ONES TO WATCH / LAURA KATE SOLTYS
After a bit of a hiatus, we're hot-wiring our blog back into action with the latest in our series of Ones To Watch features. This time around, we're profiling Cardiff-based Bath Spa graduate Laura Kate Soltys, whose bright and effervescent prints really caught our eye…
Last summer, Look Up artist Kate Gibb invited us to the London degree show of the Graphic Communication course at Bath Spa University, where she'd been tutoring third years. The show featured some vibrant, screen print driven projects created by a handful of stand-out students, including Laura Kate Soltys. Since graduating, Laura's been pretty busy... She's assisted another Look Up artist – Fiona Grady – on installation artworks, and she's taken up valuable internships at Jealous Gallery and graphic design studio & SMITH. She's also found time to develop her own printmaking at Cardiff hotspot The Printhaus, all while collaborating with fellow Bath Spa graduates Chloe Swayne and Emily Westcar as Limbo Studio.
We met up with Laura for a coffee and a chat, while flicking through a portfolio of prints dragged all the way from Cardiff – thanks for travelling up Laura. And without further ado...
Wiggle + Flash: vibrant prints from Laura's portfolio
Look Up Hi Laura. How’s life in Cardiff?
Laura Kate Soltys Life in Cardiff is great! It’s been lovely moving back to my home city after graduating and sussing out the creative scene in the area. I’m surrounded by beautiful mountains and beaches... What’s not to love?
LU You've been printing at The Printhaus – what do you like about their set up?
LKS Yes, I try to get to Printhaus as often as I can. My time there has been really enjoyable, it’s an incredibly friendly environment – it's given me the freedom to explore my print practice and meet such a wide range of talented creatives. It’s fantastic to be part of such a close-knit creative community in the city. The studio also shares a garden with the best pizza place in town, which is a massive thumbs up after a busy day printing!
Swooping brushstrokes and halftone textures: print detail
LU Let's rewind to last summer (2017), when you graduated from the Graphic Communication course at Bath Spa University. What were the highlights of that course for you, and what role did printmaking play in your projects?
LKS The course in Bath was great. There was such a variety of options available. I was able to learn skills in animation, photography, web coding and more. I always enjoyed taking a more hands-on approach to things though, which lead me to spend more and more time in the print room. I found printmaking the best way to generate ideas for each of my projects, as the process allows me to play around and experiment with different colours and shapes at random. Also, we were so lucky to be on a campus overlooking the most beautiful city.
'Moondance' – four colour A2 silkscreen print, available from Laura's website
LU Were you interested in printmaking before your studies at Bath?
LKS I was first introduced to printmaking during my foundation course in Cardiff. Here I worked more with silkscreen printing for textiles and interiors. It was during my final year on my graphics course at Bath that I fell in love with the process again. My peers and tutors were great at encouraging me to use it as a more experimental method, rather than seeing a print merely as a ‘finished product’. The colours and textures you can achieve from printmaking is something you simply cannot get from digital means. The course allowed me to see printmaking in a more graphic context and understand the many applications it can have.
Tropical colour palettes
LU What do you love about printmaking?
LKS Its unpredictability. It’s always full of surprises. I love the process of seeing my prints come to life as each layer is laid one over another; often not planning what will come next. The process of printmaking allows me to work intuitively, which is what I enjoy most about being a creative. I love the imperfections that inevitably happen. They add a human touch to the prints.
'Shimmy' – four colour A2 silkscreen print, available from Laura's website
LU You mostly work with silkscreen – are there any other printmaking processes you’re keen to explore?
LKS Yes, silkscreen is my main print medium. I tried linocuts and a bit of etching at university. I’d love to explore risograph... I’ve only used a riso printer a couple of times but the layering process is so interesting – similar to silkscreen. A friend of mine just set up their own riso studio, so I'll definitely pay them a visit soon!
Layers of sumptuous colour and finely detailed textures
LU Look Up artist and print superstar Kate Gibb was one of your tutors at Bath; her love of screenprinting is infectious. Apart from being super cool and very funny, she’s a wise and generous soul. What did you learn from her?
LKS I count myself incredibly lucky to have had Kate as my tutor during my final year at university. She’s a fantastic person. I am very grateful to her, for nurturing my love of print and allowing me to explore the many applications it can have. She taught me to follow my intuition, to find beauty in the imperfections, and ultimately continue doing work that I loved. No matter how stressed out I would get about a project deadline, after a tutorial with Kate I left feeling positive about my work and motivated to create and print more.
