Francesca Kay works as a poet and letterpress artist. Her work features on our ‘It’s PR not ER’ mug, which is a fun gift designed for Public Relations execs. We took Francesca’s original letterpress work and had it screenprinted onto ceramic to create the mug. We wanted to understand a bit about Francesca and her art, so we grabbed a cuppa with her for this short interview.
Q) You're clearly inspired by traditional print-making, and you create your pieces without using computers or modern tech. How did you initially become interested in this way of working and does tradition play a part in your life outside of your work?
A) I have always been fascinated by the making of words with pieces of type, that physical involvement with the text that we don’t have when typing on a computer. When you look at a page of a very old manuscript, and think that a real person’s hand made that page, engaging with each letter to make it – I find that thrilling!
I love to celebrate traditional skills and ways of working, as there is a direct link and contact with the maker.
Q) You are also a poet as well as a visual artist. Could you tell us a bit about how one becomes a working poet in the twenty-first century? Is it a tradition and skill that’s under threat?
A) I have spent many years working in schools and with other groups, running writing workshops and being involved in different creative projects. It’s central to me to share my love of language and of writing, and the joy to be had in making poems and expressing ideas.
I exhibit my artworks and poetry at fairs and exhibitions, and it’s great fun sharing my enthusiasm directly with people. I have work displayed in various venues, most recently the legendary Addyman Book Shop in Hay on Wye, and Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre in Cwmbran.
I think that poetry has always been, and continues to be popular. It’s the only art form that everyone has probably had a go at, although not everyone will admit it!
We are lucky in Hay on Wye to have the only dedicated Poetry Bookshop in the country.
Q) The pieces you create can be uplifting and also entertaining. Do you think that there is a difference in the relationship that customers have with handmade pieces of art, compared with something bought on a supermarket shelf?
A) A handmade piece of art or craft is a personal thing, direct from the maker’s imagination. That’s what speaks to the customer. As a maker, you are giving something of yourself, whether it’s very serious or entirely frivolous. You are sharing your thoughts, emotions, and skills.
Something bought from the supermarket, although it may be lovely, is a long way from the person who imagined or designed it.
Q) As an artist, poet and a maker, do you feel part of a community, either locally or more widely? Do you collaborate with other makers and/or draw influence from them?
A) I am very lucky to live in Hay on Wye, where there are people all doing a range of creative things. I love to exhibit at fairs, where I get to see and talk to other makers.
I have collaborated on many arts projects over the years. It’s fascinating to work with others, everyone bringing their own skills to a common purpose.
Q) Tell us a secret or something we might not know about you.
A) I am very good at left-handed Scrabble, with all the horizontal words spelled backwards from right to left, and the vertical ones going from bottom to top!