Somerset Studio magazine Review: This is a donation promotion with a digital copy of the magazine being supplied by Stampington & Company. Thoughts listed herein are entirely the authors own opinion based upon using the supplies in practice.
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I have long been a fan of Stampington magazines, including the much missed Take Ten magazines which we still have today. When the opportunity arose to not only be an affiliate partner with them but also to review their latest magazine, I was thrilled! All the thoughts listed below are entirely based on a digital copy of the magazine, but from my previous collection, you can expect a high quality magazine which will last many years as a resource for future inspiration. The quarterly magazine should be available in larger newsagents including larger branches of W H Smith here in the UK. There can still be some delays in shipping though, so do check with your store before making the trip. Alternatively, you can purchase your copy direct from Stampington & Company.
Somerset Studio is their mixed-media focused magazine; with lots of arty projects to fire your synapses. The photography is beautiful with large images sure to inspire; with text widely leaded to aid reading. The magazine is very easy on the eyes; and best enjoyed with your favourite beverage and some restful music on. It’s particularly good if you are struggling with a loss of mojo or the dreaded blank page syndrome.
The magazine starts with an outline of their other magazines and publications; it’s enough to wet your appetite should you wish to explore their range. I’ve even spotted a few titles I didn’t know about, and will have to add to my collection.
Somerset Studio focuses its content on submissions from crafters, artists and their readers. They often place callouts for project briefs for inclusion in future publications. For the beginner crafters, you can use these callouts as prompts to inspire your artwork; but, when you are ready, submit your work as there is nothing like the thrill of seeing your work in print.
This issue is all about “Paper Personas”, so dive in to projects featuring portraits, paper dolls and figurative work.
After this introduction section, we move right into the main content of the magazine. “Special Features”, where you will find projects and technique tutorials. “Departments” is your regular features section including reader art. “In every issue” is exactly what it says, from the Editor’s letter through to the preview of next month’s issue.
Somerset Studio tutorial reviews
Magazine reviews are always tricky as I don’t want to reveal every project; so I have considered very carefully how I wanted to present this review. I’m going to cover the tutorials in a wider sense for skill range, ease of use, etc.; before moving onto reviewing a couple of articles in more depth.
Each project is written by a different author, therefore, you can find the amount of instruction can vary quite widely between articles. For example, the “Spotlight” Encaustic book project “Waxing Poetic” focuses on the core technique of creating the book. This allows the photographs to speak for themselves rather than step-by-step instructions. Meanwhile, in “The Book of Mischievous Tools”, we are treated to the reminiscence of the artist. The images in the meantime showcase many pages from the book with tutoring on how to recreate the project. There is also a Tips section to help you further and a shopping list for supplies.
The projects range from stamping based, to drawing and painting, so you can adapt these to suit your own ability and interests. There is something you can take from each tutorial to help you develop your own technique and practice.
One thing is clear from all of the tutorials: you only get out what you put in. So, when you find something that inspires you, have a go! Watch this space! I will be creating a project based on one of these tutorials. This magazine can seem daunting to a complete beginner, but the more you try the techniques, the more your confidence will increase.
What I love about each of the projects, is the inclusion of the artist’s thought process. With many card and paper craft magazines, its about “do this, do that and ta da!”; with very little coverage given as to the why. While replicating these types of projects can help build your skills, they rarely have the same level of connection that aides a student travel further. It is these touches that takes the tutorial from crafter to artist; making these magazines suitable not only for beginners in mixed-media approaches, but also for practicing artists.
Magazines as supplies: Somerset Studio’s approach
Each of the magazines has papers you can use as well as templates where appropriate for you to create your own versions of the tutorials with. Tearing into these can feel like sacrilege, so I recommend tracing templates using tracing paper; ScanNCut users could even transfer these templates onto your machines for speedy cutting and drawing.
These included papers serve as a taster to the Artists’ Papers you can purchase on the Stampington website. These are great as a starting point, particularly for beginners who may not be confident with drawing and painting yet.
I also recommend visiting the included links to the article artistes as these can often inspire other ways of working their projects. Some even have free downloads you can use as part of your work; please always observe any terms of the downloads though.
Fabric as a mixed-media supply
One of the things I noticed that stood out about this magazine is the amount of fabric in projects. Fabric is often overlooked in mixed media here in the UK beyond the canvas that many of us base our pieces upon. These projects often have touches of fabric from decoration to practical uses such as spines. I will certainly be looking at this in my project as I think its a key approach of the magazine.
In the Artist’s Studio
My favourite feature of the magazine is where we delve into an artist’s practice and space. I find it so inspiring to see the background of other artists; and in this issue, we explore the background of Renee Mueller who, like me, has a background in the performing arts. It is interesting to see how her background and training inspires the art she creates now. I spend very little time creating for me and exploring my own practice consciously; so I can now see how it does that sub-consciously instead. This has focussed me on becoming more conscious in developing my own work.
Making Somerset Studio your own
Another unique feature of this magazine, is the invitation to make it your own. There are sections where you can add technique samples as a reference. This time, focussing on wrinkled paper, and drawing with stencils as well as others placed throughout the book. Some might not enjoy these break pages that may feel like fillers, but they feel like pauses to breathe to me. It is refreshing to see a magazine that is all about content rather than advertising revenues that we see so often in other titles.
It was interesting to see how much reading Somerset Studio changed my mindset and approach. While it is slightly more expensive than UK craft magazines, it is well worth the investment. I now have a new good creative habit to work into my schedule; setting aside time to explore my own practice.
I can highly recommend this magazine title for those who are looking to refocus their creative process. Particularly, if you are looking to expand your creative toolset or go on to study art practice of some variety. Even as a beginner, you can find something in these approaches to get you started; many of the featured artists have blogs and/or social media channels for further support.
Further reading on paper dolls: “Beyond Paper Dolls” by Lynne Perrella