Ashby Shoots
Portrait, editorial and commercial photographer


Artistic Focus - Rebecca Mennell

One of the reasons I moved to Norwich was, and I'm being serious here, NUA.  When looking at city's around the UK to relocate to last year the creativity and vibrant feel that Norwich possesses due to its universities and NUA specifically, really swung it for me.  You can feel its influence on the culture in Norwich with highly talented students pursuing their chosen paths as artists.  As a photographer I'm always looking for sparks of inspiration and I recently had the good fortune of seeing the work of Rebecca Mennell at the NUA Bishops Art Prize at Norwich Cathedral.  A striking portrait of a young man stared at me, large in scale, commanding me to look closer, the pose was striking and confident, an intricate patterned weave drew me in to the left side of the sitters face, colours jumping out with texture.  The piece called 'Sewn Culture' was stunning and was a portrait of Rebecca's friend Jonathan, celebrating his Ecuadorian culture.  I duly snapped it, Instagram'd it and tagged the artist to praise her creative mind and hands.  When Rebecca came back to my post saying thanks, I had an idea that I'd like to interview her to see what inspires her.  I was over the moon when she accepted the invitation and I duly headed over to Eaton Park for a chat in the cafe on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  

Looking at your blog you're really prolific with your output. How do you stay driven and inspired?
RM I really enjoy textile design and all things creative, so that is something that really helps me stay focused in what I do.  With textiles being my hobby as well as the course I study, I'm constantly creating work.

What attracted you to NUA and has there been a favourite part of your course over the 3 years?RM I was drawn to NUA, particularly because of the content of the textiles course this uni had to offer.  I also liked the fact it was a small institution for creative subjects, giving you the opppurtunity to interact with other students who all have a love for art and design.  I couldn't really pick out a favourite time because I really have enjoyed all three years of my course.  I'd probably say finding my passion for drawing and printing and staying focused on these areas in order to make them the best they can be has been a very enjoyable part of the course for me.

Do you feel that NUA and Norwich as a city at all has influenced your work?
RM Yes, definitely.  Being at an arts university, you are constantly around creative people and their work.  Having friends on other courses often helps as well because they are able to help you in areas you are unsure of and vice versa.  Also Norwich is a great city and there are many places you can get inspiration from. There are a number of museums and art galleries and also great historical buildings and natural surroundings which can have a big influence on work.  I love to just go out taking photographs and making first hand drawings to inform my work.

You spent time on work placements at Mirjam Rouden and Zandra Rhodes as part of your course.  Could you tell us about your experience there?

RM  In my second year at the Mirjam Rouden textile design studio in East London, I really enjoyed how practical it was.  I was able to be quite hands on and there was always something to do. At the start of the placement, I was drawing out designs inspired by a theme they set, which at the time was aztec patterns. I loved this because I was really in my element drawing, it was also nice knowing that some of them would be translated into digital prints on fabric.  I was able to do a lot of hand painting and screen printing with discharge paste, producing interpretations of animal prints.

Zandra Rhodes is a placement I did at the end of last summer in London.  It was a great opportunity working for such an iconic fashion designer.  I was there at a rather busy time, in the run up to London Fashion week so it was a bit manic in the studio but I was given the task of researching for the Christmas brief, my job was to create mood boards and produce designs for Christmas baubles.  I did really enjoy my time there and would love to go back and do a print internship if I had the opportunity.

Is there anyone specifically who's inspiring you now?  

RM I have been working on creating my own collection of wallpapers for my final project, so I have been looking at high end companies, such as; Designer's Guild, Osborne and Little and House of Hackney.  One company I am really excited by at the moment is CUSTHOM, I just love their innovative approach to design. I was particularly drawn to their digitally embroidered wallpaper.  Stitch is something I really enjoy and I thought that in this case, it has just been used in such an original way.

Do you have a favourite way of working?

RM I can be quite old fashioned in the way I work and take quite a hands on approach in the work I produce. I could happily sit in the studio and draw and paint all day. I have however, recently become more efficient in digital skills and have found that this can be a great way of developing my work further and creating interesting repeat patterns.

 'Sewn Culture' - Rebecca Mennell

'Sewn Culture' - Rebecca Mennell

I first saw your work at the Bishop's Art Prize at the Cathedral, how did your entry come about?

RM My Bishop's Art Prize piece sparked from a project I had last term and also work I had produced back in college.  It was the artist Maurizio Anzeri which inspired this style of working for me.  It is rather different from the design work I do but it is quite nice to have these different approaches I feel.  I would like to move forward with my design work because this is more where I see myself heading career wise but the stitched portraits are something I have always enjoyed.  I can see myself still working on something like this in the future, whether it be for myself or as a possible career option.

You have your final degree show coming up, can the public see it?

RM Yes, that's right.  The final degree show will be showcasing the work of final year students from all courses across the university and is open to members of the public to come and see.  I will be displaying the work I have produced as part of my final project which has been inspired by the willow pattern.

 Screen printed wallpaper - Rebecca Mennell

Screen printed wallpaper - Rebecca Mennell

What are your plans after uni?

RM After graduating from NUA, I plan to go back home to London and find potential internships and design jobs.  I think right now, I would benefit from more work experience so I would be happy to try out various internships in print and textile design as a starting point.

Do you have a dream job?

RM My dream job would be working in design for interiors.  This is something I have always wanted to do whether it be for a company or as my own business.

I'd like to say a big thank you to Rebecca, for her time and insight into her art and work. You can see her final degree show at NUA from the 1st - 8th June.  Find out more here -

 Eaton Park, Norwich

Eaton Park, Norwich

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