Sarah Cotterill meets the Leeds printmaker inspiring us to love our imperfections

The Japanese art of Kintsugi treasures asymmetry. Traditionally, broken fragments of pottery and ceramics are joined at the seams with a shining gold pigment, highlighting each vinelike crease and crack. However, the ancient philosophy which underpins the practice extends beyond the practical. Kintsugi  teaches us to embrace our flaws, our fractured relationships, to find healing in reunion, to value everything we have with strength and gratitude.

Of course, reducing waste by reusing and repairing is key to living a sustainable lifestyle, something Sophie Greenwood was conscious of as a small business owner trying out new concepts in her home studio. “The pandemic was a real wake up call for me…I spent a lot of time experimenting with art and crafts - which led to a lot of mistakes! In September 2020 I reached out to several other makers to see if they wanted to sell their seconds and end of line stock, and that's when Super Seconds Festival was born!”

Most makers are perfectionists - so the things you'll be buying are often in great condition

Now, twice a year, you can get your hands on some beautiful pieces of handmade jewellery, homeware, illustrations and more, from some of the UK’s most talented designers, at a serious discount. As the sacred art of Kintsugi bestows, each piece is perfectly imperfect. A dent here or a splodge there. As unique as each lucky individual receiving them.

But, as Sophie points out, it’s not only the happy owners of these exclusive items that benefit. “I'm told it's such an important event for the two-hundred and fifty makers who take part each time, as it gives them an opportunity to save on waste, clear some room, and make some money to put into new collections.”

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Founder of both Ink and Bear and Super Seconds Festival, Sophie Greenwood Image: R J Heald

It’s evident that Sophie, who studied Business Management at Leeds Beckett, has discovered a gap in the market, with the Festival growing exponentially since it’s early days as a simple hashtag on Instagram. #SuperSecondsSaturday was planned in just three weeks. Thankfully Sophie knows a thing or two about working under pressure, as the former Head of Operations for Ahead Partnership; a social enterprise based in the city centre, dedicated to raising the aspirations of young people through skills and employability programmes.

Ink and Bear started as a side hustle, a stress reliever from busy corporate life. “My days were filled with workforce planning, pricing, financial projections, quality assurance and lots of spreadsheets!” Sophie recalls. “However, I loved running my own business more! After having my son in May 2021, I knew something had to change, and there was only so much time available. That's when I took the leap to work full time for myself.”

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Sophie in the process of printmaking Image: Paul Joseph

Sophie’s love for all things creative began at an early age, growing up in the artistic haven of Hull during the 1990’s. Regular trips to galleries and exhibitions in London inspired an optional printmaking module, followed by a night course at Leeds City College, where the smells and sensation of the inks reeled her in. “I now teach screen printing and lino printing through my pop-up workshops across Yorkshire and I love seeing people's excitement when they create their own series of prints for the first time, ” Sophie adds.

Keen to pass on her knowledge to others in her position, Sophie has now launched The Creative Incubator, a planning and strategy service for other start-up businesses. Alongside a series of creative meetups to support local freelancers, she too has ambitions of opening up Super Seconds Festival to younger makers through mentoring and education, in collaboration with Abilu Creations.

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A vase from Brimble Studio Image: Joanna B

The next Super Seconds Festival will be held on the 7th and 8th October. And when it comes to shopping, it's fastest finger first. Sophie suggests getting online early to snap up your favourites. The ceramics in particular are highly coveted. One Potter recently sold three-hundred pieces in under ten minutes.

“Most makers are perfectionists - so the things you'll be buying are often in great condition…It's the perfect time to stock up on gifts,” Sophie encourages. Chances are, your friends and family won’t even notice any blemishes, invisible to the untrained eye. And if they do, you can simply say…it’s Kintsugi darling.

Don’t miss the next Super Seconds Festival coming up in October:


Follow Sophie’s Printmaking @inkandbear & @thecreativeincubator for small business support:

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