Meet the makers: Clare Smith

Rachel Stanners meets Clare Smith of CAS at her flat on Clapham High Street, where she explains her unique painting technique and how she keeps painting around her fulltime job.

Clare Smith

1. So when did you start painting, Clare?
Well, I always loved painting as a child. I was always drawing ornaments and things in my grandparents’ houses and then I did art at school. When I got to A-levels I decided to do art as one of the subjects. I really enjoyed it but my family wasn’t convinced about the job prospects for an artist, so I left after AS level and began a full time job in the Court Service. But I’ve always kept it up on the side, even with a full-time job.

2. Where do you work and how do you find the time or energy to keep painting?
I really enjoy my job at an investment management company. It’s a really supportive environment, and there are lots of opportunities to keep studying for further qualifications. My colleagues are really supportive of my painting. I’ve been commissioned by a few colleagues to do family portraits or personalised paintings, which has been a good way to keep up the work. I paint in the evenings or weekends – whenever I get a chance really. I used to have a space set up in my bedroom, but at the moment I’m actually sharing my room with a friend so I’ve had to set myself up on the communal dining table. It’s difficult to get started sometimes, but once I’ve sat down you can’t pull me away from it!

3. I can see you are about to start a new painting – can you tell me about it?
The theme of the painting is the Olympics. I’m planning to submit it to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. It might be a bit ambitious but I think it’s worth a shot, as there will be so many people displaying and it gets lots of visitors. It’s nerve wracking, but I want to give it a go.

4. The painting is all blue with some pencil marks at the moment- is this normally how you start a piece?
Yes, I normally begin by finding a good photo of what I want to paint and then I paint the background colour first, which in this case is blue. I paint the whole canvas that colour, sketching the outlines of the rest of the painting on top. After that I fill in the next biggest blocks of colour. I build the piece up this way, getting increasingly detailed. No one taught me this technique – it’s just come about over time. After some years painting I can now see that I have my own style and technique.

5. What’s your current sales strategy for your paintings?
My most recent paintings have all been of London, because I think they grab people’s attention. I’ve also painted scenes of Brixton to sell locally and on Makerhood. Over Christmas I did a market just outside Studio 73 in Brixton and I sold a few box canvases. I realised at the time that people like buying a piece that is ready to put straight on their walls, so I decided to frame some of my paintings. I am really pleased with the results and I plan to sell them for £100 each. I haven’t got any markets coming up but I’m hoping to improve my online sales through Makerhood and also by setting up an Etsy shop.

6. What’s the process if someone wants to commission you to do a painting for them?
I’ve done a few commissions and every process has been different. Some people know exactly what they want, while others have a lengthy conversation before finding the best photo or image for me to work from. I’ve done portraits of family members as well as personalised London paintings. They are always very different and normally take quite a lot of time to get just right. The charge varies based on size and complexity, but at the moment I am charging between £50 and £200.

7. Which artists inspire you?
David Hockney’s exhibition in London last year was very inspirational. I was surprised by the volume and, for example, the iPad paintings, which I wasn’t aware he was doing. I saw Monet’s paintings in Paris and was astonished at the size of them. I haven’t done any big canvases yet, but would like to one day.

8. Why did you join Makerhood?
I joined Makerhood because I applied for Crafty Fox and they recommended Makerhood to me. I’ve enjoyed meeting people through it.

9. What are your favourite places in the area?
In Clapham I love going for breakfast at Breads etc. Brixton Village is a hidden gem, which I’ve only just discovered so I am really enjoying exploring it.

You can buy Clare’s distinctive paintings at http://brixton.makerhood.com/cas.

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Knitting with SWCraftClub

On Sunday afternoon, before all of the craziness erupted in London, we took part in SWCraftClub’s pop up craft event at the Landor pub in Clapham. It’s difficult to picture a more contrasting scene to the madness that came later that evening. Around eight groups of crafty folks got together in a pub garden to help people make badges, jewellery, mood boards and upcycle their wardrobe. Makerhood’s contribution was a knitting and crochet drop-in workshop. We had two experts, Viv and Shona, on hand to get beginners started and to teach new techniques to those who were more advanced. And they did a brilliant job! Over the afternoon they taught crocheting to complete beginners, polished up rusty knitting skills and handled every request for advice that skilled knitters and crocheters threw at them.

We’d prepared a wide range of materials for people to use, including wool of course, but also recycled T-shirts, plastic bags, string and ribbon. These supplies were topped up by Hobbycraft who sponsored the event. Thanks Hobbycraft!

One of the nicest things about knitting is that it’s a slow, monotonous craft. This was also something that concerned us before the event; would people be prepared to commit their time or would they simply pass us by on their way to more immediate rewards? Well, the answer is that they were prepared to commit the time – at some points we had so many knitters that we ran out of seats and our experts had to stand. And the best thing was that the slow pace meant that we got to have proper chats with people, we learnt who taught them to knit, the others crafts they enjoy, about their children and homes, what they like and don’t like about the place they live. Chat and knitting. For me, there’s no better way to spend an afternoon. Thanks to all the people who joined us and knitted and crocheted with us.

Special thanks to Zoe from SWCraftClub for inviting us to be part of this event. Follow @SWCraftClub on Twitter and SWCraftClub on Facebook or check out http://swcraftclublondon.blogspot.com for more crafty events in South West London.

And also to our experts, Viv and Shona. Viv is as talented at sewing as she is at knitting – check out her stall on Makerhood.  Shona is planning some workshops to teach beginner’s knitting in the autumn. If you’re interested in taking part contact us on hello@makerhood.com and we’ll pass on your details.