As part of his series, "These Hands", Joshua Atkins is celebrating the diversity and talent of makers and artists in Medway. So far his list of the photographed include; painter, distiller, musician, artisan, photographer and now me, printer.
I think I could get used to my celebrity status. People waving and calling out my name wherever I go, constantly being fussed over, repeatedly being asked if there's anything that I need...
No, I'm not dreaming, I'm just over half way through my time with the children and staff at Saxon Way Primary School. Over the past couple of days 300 children aged 5-11 have joined me to screen print their own t-shirts for this year's Griffin Arts Festival (GAF) and judging by the response they've really enjoyed it.
As a Griffin Trust school, every summer, two glorious weeks are dedicated to art and it's become a bit of a tradition that all the children print their own t-shirts to wear during the festival's finale when friends and family are invited to the closing showcase event to see all that the children have created.
A couple of weeks before the printing extravaganza I met up with Raydene Dunne, Early Years Team Leader, to find out more about GAF. The theme for this year's festival is 'Protest: Our voices in the world'. The children were particularly keen to raise the issue of plastic pollution, especially in our oceans and so I was looking forward to seeing how their designs would reflect this.
Raydene explained that although the festival takes place over 2 weeks she is keen to make art an important and everyday celebration within school life. The children are reminded of this daily since each class is named after an artist and the first term was spent exploring their work and creativity.
I left Raydene with some homework (finally getting my own back on those pesky teachers), sample t-shirts and stencil templates that would help explain to the pupils what they needed to do before my arrival.
So on a perfect summer's morning in June I was shown into the main hall of Saxon Way Primary school to set up the print station. Breakfast club was just finishing and lots of eager eyes were on me. All the children had been involved in designing their t-shirts and were excited to come over and see how it was done. With the first few workshops under my belt it was clear that the staff and pupils had done their homework. Each class entered the main hall armed with their t-shirts and stencils. With colours chosen and squeegees at the ready the children got down to the business of printing their own t-shirts.
As school was dismissed for the day the Caretaker and an army of teachers arrived in the main hall. I had prepared a number of screens with the GAF logo and we now had the task of printing onto the backs of the t-shirts. We quickly got a conveyer type scenario going - myself and another teacher printing, two teachers bringing the t-shirts to us, two taking them away, a number of teachers and the Caretaker hanging them up under the watchful eye of Raydene. It never fails to amaze me how teachers can, within seconds, analyse a situation, work out a plan, explain the process and then work as a team to get the job done. I am in awe of these ladies and gentlemen.
So with the t-shirts printed front and back, they were hung up, stretching the length and breadth of the main hall like oversized bunting. It looked amazing! Such a fantastic achievement by staff and pupils - 300 t-shirts, designed and printed in just two days. Packing up my kit and waving goodbye I'm reminded how grateful I am to have been included in such a special part of the children's festival.
You can see more photos of me and the children on Saxon Way School's Twitter page.
i-printed-that's fifth anniversary passed relatively quietly. I few glasses of fizz shared with my hubby, a little pat on the back and a moment of reflection.
When I look back to the beginning of 2013, my only plan was to run children's t-shirt printing workshops during the school holidays. That was it. I remember my first official day. I'd booked a local village hall for the day and planned four back-to-back workshops, with a total of 40 children printing their own t-shirts. It was going to be brilliant. Armed with some very expensive leaflets I visited all the schools in the area and they agreed to send them home to the parents. I'd run school holiday workshops for friends and family so I knew how much children loved the workshops, it was great value for money and it was something different that wasn't happening anywhere else locally. Parents would be banging down the doors to book their children on.
Except they weren't.
The four exciting workshops I had planned became two, well one and a half. The second workshop had three children on it; two were my nephews and one was a child from the local school who I had delivered leaflets to. I was heart broken. All that planning, all that hard work, all that expectation and to top it off I made about £2.50(!). Oh yeah, and I was exhausted.
But I was also determined. I knew I had a great product, I knew that the skills I was sharing with the children were bringing them confidence and they loved it too. I knew I had to carry on, so I did.
Well, that was five years ago and this printmaking lark has taken me down some unexpected avenues and I've met so many amazing, talented and helpful people. Who would have thought that I'd run printing sessions at staff training and team building days, hold courses at museums, provide entertainment at festivals and events, host hen parties and work on large scale school projects. Yep, we've come a long way, baby.
Think Arts & Crafts interiors and you think William Morris. The ever loved prints of willow leaves, honeysuckle twisting through trellises and plump pomegranates. A fine example of one such interior is the National Trust property of Standen House in Sussex. And so what better place to attend a linocut workshop exploring pattern and print a sample of wallpaper.
