Meet the printmaker: Pauline Greuell on printing patterns and finding time for creativity

Pauline Greuell is a printmaker and surface pattern designer who recently turned her hobby into a business.  

Working from her garden studio on the outskirts of Utrecht, Pauline creates patterned fabrics that she transforms into a range of beautiful pouches, cushions and bags using both screen printing and stencil printing techniques. 

I met with her to discuss how she got started, what she loves about her new job, and her advice for others wanting to start their own creative business. 

How did you get into printmaking?

I did a little bit of printmaking on fabric as a teenager using stencils and my interest in printing my own fabrics was revived by Pinterest. When I started using it a few years back I came across so many beautiful hand screen printed fabrics (for example, by Heather Moore of Skinny Laminx, Lotta Jansdotter, and Arounna from Bookhou). That’s when I realised it would be possible to do it myself. 

I took a course at Kapitaal and I was hooked. But due to a lot of practical circumstances it took quite a while before I really started printing. That’s why I started stencil printing again. I discovered a lot of things about the technique that I found way more fascinating than I expected. It’s a lot more spontaneous than screen printing and you can achieve a diverse range of effects with it. But in the end, I did find my way back to screen printing and I set up a table for it at home. I’m now using the techniques side by side. 

I love both techniques, the choice of which to use really depends on my mood and the products I want to make. I will probably start to combine the two more: working with stencils while screen printing or screen printing part of a design adding stencil-printed details.

What made you take the leap and turn your hobby into a business?

Printmaking was just a hobby for me for a really long time, until the beginning of 2019. That’s when I decided to quit my job and do both fabric printing and surface pattern design full time.

I sat behind a desk for so many years, and with an office job you make lots of things that end up in a drawer and don’t go anywhere. But with printing fabrics, it’s something you can hold and touch – I like making something concrete.

I’m always surprised with what comes out, and I think to myself, “where did that come from?”

I love fabric and working with fabric, and the ink on the fabric, and the colours. I’m always surprised with what comes out, and I think to myself, “where did that come from?” – I love that surprise. And I love learning, there are so many chances to learn now – you need to have so many roles running your own business. Being the photographer, making your own website, making your own models – so many things I didn’t know anything about. And I love the diversity, and the pace at which you can work. 

If you’re starting your own business, it’s important to not have too much financial pressure. It doesn’t help with your creativity. I am constantly motivated to do what I do, which doesn’t mean I don’t get nervous or stuck, but it doesn’t feel like pressure. 

How would you describe the style of the work you make, and what influences you? 

Since childhood I’ve always had beautiful fabrics in my home. I love the mid-century designs the most – I love the simplicity. I think you can say that my prints have a Scandinavian, or a Japanese feel.  

I like it when you can’t really see the repeat, when it flows, and it’s irregular. 

Patterns play a central role in my work. I don’t like really linear patterns – I like it when you can’t really see the repeat, when it flows, and it’s irregular. 

The patterns I stencil print onto fabric aren’t prepared on the computer – I hand cut them, then play around with it on pieces of fabric making different kinds of pattern. 

However, for my surface pattern design I work with Adobe Textile Designer, a new plugin for Photoshop, with which you can make patterns as easily as you can with Adobe Illustrator. It makes the life of a pattern designer a lot easier, but still gives you a handmade feel.

What are your favourite tools and supplies for creating your work? 

I use screen printing ink, ‘Tinta’ from Zeebra in Ede for all my printing. It’s a fabulous water-based ink in many varieties both transparent and more opaque that you mix yourself with colour essence. The base pastes stay fresh for a very long time, that way you don’t have to waste anything. And I love the colours that they provide. 

My screen printing set up is really simple. I don’t expose my screens at home, I’ve done that at either Kapitaal or Spant Zeefdruk.

Do you have any practical tips to share about stencil making? 

I recommend starting with lighter layers of colour, and to add the darker layers on top. That makes it less likely you’ll smudge the ink. 

I do get a lot of questions about my technique which is why I wrote some blogs about how I print that you can find on my website

And how about tips for starting your own creative business?

Try to find a way to keep it fun – don’t put any pressure on yourself. 

If you really want to do something, don’t watch television, make things – there’s more time than you think. 

Also, a lot of people think there’s not enough time to start a creative business with their normal schedule, and that they need to have all the time in the world, but I don’t think that’s true. I did a lot before I quit my job. There are so many hours in the day that just disappear, so if you really want to do something, don’t watch television, make things – there’s more time than you think. 

See more on Pauline’s website and follow her printmaking work on Instagram @pauline_greuell_printedfabrics

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