Dena O’Brien

Dena is a freelance printmaker, art tutor, and founder of Kiwi Print Studio. She gained a Masters in Printmaking at The Royal College of Arts and has practised in Cornwall ever since. She takes inspiration from her natural surroundings of animals, plants, the sea, shapes, Cornwalls little villages such as Newlyn and its beautiful clusters of houses and colours.

Dena delivers a number of workshops for the community, local schools, practising artists and printmakers from her studio and in collaboration with Salt projects… To find out more about future events go to Links (Kiwi / Salt).

Future Events

What is your earliest memory of wanting to create? 

As a child I loved fuzzy felts, etch a sketch,  spirographs, basically anything tactile, repetitive and creative but mechanical. I was also obsessed with rainbow drops, arcade game graphics, colours and the lights. If I was creating I was happy and in my own little world.

Are there any particular artists or makers you take inspiration from? 

I admire many designers, painters and printmakers for not necessarily their outcomes but the ideas behind their work, the impact their work has on an audience, the processes they use and why they do it. I particularly like to see how creatives grow, for example Atelier Bingo who create colourful, bold, abstract and expressive screen prints. I have followed them for a while now and seen how their ideas have developed with hard work. Then there is Gemma Gunning with her dark and velvety etchings of abandoned spaces which draw you in and give you the sense of being within the spaces. Laura Slater creates prints and interiors and I find her combination of mark making and pattern overlays inventive. Then there is Yayoi Kusama and her magnificent life size installations or colour, reflection, repetition, movement each unique and for me provide a sense of calmness.  I also love architecture, especially 1920s – 1930s art deco of pastel tones and shapes.

If you could choose 3 essential materials or items of equipment to create with, what would they be? 

My scalpel, cutting matt and a sheet of newsprint always.

If you could have a cup of tea and cake with someone who is alive or no longer with us, who might that be? It can be a family member, a celebrity, a creative, anyone. And what would you talk to them about? 

I would love to spend a day with Andy Warhol to observe, assist in his printing and ask him questions about his processes. There is also Alistair McAuley & Paul Simmons of Timorous Beasties and would find it fascinating to experience a day in their studio life to see how their designs translate into wallpapers and fabric.

Is it important for you to be practising in Cornwall? If so, why? 

Not necessarily but Cornwall has been a huge inspiration towards my work and enabled me to appreciate nature, colour and how lucky I am to have such beautiful surroundings to draw from. I draw inspiration from everything and as my mum says I look at things very differently to others. If I am walking I will look at things people may not think to look at such as the hidden boarded up building, front doors as these could tell you about someone’s personality or seeds inside a flower head or a pattern on a wall. If I was in London, Paris or Cornwall I would always observe and draw inspiration from such things. There is so much to see and if we look to stop it can be fascinating and inspiring.