Printmaking - a rekindled passion
I've been expanding my horizons over the past couple of months and rekindled an old passion of mine, for printmaking. Long before I discovered textile art, and still worked at the BBC in London, I enrolled on a printing-making evening class at Camden Arts Centre. I started with screen printing - but at the time you could only use oil-based screen inks which I found really unpleasant to handle, especially when it came to cleaning the screens - although I did like the possibilities the process gave me. I also had a go at etching - which I found a fascinating and really engaging process. It was the combination of learning complex technical skills, being able to use my creativity and the smell and feel of the materials that got me. A friend suggested we found somewhere better equipped to do etching and she, an art graduate, suggested St Martin's School of Art in Southampton Row. Well, as a music graduate, I didn’t realise what a prestigious establishment this was at the time, and agreed to sign up - mainly as it was quite easy to get to from work!
I can’t remember exactly how long I was enrolled there, but looking back at the work I produced, I had time to develop some sophisticated techniques, and some work that I was pleased with. I do remember that our tutor arranged for us to have an exhibition in the college gallery - with a private view and open to the public - my first experience of exhibiting any of my work. I didn’t sell any of my work, but I liked the thrill of it.
Encouraged by a friend, I recently took up the opportunity to enrol on a day-a-week printing class at Parndon Mill in Harlow with Tania Durrant to fill in for someone who couldn’t do the summer term. My plan was to use the 10-week term to re-acquaint myself with some printing skills with a view to combining them with textiles and ceramics. A challenge in a term, but I felt in control and it was just what I needed to do. What I didn’t realise was that the class were planning an exhibition in the Parndon Mill Gallery at the end of June which would involve producing at least one Lino print and a body of work to be framed and exhibited alongside 16 other people’s work! I didn’t feel ready for this - no I couldn’t produce a body of work in such a short space of time - but perhaps I’ll just muddle along and see what happens.
Up until last week, I was still in a similar state of panic - with perhaps two images that I was happy with and a whole load of less-than-satisfactory prints from the term so far that I could quite happily dump in the recycling bin at home. Again, the lure of an exhibition though was too tempting - I would somehow produce some work in time. Well, last week‘s lesson marked a bit of a turning point. I had been producing some miniature dry point landscapes at home - having a play and seeing if I could extend my stitched landscapes into a printed version. I took some first proofs just in black ink and was more than happy with the result. I then thought I’d add a bit of colour - just with some water-soluble watercolour pencils to get an idea of how it could look.
This seemed to add something unexpected to my little prints that I didn’t think I was capable of and excitedly took my little mock-up to class. We worked out a technique for achieving what I wanted and I set about printing some more proofs. What a frustrating few hours! I managed to print the first three coloured backgrounds back-to-front and had very little to show for several hours work. Further printing problems ensued and I started feeling really despondent. With 15 minutes before the end of the class, I had one last attempt, and got some really nice prints. I finally felt like I was getting somewhere and producing images that felt like the ones I'd imagined in my head. Now, I just needed to produce enough prints to frame for the show, which I have just about managed.
The show is just a day away now and all the work has been delivered for hanging. The exhibition runs from Thursday 28th June to Saturday 4th August - for opening times visit the Parndon Mill website - where you can also find details of their Open Studios weekend on the 21st & 22nd July.