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Interview with Laura-Jane Atkinson

To complement our new ’20 Makers, 20 Objects’ showcase we will be presenting a series of interview blogs with the exhibitors to find out more about their work and practice. First up is Laura-Jane Atkinson who tells us about the object she put forward to be in the show and her technique, inspiration and workspace.

We started by asking Laura-Jane about her object in ‘20 Makers, 20 Objects’:

Please tell us about your object for the ‘20 Makers, 20 Objects’ showcase and how it came into being?

The LIO Single Stem Vase is part of a wider collection of interior accessories called LINO Lab. The collection came about as a result of nearly two years of experimentally exploring the potential of Linoleum flooring in a craft based context. I tried moulding Lino, making my own, weaving with it, inlaying it, shaving it – you name it, I tried it!

The LIO Single Stem Vase is tuned on a lathe from blocks of laminated Lino – this was the method of processing the material that I felt was the most natural. Lino doesn’t burn or melt like chemical based floor coverings, and it becomes pliable when it’s hot. It peels like an orange on a lathe and the layers of colour revealed from the side profile give a different face for Lino which I found particularly exciting!

What drew you to Linoleum? Are there other unusual materials you’d like to work with?

I was initially drawn to Linoleum because of its environmental credentials. When I found out that it’s made using pine resin, wood flour and linseed oil, I wondered why we weren’t using it to make everything! I wanted to explore what it could do beyond flooring.

At the moment I’m working with balsa wood in a similarly experimental way, again because I’m intrigued by what it might be able to do beyond its usual application – model planes.

How has your own background and training informed the development of the piece?

I initially trained in embroidery, and whilst the material practice I have used for the LIO Single Stem Vase is completely different, my experience of embroidery has completely had an impact on the development of LINO Lab. On my degree, I spent most of the time considering what embroidery could be – instead of a needle I was using a drill and instead of thread I was using rope and plastic cording. I was borrowing processes and knowledge from other making disciplines, which is wholeheartedly how I approached the sampling and development of LINO Lab.

How is the object made and where? Does anyone else get involved in the process – colleagues or suppliers? Are there many stages? How many do you think you have produced to date – or is it a one-off?

The LIO Single Stem Vase is turned on a lathe from blocks of laminated Linoleum flooring. Sheets of Lino are peeled away from their jute backing, cut into smaller squares, laminated into blocks, left to dry, and finally turned and sanded on the lathe. The whole process is done just by me! I try to work in batches, peeling the lino for several vases at one time, cutting for several at one time and so on. I have produced about 10 of this design of the LIO Single Stem Vase.

What is the trickiest thing about the development and making process, and what is the most satisfying?

The trickiest thing about the development and making process of the LIO Single Stem Vase is peeling the jute backing away from the Lino – it wrecks your hands! I’ve learned to tape myself up to avoid nasty blisters. The most satisfying part of the making process is absolutely turning the blocks on the lathe. It’s really easy to shape as it gets hot and seeing the colours flatten is really pleasing.

Tell us about your workspace – where is it, does it have an outlook or view onto anything, what are the pros and cons of working in it?

My work space is in an old warehouse in Manchester which is a part of Islington Mill. It has no windows (which is the biggest con) but the ceilings are really high and I’m surrounded by loads of other brilliant makers and creatives. There’s always a lot going on in our project space and having a self-contained pod means I can make a mess.

Do you have a favourite tool or process, and is it/they used in the making of this object?

MY LATHE! Turning is one of my favourite processes to work with – it’s therapeutic and you can achieve a lot in a short space of time. I bought my lathe specifically to develop my LINO Lab products, after testing out the process on a friend’s.

What ambitions do you have for the future of this product and work like this?

My ambition for the LINO Lab products is for them to reach a wider audience and to inspire others to explore the potential of Lino. In the future, I hope to do more bespoke surface work alongside selling interior accessories. The products I produce usually only present one potential application for the materials I work with and I’m keen for the wider possibilities to be considered at a larger scale for interior or commercial spaces.

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Laura Jacometti


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