For the second day of the Oxfordshire Artweeks virtual festival, its daily art trail encourages viewers to explore art and décor ideas to transform a home. Claire Florey-Hitchcox is one of the artists showing a selection of work in an on-line gallery. She is a print-maker on a grand scale, producing hand-printed lengths of wallpaper with intriguing patterns of objects and views and a delicacy that belies the size of the pieces she is printing. ‘I like the scale of wallpaper,’ she explains. ‘The idea of my prints expanding across a whole room is really satisfying.’
At college Claire used a Columbian printing press, a giant machine of cast iron that towered over her, although in her Stadhampton barn, where geese and chickens roam free, she now has a more manageable beast. Her passion is the process, her focus is the detail of intricate hand-carved woodblocks, and several heavy blocks are painstakingly carved over a month or more and then combined to print each length. ‘It is a really delicate process placing the block on the paper, there is only one chance to get it right. When I’m printing a long length it can be nerve wracking!’ says Claire, ‘and it takes a long and concentrated day to create a 10 metre roll.’ The end result has the timeless quality of traditional print methods where each print is slightly different and the quirks and irregularities that happen along the way are part of the character.
Claire’s ideas have often been inspired by curious objects in her family home–an old clock, a ship in a bottle, a toppling pile of oriental bowls, a bunch of ancient keys for example. Alternatively she has carved familiar elements of rural countryside, inspired by the aspects of Oxfordshire she most appreciates: a farmer at work collecting bales of hay, a winding river, a thatched cottage with cobblestone path and old stone wall, ivy leaves, vegetables growing and beanpoles an overflowing wheelbarrow, a canal boat surrounded by bulrushes and reeds and a punt on the Thames framed by willow leaves.
‘If I print it in blues and greens it will be like the river snaking off the press, or as if the paper is a stylised version of the rolling green landscapes locally.’ she explains. ‘I love experimenting with colour.
Different colours can give the wallpaper a totally different feel. Sometimes I like to go with organic, smoky colours; at other times I feel in the mood for magenta or steely blue.’