Heidi Plant, printmaker, lives with her artist partner, Emrys and two young children in a terrace close to Whitstable harbour in Kent
“I know its going to work out now, I am going to make a living, it may be a pretty decent one”
I first saw Heidi Plant on BBC Two’s The Culture Show. They were doing a piece on the selection procedure for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. It’s presenter Andrew Graham-Dixon, tried to pick out some winners. He took a punt on Heidi.
“We took two paintings up on the train to the Academy, we made it a bit of a day out, Emrys wore his plus fours and I wore my silver skirt and Vivien Westwood shoes. There was a queue of about hundred people round the back, we were so excited just to put the pictures in, it was just good to see behind the scenes. I liked the fact that it was for everybody, you get to exhibit in the same show as David Hockney and Tracey Emin. I thought I had a fifty-fifty chance .
It was like doing the lucky dip, it cost a £25 application fee for each picture, £150 for the framing and then our train fares. I never expected to get so much out of it in a million years”
It was a break though, not only was her 52 Bunker diptych accepted by the Academy which in itself made sales, but so did The Culture Show programme itself.
“There was an amazing response to the programme. I had been busy working on my installation piece for the Whitstable Biennale, we had gone to my sister’s to watch it, as we don’t have a telly, and when I got home, I thought I would just check my emails and it was just sale, sale, sale ! Emrys had only just set up my web site to take PayPal sales before the programme.
I made about £3000 from the programme, one buyer bought every print on the site. I suppose the endorsement of Andrew Graham-Dixon and the Royal Academy made people confident to buy.”
I sold eleven prints of 52 Bunker at the RA. I put my prices up for them to £350 unframed and £450 framed. The RA is so old-fashioned they send you a slip with just the phone number and address of the buyer, they won’t give you the email address and you are expected to write to the buyer asking for a cheque or bank transfer.”
The 52 Bunker prints with their air of suspended reality are part of a larger collection about childhood creativity which can be seen on Heidi’s website
The diptych originates from her drawings of Nepalese children at a local school where she was doing temporary work. The mysterious title is the name of a chase game the children play.
Heidi’s career looks pretty set, she can see where she is going
“I have found what I want to do, I can do it too and its all a lot less scary than getting a job.”
Finding the way to go, took time, she did a four-year Decorative Art course at Nottingham Trent University and then set up as a jewellery maker. Before she launched she did work experience at the über on-trend jeweller Tatty Devine, a course of jewellery making at Central Saint Martins and a business course.
“It was right at the beginning of the recycling fetish and I was interested in making sculpture that could be worn. I would seek out shops to stock it and if they said no I would be spurred on to prove them wrong.
I made hardly anything out of it , about £4000 a year. I got bogged down as I couldn’t make enough to make a living so I was doing other things. I worked in a clothing shop, did bar work and looking after boarders at a school. Most of my time was spent on the mechanics of the business rather than creating. Harvey Nichols then expressed an interest and I realised I would have to out-source the making and the whole enterprise was getting away from me.
I took time off to have my first child which gave me the distance to see that jewellery wasn’t what I wanted to do, I missed drawing.”
Heidi decided that she wanted to produce a series of prints around children’s creativity,
I like repetition, I like edition numbers and blocks of colour, it suited the aesthetic I was after. I learnt to print from Emrys, he is very good at being very, very exact. It seemed a huge project to be embarking on and I broke it down to tasks, hour by hour, a gigantic schedule, which I kept to
Justifying the Unjustifiable
To make time to develop her new direction Heidi needed to send her children to nursery.
My parents always encouraged me and the children they fostered, to go after your dream and not to worry about money, Emrys was encouraging too, so I went for it.
Its easier now that I know things are working.”
Working on Now
Heidi is at work on drawing buildings with connections to her which will be the basis for a new print series. Above is her great grandfather’s house and below is her parents’ temporary home while they build their new house.
After this second print series she hopes to move into oils .— Hours worked 3 days a week — Income this year £7000 —
Why has it worked out?
Heidi clearly has talent, but there are plenty of talented people for whom things don’t work out. She is very focused and organised. She puts things in order and then goes for them. She makes a decision, then tries. If it leads somewhere she doesn’t want to be, as the jewellery did, she rethinks and sets off again. She keeps her hopes in check so she doesn’t lose heart and she is definitely in it for the long-term. Redefining her goals as she goes.
She is fortunate to live with a fellow artist, she gains technical help and someone to talk ideas through with. She also learns from the ups and downs of his career.
Living simply comes naturally to her, her pleasure comes from her creativity which seeps into even the most mundane corners of her life. Right down to replacing the plug chain in the hand basin.
She is capable of taking risks, you have to allow luck in. Trying for The Royal Academy Exhibition when she believed she only had a fifty-fifty chance of acceptance was brave, as was agreeing to be featured on The Culture Show.
But at a different level, putting her children in nursery so she could draw, shows real bravery, a willingness to accept criticism as a mother, in the hope that it would work out. That shows a real belief in her own talent which any successful artist has to have.