Led by Peter Thwaites and Rebecca Aird, the artists behind The Standen Collection, they have set up their design studio in the Servants' Hall and covered the walls with photos and sketches of Standen's architecture and gardens. It is from here that they designed and printed the re-imagined wallpaper and furnishings that decorate the Servants' Wing and it is from here that they ran a series of traditional print making workshops.
I like order and I like process. My designs tend to take on a geometric discipline with just a hint of the wild, often basing them around the natural world. I like to think of them a bit like the gardens at Sissinghurst Castle - Harold's architectural planning keeping everything ordered and Vita's abundant planting escaping from the structure. So it was with great interest that I listened to Peter as he talked us through the process of designing a pattern and exploring the different forms and repeats that patterns can take. Armed with this knowledge and taking inspiration from Standen's interiors and exteriors we designed and then translated our patterns into print.
You'll often hear me say that one of the reasons I love printing is because of its unpredictable nature - you never quite know how it's going to turn out. I found this to be particularly true when printing patterns. Being just a tiny part of the repeat, the linocut bore very little resemblance to the pattern that I'd sketched out at the beginning of the workshop and I wasn't entirely sure if it was going to work. In trepidation I inked up the linocut and made my first print, no nearer to knowing if the afternoon had been a complete waste of time. Then the second, so far so good. Lining up and printing the third I saw the pattern taking shape and onto the triumphant fourth print to complete the pattern. Phew! Success. My confidence restored and my love of printing intact.
An exhibition documenting the design journey of The Standen Collection runs until 27th April 2018. Click here for more details.
Our good friends at Lunar HQ were approached by a PR company in need of an unconventional space to hold their corporate business review followed by team building activities that were a little different from the usual run-of-the-mill-paint-balling. Being the creative bunch that they, Lunar HQ got planning and reached out to its motley crew of collaborators to lay on retro games, cocktail making and screen printing workshops. Cue i printed that.
Once the boring, but essential, data analysis was over and the company had congratulated themselves on yet another fantastic year it was time to set up the print station and get printing.
Note to self; under normal circumstances it can take a while for some people to get their head around making up stencils for screen printing (hell, it still happens to me on occasions) but add a cocktail or three into the mix and the chance of this increases ;)
All this made me realise that screen printing works as a creative team building activity because it:
improves morale by building confidence. That feeling of mastering a process you've never attempted before and being able to proudly say "I printed that!"
encourages problem solving. Because screen printing works on a blocking system you need to work out which parts of the screen to block and which parts to leave open
creates a better understanding of processes and procedures. It's only by following step-by-step instructions that you'll produce that perfect print.
opens up creative barriers. Even people who don't see themselves as naturally creative can achieve a professional looking print.
increases productivity. Everyone's design will be different. Some are more complicated than others. It's about scheduling to make sure there's enough time to create a design, make a stencil and the ultimate goal, to print it. All whilst not getting distracted. No one wants to be last!
And the best bit, because staff members are having so much fun they won't realise that any of the above is even happening.
From discussing the design and working which bits of the stencil to remove and which bits to leave through to printing and the "Big Reveal" to the sound of a hand drum roll followed by cheers and gasps from the team, screen printing is a great team building activity.
If you are a business or organisation based in London or the South East of England and you're interested in holding a screen printing workshop for team building or just for the sheer fun of it then please click here and complete the enquiry form.
“Insight or Excite” – it is this, the basic criteria of owner Melissa Pickering, that’s put 19.Preston firmly on the map as the must-see gallery and shop to visit in Faversham.
Inspired by the concept shops that she would visit whilst living in Paris – “they are artworks in themselves” she says – Melissa has combined contemporary art with local crafts. A jar of Kentish honey shares the space with large original oil paintings. It shouldn’t work, but it does.
There is certainly something to insight or excite on every surface as you browse the simple wood and metal shelves and trestle tables on the ground floor. Yet nothing fights for attention. The space still maintains the clean lines of a gallery which is testament to Melissa’s ability to carefully select and display the pieces based on an evolving editorial theme.
There are some unexpected touches too like the 1960’s style listening booth. Step into the matte black cube and immerse yourself in the vinyl of the month whilst browsing the curated record collection. It doesn’t need to be there and that’s exactly why I like it. I'm struck with the feeling that this isn’t just about buying and appreciating art it’s about enjoying it too.
Head upstairs and this feeling continues as the building opens up into a bright multi-purpose space. Here exhibitions and workshops mingle. These rooms add further reason for 19.Preston’s success; it doesn’t stand aloof from the town and its residents like some galleries might but rather there is a sense of inclusion.
Responding to Faversham’s local traditions like the Hop Festival and the town’s festive markets 19.Preston whole heartedly joins in and adds art to the celebrations along with an invitation to “have a go” at something new and creative. You only have to look at what’s on offer for proof - children’s after school drama classes and art clubs which culminate in end of term group exhibitions and for adults the secret drawing club, print workshops, Artist Relief and pyrography.
