very easily.
I am always learning new things. This year I have taught myself how to use an editing program to ensure my repeat prints are seamless, and professional. I have also learned about computer generated colours (HEX and pantone), and how they transfer to fabric. I have come to realise that traditional methods for creating art are very effective, but technology can also be a very useful tool as well. I really try to ensure my fabrics do not lose their lino cut vibe even though they have been created digitally.
Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?
Social media, particularly Instagram, has been really great for getting my work seen by other people. I also like to see what other printmakers and fabric designers are doing. I try not worry too much about social media though. Sometimes the pressure to post interesting things can be overwhelming, and can overtake the desire to be working. I just try to post things when I have made something, or done something that might be of interest to others (or when my cats are doing something interesting)! I know that’s probably not how I should be thinking of marketing for my business, but it is what works for me.
Who inspires your shop?
Mostly the wonderful universe inspires my shop! I do have some favourite printers too. Angie Lewin is a fantastic printmaker, who creates beautiful designs from nature. She is excellent at colour, and has a very distinctive style. I absolutely adore Carol Lander’s lino prints too. She is based in Cornwall, and again is excellent with colour. She makes reduction print scenes which usually have trees in. Her trees are excellent. I was given one of her prints for Christmas, and I cried like an idiot. Another print genius is Marthe Armitage. She is in her 90s, has been making the most beautiful repeat prints for yonks, and is a total legend. She creates hand printed wallpaper, and it is another level stunning. You can find more here: www.marthearmitage.co.uk.
I was lucky enough to do a print course with Cameron Short and Janet Tristam of Bonfield Block Printers recently. Their work is so intricate and beautiful. They use very traditional methods, and showed me their print process. It was so inspiring. I think that there will be a change in my repeat prints now, as they have shown me a new method for making pieces seamless. Also take a look at these pages: www.spoonflower.com, www.instagram.com/landercarol and www.instagram.com/angielewin.
Do you have any favourite pieces from your shop that you adore at the moment?
I am a bit of a tea fanatic (the stronger the better), and have been using my pink ‘Punchy Paprika’ tea cozy every day. It’s a bit different to a traditional cozy, because the pot sits inside and does up at the top. This means that you don’t have to take it off to pour your tea!
My favourite season is just around the corner, yay! I love my ‘Autumn’ lino print, it has a real autumnal vibe, and features blackberries, pine cones, conkers, pumpkins, decomposing apples, mushrooms, rosehips, and leaves blowing in the wind!
What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Instagram page?
Hopefully lots of new prints, fabrics, and products! I do like to pop in little snippets of nature too, and we’re off to Scotland for a holiday in a few weeks, so I expect there will be some pictures of our adventures
What’s your typical working day?
If I am not working a 14 hour day in the hospital, I will work from my studio in my conservatory. It is very old, and I have recently spent a bit of time jazzing it up (so that hopefully it wont fall down!). It is so light out there and great for working.
If I am doing a new print I will do some sketching first, either from stuff I have found, or from books or pictures on the computer. I find sketching helps me to work out how the print will be cut. Lino printing involves cutting out all the bits you want to be white, and will come out in reverse of the plate, so it all takes a bit of getting your head round. Even when you think you have thought about everything, it will come out differently to how you imagined, which is what is so great about it
Next I will either transfer the image or draw it directly onto the soft cut lino in pencil. I usually give it a few coats of hairspray, which I’m sure they wouldn’t teach you at ‘lino school’, but works for me. It ensures you don’t smudge the image while you are working on it. Then I will begin to cut. I only use two tools really, a very fine gauge for small detail, and a larger U shaped one to take away large areas. Cutting can take a long time, especially if your picture is very detailed. Sometimes it takes me months to finish plates, and I tend to pick them up when I am in the mood.
Inking and printing is the exciting bit! I use a roller and a tray to ink up the plate, and then I print onto paper using my press. It is like a giant clamp which squashes everything down tightly, and creates a very even image. There really is nothing like seeing your print for the first time, it is always amazing!
I tend to listen to audiobooks while I work, I love getting lost in a story.
What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground?
Finding time is the biggest struggle. When you are a one man band you have to turn your hand to everything. I am designing, printing, sewing, packaging, sending, selling, instagraming, and keeping on top of my Etsy and Not On The Highstreet shops. Some of those jobs aren’t as enjoyable as others, but all things need to be done to keep everything going.
I have realised that some things are best left to the professionals. I have recently had professional photos done by a lovely lady called Diana Oliveria. I used to spend a lot of time taking product photographs, and was never very happy with the results. She has really done a great job of presenting my products. I also enlisted my friend James from Highline Creative to design my logo, which I couldn’t be happier with, and it has definitely made me stand out. I would definitely recommend getting help with stuff that is a struggle, and invest some money in it if you can, as it frees you up to do the things that you are good at.
Do you have any exciting plans for this year?
I’ve got a few markets on the horizon. I am doing ‘The Suffolks’ market in Cheltenham at the end of October. I love the market vibe, and it’s nice to meet people in the flesh, and see what products they like, and what sells. I’m looking forward to going to Scotland for some inspiration, I will take my sketch book, take photos, and will no doubt fill the car with things that I have found while out exploring!
What advice would you give to people looking to define their own style?
Experiment and play around as much as possible! Don’t be frightened to try different mediums; I never thought I would be into lino at all, and now I can’t get enough of it! Do it for no one else but you, have no intention of showing anyone and just see what happens. Julia Cameron is a sort of creative guru, and has written some good books which give good advice to people wanting to become more creative: 'For most people, creativity is a serious business. They forget the telling phrase 'the play of ideas' and think that they need to knuckle down and work more. Often, the reverse is true. They need to play.’
Do you have any advice for anyone starting their own shop?
I started by selling to friends and family. If they want to buy it, other people will too. Be confident in yourself and your products, and don’t be disheartened if things don’t sell straight away. I go through busy and quiet spells, I have successful markets and unsuccessful ones. There really is no rhyme or reason to it.
I am lucky enough to have another job, so I am not relying on sales. If you can have a creative business alongside another one, it really takes the pressure off. I have been able to reduce my hours at the hospital, and hope to reduce them even more in the future, but it will be a gradual process. In the words of Dory from Finding Nemo, ‘Just keep swimming’
What’s next for Yay Nature?
Well my boyfriend and his mate have just started brewing beer, and I have said I will do their packaging, so watch this space!
What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?
Austin Kleon gives great creative advice and has some great books which I have found helpful. You can find more here: www.austinkleon.com.
‘Not everybody will get it. People will misinterpret you and what you do. They might even call you names. So get comfortable with being misunderstood, disparaged, or ignored. The trick is to be too busy doing your work to care.
If you would like to buy a product take a look at their shop 'www.etsy.com/shop/yayNATUREshop'. There are lots of gorgeous items in stock!