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Artist Collaboration - Katy Eccles from Imprint Casts.

Updated: 4 days ago

Last month we welcomed the lovely and talented Katy Eccles the artist behind Imprint casts to our cabin.

Katy creates delicate botanical casts, made using the same unique casting process and all made entirely by hand. The imprint of the flowers and foliage is taken in clay and then preserved in plaster of Paris after all remnants of the flowers have been carefully removed from the clay by hand with tweezers. Seed by seed and petal by petal.

Katy is working on an exciting and ambitious project, travelling across the UK staying in bothys and cabins and creating beautiful casts from the local flora and fauna surrounding these spaces we were excited to accept her offer when she reached out to us earlier this year. She quite literally battled the storms and set up her temporary casting studio on the deck of the cabin casting the early spring flowers that surround Hergest Lee.

Katy studied art history as an undergraduate and specialised in British 18th century art and architecture, where her interest in plaster work was ignited, she is particularly inspired by  the trend of collecting plaster cast remnants from the Grand Tour and has become somewhat obsessed with the small plaster intaglios amassed by the young aristocratic men during their travels, which would often be mounted into cases or books and displayed in fashionable interiors back home. These collections acted as souvenirs of a year long adventure in Europe in addition to being a reminder of the inspiring artworks and decorative pieces they had come across during their travels. Katy's aim is to undertake her own Grand Tour, and also take some female ownership of a tradition which was almost entirely undertaken by men back in the day, and create a visual record of the flora and fauna of Britain by capturing a moment in the seasonal life of the landscape around the cabins she is staying in around the country. We cant wait to see all the other casts she creates during her expedition.

Read our conversation below...

You mentioned you studied our history at University, which aspects of this learning can we see in your work today? 

I was quite torn between pursuing my love of art and my more academic side when it came to choosing path to follow for further study post school but my love of art history won in the end and I earned an undergraduate  place at Cambridge. Three intense, challenging but hugely enjoyable years of studying various movements and genres in art later, I went on to teach Art History at a high school in London for a few years but left to live in Australia and haven’t actively used my art history knowledge since.  My interest in plaster casts stems from my studies of 18th English century art and architecture during my undergraduate. The Soane Museum in London has always been one of my go to places for an escapist afternoon and I have spent many hours wandering through the cast gallery there. So when I saw the botanical tiles mum had made during her workshop I was reminded of the classical casts I so admired in the Soane Museum but also loved how it was a was possible to preserve the delicate shapes and forms of botanicals to create a contemporary interpretation of this ancient art. The coloured casts are a nod to the glazed terracotta developed by Lucca Della Robbia in fifteenth century Florence which I have always loved but are also inspired by the neo-classicism of Robert Adams and of course the iconic Wedgewood pottery. Recently I have been experimenting with experimenting with incorporating motifs and iconography from the ancient world into my work, and so creating a modern interpretation of classical architectural sculptural friezes and bas reliefs panels.  Another art history reference point I am interested in is the trend of collecting plaster cast remnants from the Grand Tour. The collection of plaster intaglios acted as souvenirs of a years long adventure in Europe in addition to being a reminder of the inspiring artworks and decorative pieces they came across during their travels.  My aim this year is to undertake my own Grand Tour and create a visual record of the flora and fauna of Britain by capturing a moment in the seasonal life of the landscape around the cabins I am staying in around the country. I created a set of miniatures using the plants and foliage foraged from the countryside around Hergest Lee as part of this series.

Both your parents are architects, I’m interested to know what your home is like? Do you lean towards the more traditional interior design aesthetic? Can we see some modern looks in your house? 

