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This is my office: Sean Mort

For our next instalment of “This is my office”, we sit down with printmaker and one half of Northern Craft, Sean Mort, to discuss the evolution of his home studio, travelling to shows and adult responsibilities.

We’re greeted at Sean’s house by Chip, a furry bundle of energy and recent addition to the Mort residence. Calming Chip down, Sean explains his son, Henry is out having jabs and he’s fitting in screen printing while he has the house to himself. Within those first ten minutes, it’s clear that Sean is a busy guy.


“It’s all adult things that you don’t think about when you’re starting out,” says Sean. It’s not bad when there’s just me in the house but now there’s the dog, my wife and son, it makes it a bit harder.”


Mixing minimalism with humour, Sean tries to add character and playfulness into a genre which can sometimes be accused of being too straight laced.


“I find that minimalist prints are often devoid of humour and it’s usually quite straight and down the line,” he explains. “I take all the rules and all the geometry of what I do and try and make something a little more fun… I like to think that mine has a bit of a personality.” 


Sean Mort, Awesome Merch, Northern Craft, print, printmaking, This is my office

It was seven years ago at a Co-op studio in America, Sean first caught the printmaking bug however, as for a lot of printmakers, when he moved back to the UK Sean’s impressive operation had to fit into whatever bit of spare room he had.


“The last house I lived in, I printed in my basement, so everything was damp,” he recollects.“I couldn’t keep my paper down there. Your paper is supposed to stay in the same place where you print because a change in your environment can warp the paper.


“I would leave my paper upstairs, then go down to the basement, print it, and then by the time it had dried the paper would bend. It was a nightmare. I had two dehumidifiers down there just to try and suck it out. It wasn’t ideal.


Fast forward to the new house, and Sean’s studio is already in it’s second location, kicked out of it’s light, bright room with the arrival of son Henry. His racks, inks, screen bed and vacuum (a clever hack for keeping the paper still) now residing in the smaller room next door.


However, don’t let the stories of printing in the basement fool you, Sean’s printmaking career has it’s glamorous side too. Travelling to many print and craft fairs, his work has taken him across the globe, from Hamburg to Barcelona, San Francisco to Austin Texas.


Sean Mort, Print, Screen print, Awesome Merchandise, This is my office

“The first one I went to abroad was in Hamburg. I thought ‘Oh well, we’ll go and it will be a bit of a holiday and it will be nice.’ The next was the South by Southwest. There’s a big difference on spending £300 going to Hamburg and £1000 going to Texas. I got help with that, I got a grant from the government, which made it easier at first and because the show went well, I decided I would go again the next year.”


Making money from shows abroad is all about being clever and keeping costs down. Sean describes his experiences stay with friends and other exhibitors, utilising every inch of baggage space he has for your merch and getting used to washing and reusing a limited wardrobe. However, making money from your prints overseas isn’t as hard as you might think.


“The money that can be made over there is way more than you can make here.  You’ve got to get your work to the biggest audience possible and that audience is over in America.  It’s also about finding the right audience, i’m lucky that my prints have a very general audience. It’s not very niche.”


And when you’ve travelled all that way, it’s important to make sure people can find you.


“I’m from a million miles away, people aren’t going to just find me. I always have plastic bags and tubes for my posters with stickers on the front of them. It’s good to take business cards, but they’re a bit bulky when travelling long distances. I spend a couple of nights before I go putting stickers with all my info on them on the bags. It’s also a good bit of promotion while you’re there if people are walking around with your sticker on their bag.”


Sean Mort, Awesome Merchandise,

With a host of international shows under his belt, and organising the ever expanding Northern Craft fairs in Leeds, we couldn’t leave without picking his brains and getting his advice for anyone hoping to climb the stall holder ranks. His answer, in simple terms; Manage your time!


“It’s a time thing. Doing a two day show doesn’t take two days, it takes a week and a half because you have three days before sorting it out then three days after dealing with the bomb site. Even with the printing process, something will always go wrong and it’s about having a backup plan and leaving yourself the time to do it.  Always account for something going wrong.”


See more of Sean’s work and keep up to date with what he’s been up to here.

Northern Ink, Awesome Merchandise, Northern Craft, Leeds, Leeds Tattoo Expo
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