Julia Burns
Artist

Born in County Durham, Julia studied painting at The Slade before settling in North Yorkshire in 1985.

A professional artist, her large, brightly coloured, abstract canvases hang in private collections all over the world. With the support of her husband, Simon Kershaw, Julia founded Red Hen Originals in 2008 as a novel way of making original art accessible to all.

Where do you work?

"The great thing about potato printing is that all you really need is a potato, some paint and a table top. When I started Red Hen Originals I worked at the kitchen table. As demand quickly grew, I moved everything into the spare room. We now run the business from my studio in the garden. It's spacious, light and airy. A great place to work."

THE GREAT THING ABOUT POTATO PRINTING IS THAT ALL YOU REALLY NEED IS A POTATO, SOME PAINT AND A TABLE TOP!

My children and I at home

You are known for your large, abstract paintings. What lead you to set up Red Hen Originals?

"My husband Simon was made redundant in 2008. Although I have always painted and exhibited, because of the nature of my work and how the art market in general works, painting sales could only ever be sporadic. We needed a regular income to help pay the mortgage and support the family."


WHAT MADE YOU THINK OF USING POTATO PRINTS?

WE NAMED THE BUSINESS AFTER THAT FIRST RED HEN POTATO PRINT IN 1985.

"I remember when I left London and moved to North Yorkshire, I wanted to make a Christmas card for family and friends which would somehow denote my new, rural setting. I decided to do a potato print of a little, red hen in the snow. We all did potato printing at school, it's a really easy way of reproducing an image. Anyway, people were charmed by them and some still have them to this day. We named the business after that first red hen potato print in 1985."

"Similarly, in 2005, a friends daughter Daisy Bell, organised a charity auction in memory of her uncle who died in the Asian Tsunami. Her mother suggested I did one of my hen potato prints. It attracted a bid of £740.00" See www.artofcare.co.uk

What age were you when you discovered your passion for painting?

"Very young. I grew up in a creative household. My father was a architect and was passionate about aesthetics and design. There was always paper, paint, pencils, card and glue lying around at home in abundance. In the school holidays we would travel extensively throughout Europe, visiting galleries and world famous buildings both ancient and new. But it was always abstract painting, the work of Picasso, Miro, Rothko and Motherwell that I was most drawn to."

Who has influenced you the most?

"As well as my Dad, I had a wonderful art teacher, Sheila Coggrave, when I was at school in Sunderland. She taught me to observe and record accurately and was really encouraging. It was thanks to her that I won The Children's Royal Society of Arts Bronze medal in 1978 and Gold, Silver and Bronze awards for drawing from The Painter Stainers Guild in London the following year."

Do you have a favourite artist?

"Roger Hilton, without a shadow of a doubt. I totally connect with the work of that whole art movement which emanated from St Ives in the 50's and 60's. But Roger Hilton's paintings make complete visual sense to me.

Roger Hilton
Untitled 1963

Oil and charcoal on canvas
30.5cm x 35.6cm

I went to a retrospective ofHilton's work at The Hayward in 1993. The images have never left me."

Did you feel you were compromising your own artistic integrity when you set up Red Hen Originals?

"Not at all. I am a creative person and that creativity manifests itself in all sorts of different ways: I like to write; I love sewing, particularly patchwork. It stems from a need to be creative and expressive. Whether I am using a palette knife to apply thick layers of paint to a canvas, a potato to stamp out images on paper or  collaborating with Gary and Cheryl- ann at Design Farm Studio to design this website, I use the same criteria to judge scale, harmony and balance. It is always a challenge. But that is what is stimulating and there is no finer reward than when you get it right."

Why do you think your Red Hen Originals are so popular?

"People tell me that what they really love about Red Hen Originals is that each painting is unique as well as being affordable. They are charmed by images which are at once traditionally familiar, whilst also having a contemporary edge. Red Hen Originals look equally at home on the wall of a child's bedroom, in the kitchen or hanging in a boardroom. These quirky, little images seem to appeal to a broad demographic irrespective of age, class or culture. And yet, what I really love is how nostalgic Red Hen Originals make people feel. The very mention of a potato print seems to transport people back to a bygone age of short trousers, skipping ropes, innocence and security. That is really special."

So what happens now?

"My aim is to turn Red Hen Originals in to a brand. Greetings cards and wrapping paper are already available on the high street.

See: www.wildcardcompany.com

But I think the Red Hen Originals images would work equally well on fabrics and ceramics. I have an idea that would make the Red Hen Originals brand instantly recognisable. But I'm not prepared to reveal that now...Watch this space!"