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Maker Spotlight: Trish Johnston

26 Jun 2018 12:10 AM | William Strika (Administrator)

by Christa Gould, Roswell FireLabs, Communications Team.



TRISH JOHNSTON, an artist in bookmaking, painting, and other related mediums, started out making simple hand-drawn and painted greeting cards.

Trish grew up in northwest England and attended the University of Durham. After moving to the United States to study for a Masters in Geography at Indiana University she met another student, Tom Johnston. In June 2018, Trish and Tom celebrate 50 years together! The couple moved to the Atlanta area in 1970 for Tom to pursue his PhD. Tom and Trish found their home in Roswell four years ago.

How did you develop an interest in paper and bookmaking?

Trish recalled that as a child whenever they went anywhere, her Mom gave her paper and pencil to keep her hands occupied. That’s her earliest connection with art. Later in high school her teacher was dismayed to learn that she didn’t plan to pursue a degree in art. And then moving on to the time where she had her geography degree in hand, she says “I couldn’t live on geography either.” So, she learned graphics and editing/writing on the computer and had a career in nonprofit promotion and fund raising.


Her creative self was put on the shelf for about 20 years for work and motherhood. At age 40 she started again, making greeting cards. Next, she expanded by using bought and handmade rubber stamps. She learned that she could also alter and enhance the images with computer graphics programs. “There was lots of experimentation, and there still is,” Trish says.

Along Trish’s creative journey, she met book artists. “They were very imaginative. They made everything .. the cover, the paper, even the thread that sewed it together.” Trish especially loves the works of Brian Dettmer, a book artist living in Atlanta. “He is noted for his alteration of preexisting media—such as old books, maps, record albums, and cassette tapes—to create new, transformed works of visual fine art.”


Trish says, “the standard method of making a book involves case binding.” A case bound book is constructed using a hard outside “case” in contrast to the internal papers. “I like stretching that model – blurring the lines to create something more imaginative. It’s a book .. it’s art .. it’s both!”

Trish has also produced frameable art. She uses acrylics and water-soluble colored pencils. Monoprinting (Gelliplate©) is another medium Trish explores. She applies colors to the plate and then uses various tools to create an image or texture to her work. She also enjoys collage.

Where do you get inspiration for your work?

“I am largely self-taught, although I did learn how to make books with two week-long intensive classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown NC.” ( Trish especially browses online for ideas on technique. She specifically mentioned a YouTube channel by Jane Davies in Vermont. She says, “I’m not stuck on one style. And even if I don’t like the art produced by a particular artist, I still learn something.”

Trish laments that there is no book arts group in the Atlanta area.

What is your favorite subject matter?

“I am spoiled for choice. But I particularly love heritage and memory. Near where I grew up in the UK, here are miles of beautiful stone walls in the countryside. There’s a piece I produced based on a particular stone wall in Yorkshire, made with stones retrieved from a monastery destroyed by Henry VIII, and some of the stones retain the original religious carvings”

Says Trish, “But I like to mix it up. For a recent art show called Joys of the Seasons, I produced a painting of two English robins with a green watering can. I like wildlife and scenery– plowed fields in spring, or blossoming plants, birds and butterflies. My latest work, in water-soluble colored pencils, is of the dormant Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii at sunrise.”

What advice do you have for someone who wants to begin their artistic journey?

“Make time every day to put pencil or paintbrush on paper. Think visually and creatively. You’ll find it has a very positive effect on your well-being.”

What interests you about Roswell Fire Labs.

“I already have a studio at home and access to space at Roswell Fine Arts Alliance on Fouts Road. Now, I would like to teach. I am scheduled to do a 1-day class on the art of making a Japanese-style sketch book, and I would like more opportunities to share my creative passions.”

Trish says she’s “thrilled beyond belief” that the city of Roswell is allowing the makerspace. “Too often things are torn down and thrown out. Repurposing the building and bringing people together for art and innovation makes good things happen and nurtures the creative community in Roswell.”


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Roswell FireLabs
1601 Holcomb Bridge Rd

Roswell, GA 30076

Roswell FireLabs is managed by Atlanta Maker Alliance, Inc., a local 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

By participating in any activities at the Roswell Firelabs, you acknowledge the following terms:

  1. I am aware and understand that some activities conducted at Roswell Firelabs are inherently dangerous and involve risk of injury, death, or property damage. 
  2. I acknowledge that I am voluntarily participating in the activities and/or facilities operated by the organization, and agree to accept all risks. 
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