My parents met at Edinburgh university as architecture students and went on to build out first house on the Fife coast as their part three project. Much of their inspiration was derived from Scandinavian architects and they went on an Alvar Aalto pilgrimage around Finland for their honeymoon. So their interiors and architectural style was fairly modern and unique for the time in rural Fife, I remember them renting a minivan and driving down to Ikea in Newcastle to stock up on Scandi furniture when Ikea was first introduced to the UK. They went on to buy a dilapidated farm steading outside Upper Largo when my sisters and I were young which they have developed section by section since so I have always appreciated, and been interested, in architecture and interiors. My grandparents were great collectors of antiques and unique pieces of furniture, they were always seeking out unusual objects at estate house sales and auctions. They also spent time living in Africa so there was an eclectic blend of exotic ornaments and artworks in their house. My grandmother on my mums side was a textile designer and skilled painter so her house was filled with paintings and textiles she had designed. She was also a champion gardener and it was her who inspired my own mums love, and knowledge, of botany. So our home was filled with pattern, colour,  texture and art which has inspired my own interior colour palette.  I live with my husband in Edinburgh and his style is a little more neutral (the hallmark of a graphic designer) than my mine, but we have found a happy middle ground in the decoration of our flat. We recently tore out our kitchen and replaced it with clay plaster walls, a yellow Forbo floor and Verpan lighting. Its taken us two years to do but its been a great design project. Our plan is to move back to Fife next year and undertake our own self build, so I was very inspired by what you and Paul have achieved. at Hergest Lee. 


What do you love most about the casting process? 

There are so many aspects of the process I love but first and foremost is it the connection it represents between my mum and I. She taught me to cast and nothing brings me more joy than wandering around the garden she has designed and plated in Fife with a cup of coffee, looking at the latest growth and spotting our favourite plants emerge during various points of the year. The whole process is quite methodical and physical, you cannot really rush any aspect as rolling out and smoothing the clay requires patience, rolling the flowers in and removing them is gentle, precise work and also waiting for the plaster to dry before you can reveal the impression. I am quite a busy, slap dash person in all other aspects of my life but when I am in the studio I can lean into a process which requires me to slow down, focus and make, not think. 

Are there any particular flowers and plants that you love using or any that you have a particular affinity with/meaning?

At some point in our relationship my husband and I started calling each other ‘Sweetpea’ so its our little pet name for one another. I have it engraved inside my engagement ring and for our wedding, mum planted towers of sweetpeas so I have a particular affinity with them. In terms of the best plants for casting, I love Autumn flowers as they have excellent textures and forms, soft delicate cosmos with their feathery foliage and thick, sculptural crocosmia are among my autumnal favourites. 

You mention your mother’s beautiful garden as an inspiration for your casts, what is it about this garden that you love, any particular plants or flowers?

Mum, and her garden, are the reason why I decided to pursue Imprint and I wouldn’t be doing this without her. As mentioned, my parents bought an old farm steading and converted it slowly. But it did not stop with the building, mum has transformed what was a cattle shed and concrete forecourt into a multi levelled garden which she opens as part of Scotland Open Garden’s Scheme every other year. One of my earliest memories is careering around my late Irish grandmothers hillside garden in Ballynahinch as my mum and her weeded and chatted plants happily around us; so my mum was in turn very inspired by her own mother and lots of the plants in our garden have come from my grandmothers garden. She learnt to cast at a workshop and set herself the challenge of casting her garden through the year (which she is still working on) but she prefers to be out in the garden rather than inside, but I could appreciate the beauty of the casts she was making and wanted to learn.  I still have the first cast I made sitting on my bedroom shelves - its a bit wonky as I grappled with keeping the clay smooth and not getting any handprints on the surface of the clay but symbolic for being the start of a wonderful obsession, and now art practice. Mum was the one who coined the name Imprint and started experimenting with bridal bouquet casts. She hosted several exhibitions with the casts and her commission requests were frequent. We worked together to create a snowdrop collection for Cambo Gardens in 2019 but since then mum has taken a step back  from the casting as she prefers to be in the garden rather than preserving it. But she still oversee’s all my work and will always be the only critic I want to impress. Mum has such a wide range and variety of plants in the garden, but one of my favourite is the Australian Bottle Brush which bloomed for the first time tow years ago and transports me back to the time I spent living down under. 

What are your future plans for Imprint Casts?

I always have so many plans and ideas so my challenge is sticking with a plan I make. Over the last few years I have been tackling bigger sizes and challenging myself to create larger works. The biggest I have made so far is 80x80cm but I am teaching myself methods to achieve stability in these larger pieces, so I would love to continue scaling up my work. I would also love to experiment with creating 3 dimensional casts (pots and planters) so I am slowly trying different methods to achieve this. I am also looking forward to continuing my exploration of the UK and heading off on more casting adventures to build a full collection of botanical intaglios from around Great Britain. 

You can find Katy's beautiful work here

Instagram @imprint_casts

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