Artist profile - Tara Dean, Denbigh

Commissioned tote bags

Commissioned tote bags - Credit: Archant

Tara Dean, from Denbigh, is an illustrator and print-maker who shares her talents through experimental art workshops across North Wales, writes Kate Houghton.

Tara Dean screen printing in the studio

Tara Dean screen printing in the studio - Credit: Archant

Tara Dean trained as an illustrator, first with a foundation course at Wrexham College of Art before progressing to a degree course at Harrow. While for many a career in the arts is but a dream, for those with talent and commitment being paid to do what you love is within their grasp, as Tara proved when almost immediately after graduating she was offered freelance work with Friends of the Earth and then a permanent position with local business Craig Bragdy Design.

‘I worked for 15 years as a production artist with Craig Bragdy, as part of a team of artists and ceramicists modelling clay, spraying it and finishing it to create ceramic murals for houses, spas, businesses and swimming pools all over the world.

‘In January last year however I decided to set up for myself. Having assisted on arts projects locally, including the Lost In Art project based in Denbighshire, I felt ready.

‘Lost in Art is an amazing programme. It is a project aimed at people living with dementia. Lost in Art groups meet each week over tea and cake and visit exhibitions, or discuss a particular theme, and then produce art in response. I’ve had to learn new skills and ways of working and I’m now a Dementia Friend. The programme began with Denbighshire Arts and has now spread across North Wales.

‘I’ve also worked with other community groups and schools in Denbighshire. I volunteer at the Carriageworks Gallery in Denbigh, and have delivered art sessions with the local Stroke Association and Vale of Clwyd MIND. Since the spring I’ve been based at Ruthin Craft Centre, as part of their Artist Stories in Residence programme. While there I have had my own studio, where I can show my work, but have also engaged with the community in workshops for adults and children.’

You might wonder when on earth, with all she does in the community, Tara fits in any time for pursuing her own work.

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‘There are two sides to my work,’ she tells me. ‘I design and make cards, which I sell at local markets and shops, along with linen tote bags. I also create my screen drawings, which I show at local galleries such as Oriel Bodfari in Denbigh, Y Capel Gallery in Llangollen and Oriel Wrexham. I’ll also be opening my own studio space on Park Street in Denbigh in September, for Helfa Gelf, the annual Arts Trail.

‘When producing I find my inspiration in the landscape around me. This is a very beautiful part of Wales; I spend time in the Vale of Clwyd and go down to the beach. I have my sketch books with me all the time; if I’ve no time to draw I pick pieces up – stripy stones from the beach can become a landscape. I stick everything in my sketch books, which I use as aide memoirs; like a visual diary. I am very inspired by the natural environment; I can see Moel Arthur, part of the Clwydian Range, from my window if I poke my head out!

‘When working on a new piece, it always starts with a drawing, whether it be a landscape or a piece of a leaf I have found and blown up from my sketch book. From these initial sketches I develop my images; tracing them again and again, producing layers of stencils that are then used as blocks in the next step – screen-printing. Cutting a paper stencil will block the ink out of certain parts of the screen, so many layers can be placed on top of each other; many layers working over again and again...allowing each layer to dry, pulling different colours through the screen, which creates different shapes and textures as the picture begins to form.’

Tara is a member of the Regional Print Centre in Wrexham, which she cites as a marvellous resource and source of inspiration.

‘It’s such a great place and it’s marvellous to be a part of that enterprise. It opened in 2002 and artists can go and use all the resources and interact with the students at the college. They run a great summer programme, which is open to all.’

It’s clear when talking to Tara that, while her commercial art is important, it is her community work that inspires her.

‘People attending my workshops get to print and take home a card and sometimes their work is also incorporated into a group piece. I’m currently working within an Arts & Friendship project run by Denbighshire Arts, at the Carriageworks in Denbigh. It’s for anyone who’s feeling in need of company and interaction. People can come and go with no pressure. We gather and create something, working like this takes the pressure of people to be ‘sociable’, as it were; they can share a space and an experience and interact and make friends as they wish. You can see how it lifts people for those hours we spend together and then at the end we curate an exhibition and they can see and take pride in what they’ve produced.’

Tara seems to have found a path that not only enriches her own life, but the lives of those she touches through her work – long may it continue. w

Meet Tara during Helfa Gelf at her studio, 46 Park Street, Denbigh, LL16 3DD, open Saturday September 3rd, 10th and 17th 11am – 5pm, Sundays 4th, 11th and 18th 11am – 5pm and Friday 16th 11am – 5pm & 7pm – 9pm.

01745 812465 |