maven46 meets: Jill & Gill

The screen-printing pair behind the upcoming Iris Apfel exhibition

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Words by Michelle Hanley
March 28th, 2017

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Photo by Ruth Guest

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Just over a year on from their formation and this creative pair of screen-printers are planning their first exhibition, having taken inspiration from one of fashion’s most colourful and inventive icons, Iris Apfel. Illustrator Jill Deering and printmaker Gillian Henderson talk to us about their upcoming exhibition, the print-making process and their partnership…

On how to they got started…

We met back in 2015 when Jill wanted to explore her work in a screen printed medium for her second solo show and got in touch with Gill who screen prints for artists, designers, and brands all the time. From the first illustration, we both knew there was something more here for both of us. Then this time last year we got to work together on a commission from Tall Boy Designs for our first limited edition Jill & Gill print, Bosco. Things have just rolled from there and we haven’t looked back since and thankfully, we’re too busy to.

On the time-consuming process…

Our process is always sketch-to-screen. We throw ideas back and forth, but there’s always one idea that sticks with us and keeps us up all night. From there, Jill develops the sketch/illustration which we get scanned. Gill then uses the scan to develop a series of vector files on Illustrator and these eventually become the coloured layers in the screen print. All files including the scanned artwork are then outputted as positives/stencils onto acetate and burned into fine mesh screens. This is when the fun starts! Each layer of the print is lined up by eye and printed by hand. We mix all our own inks, creating our sought-after shades and tones. That’s the great thing about printing for yourself, you only need to achieve the colours you imagine. Once all layers are printed, we edition and sign each print. Depending on the edition, the whole process can take anywhere between three to 15 days. We sometimes find that when people see our prints, they don’t fully understand the amount of time and work that goes into each piece, but when we explain how it’s all done, people suddenly take on a new appreciation of the work.

screen-printing-Iris-Apfel-Maven46
screen-printing-Iris-Apfel-Maven46

On their inspiration and style…

Our eyes are open all the time! We love designer collaborations like Kenzo and Jeremy Scott or Irish designers that are closer to home such as The Project Twins. Fashion has started to become a huge part of our influences; our Iris print is just the start! We really admire Arran St East and how they have combined the studio and shop, giving the general public a taste of the process. This is so important for us and it’s where we see Jill & Gill in the years to come; a space where we can interact with the general public while we work would be amazing, not only being able to buy a limited edition piece but experience the process of Jill illustrating and Gill screen printing in-house would just add so much more merit to our work. Further afield, TIND is an amazing collective of screen printers founded in Athens back in the ’70s. They eat, sleep and speak screen-printing, coming at everything they print with such a passion. Just browsing through their work sparks ideas in us.

Jill has a distinct style of drawing and Gill a particular way of printing, together we are still growing as a creative duo. We don’t know if we have a very distinct style, yet. The way we work we suppose gives us a distinct style, we like negative space and are very controlled with our approach to our prints, but with our new collection, we’ve started to explore these aspects of our ‘style’ where we’ve pushed ourselves to play around with the composition of each piece. We do hope that down the line people will recognise our work without the need for signatures or names.

On their partnership…

We’re Geminis, born on the same day to be exact! So, we work really well together – our creative flow is never ending, that’s why we end up working 14 hour days until the early hours of the morning. Our weakness is that we’re not doing this full-time just yet. We both have other jobs – Gill is still part-time in Hang Tough Framing and runs Oh My Days where she works with other designers and brands screen printing commercially, and Jill is touring with James Vincent McMorrow, so we spend most of our time online, emailing and WhatsApp-ing, doing as much as we can when we’re both free.

screen-printing-Iris-Apfel-Maven46
screen-printing-Iris-Apfel-Maven46

On their latest muse…

The portraits of Iris Apfel embody her colourful style and sophistication, with a playful sense of humour to match. Each layer of the image screen-printed in a multitude of finishes and hand embellishments, informed by her eclectic permutations of designer clothing and exotic accessories. Not only is she an inspiration for her style but also for her ability to put a whole outfit together with sheer boldness and make it totally work. Iris is her own creative soul, she is completely unique and is still so passionate about what she does at age 96! She’s more than an inspiration to us, she’s a total hero. We hope to still be kicking in our 90s, making art for the world to see!

On the exhibition and the future…

We are about to have our first solo exhibition to date. It’s the biggest challenge we’ve set ourselves as screen printers – each print contains at least 15-20 layers of colour, different patterns and the only thing that has continuity in every print is the Iris illustration. We are going against the grain of screen printing – instead of it being an edition of 25, it will be a collection of 25. Each print is completely bespoke, no two are the same. We’ve also set our sights on hopefully working within the fashion industry in the coming year. This is a big goal of ours so kicking things off with a print of the fashion icon herself is a step in the right direction.

Exhibition Dates: 29th March 2017 – 2nd April 2017 at The Fumbally Exchange, 5 Dame Lane

Exhibition Launch: Wed, 29th March at 7 pm

The prints will be available to purchase at the exhibition or on www.jillandgill.com.