Rachel Busch obit

Printmaker and “quietly involved” member of the Chiswick community

Chiswick’s artists’ community is mourning printmaker Rachel Busch, who died on 29 November.

Rachel (60) was a member of Artists At Home, opening her home to the public every summer to sell her work with fellow printmaker Lucy Strathon. She also took part in The Chiswick Calendar’s Chiswick In Pictures exhibitions at the Clayton Hotel.

Rachel was a member of the Printmakers Council. Her work Voysey’s Curves has been selected for the Council’s archive, held by The Scarborough Museum Trust, one of a series of prints she made of Voysey House in Chiswick, picking up on architectural details.

“I find inspiration from the beautiful buildings that surround me” she wrote.

“Some of these buildings are so well known and used, yet very often, overlooked. I wanted to stop, appreciate them properly, get to know every curve, brick, nook and cranny and try to impress that feeling of architectural awe into every print I make.”

Images above: Rachel’s prints of Voysey House in Chiswick 

Focus on west London’s architecture and industrial heritage

She shared an interest in railways and Britain’s industrial heritage with her partner Howard Heather, who met the annual invasion of their home during Artists At Home weekend with equanimity. Among her prints there were many of tube and rail stations and close-ups of the detail of historic engineering.

She started each of her architectural projects by visiting, sketching and photographing a chosen building or scene at different times of the day and night, later developing it back in the studio.

A sketch became a detailed drawing which she then transferred onto lino or cardboard, before starting the lengthy process of cutting, inking, wiping and masking the ‘block’. She burnished each print by hand with a wooden spoon or Japanese baren, to create one unique print at a time – “made with lots of care, dedication, patience and joy!”

Images above: Industrial architecture by Rachel Busch: Chiswick Park tube station, Kew Railway Bridge, detail of Hammersmith Bridge

Selected by the Royal Academy

Her most recent prints were a series of black and white images of the Palm House at Kew Gardens, which were on show as part of The Chiswick Calendar’s Chiswick In Pictures exhibition until a few days before she died.

Rachel’s background is as an illustrator. After graduating from Maidstone College of Art with a BA(Hons) in Illustration she worked as a freelancer in editorial publishing for over twenty-five years.

Looking for a change in artistic direction, Rachel discovered The Fry Gallery in Saffron Walden and was inspired by the work of the ‘Artists of Great Bardfield’, in particular Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious and Sheila Robinson. Having always been fascinated by the craft of printmaking, she decided to enrol in a short course at The Curwen Print Study Centre near Cambridge and never looked back.

Her work was recognised by the Royal Academy, who selected one of her pieces for their Summer Exhibition in 2018 and shortlisted others in 2019 and 2020. Pieces of her work can be found in many private collections (including mine, if you can call it that), but also at the Department of Health and the headquarters of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and in several books published by BBC Books.

Images above: The Palm House at Kew Gardens by Rachel Busch

“She always had time for people”

Rachel was lovely to work with, always very appreciative of anything I did to promote her work. She had a mischievous sense of humour and was always ready with a kind word and a cup of tea if I called round.

Fellow artist Arabella Harcourt-Cooze told The Chiswick Calendar:

“She was one of the sweetest, most lovely human beings – incredibly loyal, utterly honest and an extraordinarily dedicated, talented artist.”

Lucy Strathon told us:

“She had a great sense of humour, a sparkle about her and she always had time for people.”

Images above: Addison Grove Gable; Bedford Park

Sally Grumbridge, a fellow artist and a neighbour, living across the road from her in Cleveland Avenue for more than ten years, said Rachel was also “quietly involved” in the local community.

“At the beginning of the first lockdown we set up a street WhatsApp group linked to the Chiswick Covid-19 Mutual Aid Facebook group. It was clear that some of our neighbours were not comfortable with social media so, whilst I administered all the online and social media communications, Rachel set up a list of the neighbours who preferred communicating by phone or email.

“We worked closely together during that first year of Covid, making sure that all our neighbours had the latest updates and could call on someone close by if they needed help / shopping / whatever.”

Howard, her partner, who knew her for more than 30 years, told me she was kind, gentle and supportive:

“She took my rough edges off.”

Rachel died of cancer only a month after it was diagnosed. She leaves her mother Maggie behind and three siblings: Anita, Nigel and Sally. Her funeral will be on 5 January at Barton Woodland in Cambridgeshire.

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