'Flash' – four colour A3 silkscreen print, available to buy from Laura's website
LU Your prints explore a fertile blend of bold, rigorous geometrics and more fluid, painterly mark-making… Has that come about quite organically?
LKS Yes, my style came about naturally, during the print process. I started by playing around with geometric shapes, focusing on the contrast in form and colour, but the compositions started too feel a little too rigid. Once I began introducing more fluid shapes with brush marks, I was able to disrupt the geometric patterns, and the compositions became more playful and interesting. I found this added a more human element, which I think is important to see when using screen print. That’s what makes the process so special.
A series of prints playing with a cooler palette
LU What inspires you to use certain colours over others?
LKS When people see my work the first thing they normally say is "Wow! I love the colour!" I always see that as a success. When they hang one of my prints on their wall, I want to bring fun and brightness into people's homes. So I never want to hold back when it comes to colour. As for the palettes I decide to use, it’s usually an intuitive process. Having the print on the flatbed and deciding which colour is the right colour for that print at that point in time... That's all part of the exciting process. One colour I can’t stay away from is hot pink. There never seems to be a time when it shouldn't be used!
Hot pink, hot print
LU Since graduating you’ve worked as an assistant with Look Up artist Fiona Grady and interned at Jealous Gallery and graphic design studio & SMITH, amongst other appointments… It looks like you’re keen to get experience in a variety of creative environments. What are your personal highlights from those experiences? And have they helped shed light on what you want to do next?
LKS Post graduate life has been an interesting one, with lots of variety. I always want to make sure I’m learning new skills and surrounding myself with people I admire. Getting to London as much as I can, interning at different studios and assisting artists like Fiona Grady have all been such valuable experiences. Fiona has been fantastic this year, inviting me to assist on a number of projects and giving me so much help and advice on how to pursue my creative work. I’d love to gain more experience in studios working alongside others, but I'm also driven to push my own practice as far as I can. Finding a balance between learning, collaborating with others and focusing on my own work is really important.
Laura helped Fiona Grady install her 'Sun Burst' window at Buhler and Co, for the Look Up summer showcase, 'Spectrum / Limitless Colour'
LU On the subject of collaboration, you’re one third of Limbo Studio, with fellow Bath Spa grads Chloe Swayne and Emily Westcar. How did that come about?
LKS Limbo Studio is an image making collective that Chloe, Emily and I started in our final year. We all share a passion for printmaking, and use this collaboration to experiment, while sharing skills and ideas. We’ve worked on a variety of projects together, and I’m really excited about how it will allow us to grow both as a collective and as individual artists. We started it whilst living together in Bath, but we now live in different parts of the country... So it’s a great way to share ideas, to support and encourage each other, to experiment and work collaboratively, creating artwork with a purpose.
Collaborative screenprint by Limbo Studio
LU What’s your favourite aspect of creative collaboration?
LKS It's so important. By getting feedback and sharing ideas with others you are able to see things from a different perspective, and often solves problems you otherwise thought might be too challenging. You can learn so much from others.
Collaborative screenprint by Limbo Studio
LU Outside of your own group of peers and collaborators, whose work really inspires you at the moment?
LKS I took a trip to Berlin this year which I found incredibly inspiring both print wise and graphically. Everywhere you look across the city you see beautiful design... Even the sticker covered lamp posts are cool! Artist wise I’m really inspired by fellow Look Up 'Ones To Watch' artist Lois O’Hara. I’ve watched her practice evolve and strengthen so much this year. Her range of projects and use of colour in public spaces is so inspiring.
LU What’s coming up next for you? Do you think printmaking will continue to play an important role in your creative practice, as your style and approach evolves alongside other jobs and projects?
LKS I think printmaking will always be at the root of my creative practice, but I am excited to push and expand my work further across different media. Next for me… I hope to travel, observe different cultures and gain experience in studios in other parts of the world. I’m up for more learning, more experimentation and more collaboration. I’m excited about future projects and opportunities, and I'm interested to see how my practice will evolve...
Notebooks with screen-printed covers, available to buy from Laura's website
If you're keen to keep an eye on what Laura does next follow her on Instagram and do check out her website. We're pretty excited about the whole Limbo Studio collaboration as well, so maybe we'll come back to those guys in a few months. In the meantime, huge thanks again to Laura for the interview and for dragging her portfolio all the way to Walthamstow. If you like what you see, spread the word!
You can buy Laura's prints and notebooks from laurakatesoltys.com
And also from Department Store here
Follow Laura on Instagram @laurakatesoltys
To read more of our Ones To Watch profiles, click here