In addition to this we’ll be holding an evening screen printing workshop on Wednesday 6th December to design and print a set of 2018 calendar tea towels just like the ones your Nan used to have #grannychic. For more information and to book click here.
To be inspired visit the bricks and mortar shop at 19 Preston Street, Faversham ME13 8NZ or see the gallery online at their Facebook page and Instagram account.
A huge round of applause please for my niece, Kyra Anderson, who's been chosen as Nucleus' artist of the month at their Rochester Gallery in Kent.
If you've been following me on social media over the past few years then you may recognise Kyra as she's always a willing (victim) volunteer when I need an extra pair of hands at workshops and events. Kyra brings the calm to my chaos. She takes everything in her stride, is a truly lovely lady and an extremely talented artist too. (Don't some people just make you sick?!)
Kyra's work is currently on display at Cafe Nucleus, 75 High Street, Rochester and you can also visit her online shops and web pages and follow her on Instagram. Her work is varied and includes original framed sketches, printed cushions, mugs, iphone cases and greetings cards. Here's a taster but I'd recommend a trip to Rochester to see it for real.
You may remember back in 2014 when I discovered some hidden artwork in an attic during Medway Open Studios
and reconnected with my past and my favourite art teacher, Jackie Trinder. Jackie now specialises in painting with watercolours, teaching from her studio in Rochester and exhibiting throughout Kent. You can visit her website here.
Since then we've been playing a game of chicken, threatening to swap skills and teach each other our preferred mode of art. Finally, this summer we put a date in the diary and got around to doing it.
Jackie may have mentioned a few times to me that she was slightly scared of the prospect of spending a morning out of her comfort zone screen printing. So I devised a plan to incorporate some watercolour techniques that she'd be familiar with. Using fabric paint she prepared the background with a free form design then onto setting up the screen, but even that was no problem as it uses familiar brush strokes to apply the drawing fluid.
Once she'd finished the process of applying screen filler, drying, rinsing and drying the screen again we were ready to print. I think it's safe to say that Jackie LOVED it and wants to do lots more. She particularly liked the fact that you can easily repeat the image onto a variety of backgrounds to create different effects. Here are photos from the morning's screen printing workshop:
Gold star and straight to Top of the Class Jackie!
[In clipped English accent] "Good morning Camperinos. Willy Watkins here, broadcasting live from Camp Wildfire Radio. It's 9am and this is your wake up call letting you know that activities will commence in precisely 30 minutes."
And so begins our day at the award winning 1950s style Camp Wildfire - adventure camp by day and music festival by night.
For the athletic there is sport and for the creative there is craft. And that's where i printed that comes in. Sun prints, cyanotypes, blueprints - call them what you want - the sun was shining, my hands were stained bright blue (long story) and we were ready to show some curious campers how to use the sun to make beautiful prints onto neckerchiefs (woggles not included).
Remember sitting in class and your teacher announces that lessons will be outside today? Yes? Well, you can pretty much imagine the scene then as we set up a nature table of feathers, interesting bits of bark, flora and fauna and 20 eager adventurers settle themselves in the forest (mind the pine cones!) which is to be our home for the next few gloriously sunny days.
After a few fun facts about sun printing the class split up to explore and collect just enough leaves and flowers to create a design for their neckerchiefs. Once back they arrange their finds onto the pre-treated fabric and parade to the sun where they leave them for the sunshine to work its magic.
Cue field trip style quiz. It's time to find out who was listening to those fun facts at the start of the lesson…
6 multiple choice questions later and an "I like sun printing because..." decider, the winner is announced and presented with a very special sun printing activity badge to add to their collection. But who cares about quizzes? Everyone’s a winner when it comes to printing and it's time to bring the neckerchiefs back into the shade and wash the chemicals off to reveal the ethereal beauty of nature.
Smiling and "wowing" we hang the prints from the trees to dry and set up for the next batch of intrepid explorers.
Thanks for having us, Camp Wildfire. See you next year!
And in case you were wondering, here are some of my favourite reasons our campers like sun printing:
"it's like magic" - Jess
"I get to sunbathe while I make art - laziness rules!" - Megan
"it is an excellent hangover cure" - Mike
"it makes beautiful things out of secondhand sunshine" - Jay
"it captures a fleeting moment of nature" - Nadege
As part of Medway Print Festival 2017 we were invited to the Huguenot Museum in Rochester to demonstrate a Japanese printing technique called Hapa Zome, using the natural dyes from flowers and leaves to decorate headscarves and hankies. Some people went for strategically placed patterns whilst others tried something more avant-garde. The prints fitted in well with the museum’s collections which showcase the Huguenot's love of using nature to create intricate designs in silk and precious metals. The local paper dropped by to find out what it was all about.
about this blog
Here I'll share with you ways to create prints and things at home. There's also a good chance of some of my general thoughts and ramblings.