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How Kate Thornton Uses Maps to Create Her Unique Art Prints

Kate Thornton
February 2024
Reading time 5 Minutes

Huddersfield-based artist Kate Thornton's pretty prints are inspired by nature

Here's why she thinks Yorkshire is the best place to create them and how you can win your own.

Kate was surrounded by art as she grew up. ‘My mum and dad were both interested in art and design,’ she says. ‘My mum went to art school and my dad was an architect so there was never a shortage of pictures, books and magazines, but more importantly, plentiful supplies of pencils and large sheets of paper.’ Kate has carried this on with her own daughter, making sure she has easy access to lots of materials. ‘It seems to be working as she loves drawing,’ she continues. ‘I’m very grateful to have been encouraged to pursue a creative career, but I never would have envisaged that I’d have my own business one day.’

Kate lives with her husband and daughter in a village near Huddersfield. They have a big garden where they grow flowers and veg and have a view out to fields. ‘I grew up around here and moved back over 12 years ago after living away,’ she explains. ‘I studied Fine Art at university, which is where I met my husband, but it took a while to come back around to making art.’

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Sheffield Hare Circular Print Sheffield Hare Circular Print

Kate started her business in 2009 and hasn’t looked back. ‘I’ve always been someone who enjoys the outdoors,’ she says. ‘I was dragged up mountains as a kid and feel most at home surrounded by big hills and damp weather. When I’m not designing or working on my business I like to get out for walks and do a bit of birdwatching. I’ve also been teaching myself to sew which I love as it’s so absorbing. And most recently I’ve returned to climbing after 20 years, which I’m very excited about.’

With a focus on sustainability, Kate creates her artwork from a studio space within an historic textile mill in Huddersfield. She describes her work as ‘a combination of paper cutting, printmaking and digital processes’.

‘I also love to create repeating patterns and banks of handmade materials that I can incorporate into my work,’ she says. Many of her pieces feature a map silhouette of local areas. ‘Sometimes I try to make messy art but it never turns out that way,’ she reveals. ‘I think I have quite a strong aesthetic which leans towards a clean graphic style – composition and colour are very important. I do however pull in surfaces, textures and patterns with the materials I collage together. Collage and paper cutting are the roots of my designs and the use of vintage maps has created the distinctive style people know me for.’

With a young child to care for, Kate admits her day usually starts early, and a bit rushed. ‘I do the school run and then go straight to the studio,’ she tells us. ‘I design a lot for independent shops and galleries so on a dispatch week I’m packing orders. Exciting days are spent working on new collections or pattern designs. I also do a lot of bespoke prints for customers ordering through my website and I enjoy making these special prints. It’s been great to have that connection with people since I opened my online shop in 2020. Earlier this year I moved things around. I now have my computer on a high desk so I stand instead of sit and I feel so much better for it. I do make sure I take a break to sit down to eat my lunch though and listen to a well-known BBC Radio 4 soap (I won’t say the name because I’ll lose my street cred). It’s the only routine I have in the day and distracts me from everything for half an hour so I’ll stick with it.’

It’s clear from Kate’s work that much of her inspiration comes from her surroundings. ‘All sorts of things filter into my mind both consciously and subconsciously, anything from the light and shadows in a landscape, the colour of a leaf, the shape of a tree or plant but also the outlines of buildings and the layers within a particular vista,’ she says. ‘I’m most drawn to the strong silhouettes of our native species and these are often the starting point for an idea. Birds are my first love – I love their visibility and accessibility but also conversely, their allusiveness. Anyone can start birdwatching, it’s a great way to connect with outdoor spaces and they are an important indicator of the health of the environment.’

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It seems Kate is never going to lack inspiration. ’I think the best thing for me about living in this area is the number of footpaths and beautiful walks we have in different types of landscapes. I could probably do a different walk every day of my life and still not have exhausted all the possibilities. One of my favourites is around Holme Styes Reservoir, particularly the hidden beech forest and especially in autumn after rain – the contrast of the damp black trunks against the orange leaves is pretty magical.’

Working for yourself and by yourself has its challenges. ‘But sometimes I pinch myself at how lucky I am to have a creative space in which I’m free to make whatever I want and share it with other people,’ Kate reflects. ‘I get to visually communicate what I love, what I care about and hopefully in turn, encourage others to care more about too. Oh, and I can dance badly around the studio to loud music and listen to strange podcasts!’

Left to right: Bespoke Fox A3 Print | Squirrel Card Square | Bempton Gannets Circular Print Left to right: Bespoke Fox A3 Print | Squirrel Card Square | Bempton Gannets Circular Print
‘I get to visually communicate what I love, what I care about and hopefully in turn, encourage others to care more about too’

She’s just received some Riso prints which have taken a long time to design and figure out. ‘It’s a completely new process for me so it was refreshing to discover what I can do with this method of printing, which uses layers of colours and different opacities,’ she says. ‘I’m very pleased with how they have come out. They are called An Ever Changing View and are inspired by the view from Anglesey over to the mountains of Snowdonia.’

You can find Kate’s art within the likes of Nora’s in Ilkley, Hawksbys in Haworth, Mostyn in Llandudno and the Millennium Galleries in Sheffield. ‘I’m so pleased to still be working with some retailers who have been with me from the very start,’ she says. ‘I also sell through a number of the National Park shops and many other shops and galleries around the country.’

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Being in Yorkshire means Kate continues to be surrounded by art. ‘My village is only 20 minutes away from The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, a place I have been going to for as long as I can remember, and it’s where we got married so it’s very special,’ she continues. ‘My daughter loves going there now so it’s a regular outing. These places have gained such a great reputation nationally that they have made this area a destination for people wanting to see art, especially sculpture. On a more local level, the area in which I live is full of artists and makers, it blows me away sometimes how many of us there are and it is a really supportive community. There’s always something to go and see and we’re also brilliantly positioned to visit the galleries of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, something I want to do more of in 2024.’

Kate is busy preparing for her first trade show in spring with new photography and brochures, and she’s hoping to start work on a portfolio of pattern designs. ‘I’d love to work on some more Riso prints,’ she concludes. ‘I’m also going to create some card-making kits for adults. I plan to get out of the studio to see more exhibitions for inspiration. On a personal level, I want to do lots more climbing and hopefully a bit more birdwatching too!’

See more of Kate’s art at

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