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Words by: Suz Inman – Mightier Words

Dena O’Brien set up Kiwi print studio near Camborne five years ago, taking a leap to become more self-sufficient after an early career teaching print-making in local collages and universities.

Her prints and products feature fresh, geometric patterns that are inspired by her surroundings whilst Kiwi HQ is a hub of teaching and creative talent.

This year we’ll be welcoming the Kiwi team to the Porthleven Food & Music Festival where they’ll be sharing their passion for print.

Suzie Inman of Mightier Words met up with Dena to find out more…

Tell us about your workdenaobrien

I mainly do screen-printing and I design and print my own products including cards, limited edition prints, cushions, lampshade and fabrics.

My designs always start as a hand-cut stencil and my style is bright, bold and clean. I like repeating, geometric patterns and orderly, precise design that’s timeless and fits well into people’s homes.

Where could we get hold of a Kiwi design?

My work is stocked locally in places including the Newlyn Art Gallery and the Exchange in Penzance and the Bedruthan Hotel. I’m also available online through Not On The High Street and I do local fairs.

And you’ll be offering people the chance to print at the Porthleven Food Festival this year?

Absolutely! We’ll be offering a taster and a chance to come and say hello and have fun. Not everyone knows about or understands printmaking and what it involves so this is a great chance to communicate and talk about it. I will be designing an exclusive print for the Festival. We want to get people having a go at what we love doing every day — we have a real passion for this and we want to share that.

Can you reveal what your design will look like?

I’d like to keep the precise details under wraps but it will be a one-colour print inspired by the lifestyle and environment of Porthleven. It will start as a hand-cut stencil then we’ll produce a screen so we can do as many prints as we need on the day. I’m obsessed with colour too and I’ll be mixing a Kiwi bespoke ink especially for the day that will be inspired by the light in Porthleven. Different harbours here have their own colour palettes and that’s one of the things I love about Cornwall – drawing inspiration from what’s around me.

The print will also have the name and date of the event so it’ll hopefully be a great reminder of a wonderful day and weekend that will look great on a wall or can be given as a gift.

What else inspires you?

My surroundings. Coastal walks – I love to walk. The colours of the coast and the countryside and the things I see there hugely influence my designs where you’ll find a lot of boats and a lot of sea and farm-inspired designs. The mists on the fields can be lovely and I like to visit harbours at different times of day and take in the different colours.

Have you always lived in Cornwall and what made you set up your own business here?

I grew up here and have always been here except when I did my training at the Royal College in London. I moved back after because I love it here and I taught at Truro and Cornwall Colleges and at Falmouth Uni before setting up my own studio. Naturally, when you’re creative I think you want to do your own thing and to print but I was very dedicated to the teaching and technician work when I was employed. Eventually I decided to take the plunge and create my own space to work and to teach and I have found a lot of my old students have come back for more! Kiwi happened five years ago now and I think it was a natural progression.

And you run print-making courses?

Yes, we do a range of courses for all abilities teaching screenprint as well as lino cut, dry point, collagraph and other printing techniques. We also run print parties for both adults and children and go into local schools to deliver workshops. We teach all different levels and ages and you don’t need to have any experience or even be artistic to have a go – that’s what’s so great about printing. Lucy from Nauti But Ice has done a few of our evening courses and it’s through her that we got involved in the Food Festival this year.

Kiwi will be offering the chance for you to pull your own limited edition print on Sunday 23rd April.

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