Demoing my botanical prints at the prestigious Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair 2023
Printmaking at Woolwich
The Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair is an annual fair held in Woolwich, South London that celebrates creativity and innovation in contemporary printmaking. I was thrilled to be invited by Jenny and Dave Gunning, (part of the company who made my press and are fantastic printmakers in their own right) to demonstrate my collagraph printmaking, as well as discussing my work and inspiration.
Bringing together over 1000 original artworks and printmakers, working across various print techniques including etching, screen printing, linocut, and digital prints, the fair offers visitors the opportunity to view and purchase original affordable art directly from the artists. Ranging from bold abstracts to delicate illustrations, the diverse array of prints on display highlighted the remarkable talents of emerging and established printmakers from across the UK. I was so excited to see printmakers I'd admired for years and discover new artists and revel in the quality on display. Deciding to get there early each day to set up, I was able to have a quiet view of all the art works and stands. It did feel rather special, even watching Jack and Lizzy, who organise the event, running around with drill in hand doing those last minute jobs that visitors would have no idea had happened. No bustling crowds, simply unrestricted views of the expertly curated spaces.
Have a look round at some of the things which caught my eye below..
Meeting folk I have previously met online, via my instagram account
was a highlight. I met Flora Fabris Flora (that's her Insta link) who is a French artisan who prefers the title "mudbaker" over potter. She draws creative influence from the imperfect beauty of nature and the Japanese concept of appreciating simplicity and transience in art. Flora crafts her pieces focusing on clean, flowing shapes and earthy, subdued pigments, always keeping usefulness as a priority. Unfussy, peaceful and soulful - that describes the ceramics handmade steadily in her outdoor workshop, nestled in the Greenwich neighbourhood of London. I adore her work and I am sure you might understand why we were drawn to each others art. Flora gifted me this gorgeous footed bowl, a moment between demos and once opened I was truly emotional. Click here to see our work side by side on Instagram to know how much our piece compliment each other.
I also met Ali Stump-Ali Bongo (thats her insta link). As we chatted it was clear Ali and her friends share an appreciation for the simple pleasures in life, like the beauty found in a scrap of inky scrim - remnants of the printmaking process most would overlook, but that contain a charm all their own for those with an artist's creative eye.
I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely gentleman who wanted to share a remarkable discovery he had made. He had come across an old press in an Open Access Studio and, while carefully restoring the aged machine, uncovered a plaque tucked away inside. This metal plate was engraved with elegant copperplate text that had been hidden from view for who knows how long. As he enthusiastically recounted the tale, his eyes glimmered with excitement, especially as he recalled the etched copperplate text on the press had a surname which matched his! He thought to share news of this treasure with me, knowing I would appreciate the serendipitous find and the preservation of this snippet of history almost lost to time. It was an honour to partake in his joy and admire photos of his salvaged gem, which had emerged, glinting with renewed lustre, from under generations of tarnish. What an honour to share his story.
Meeting the German, Dominik Schmitz, creator of the world’s first 3D printed printing press was fun. He created the small press I make my 7cm botanical garden prints on (available on my own website when in stock and also here at Madebyhandonline) I was also amazed seeing the image of my little square print in the exhibition catalogue for the first time... but more of that some other time!
Demonstrations of printing techniques on the Gunning Etching Press
In addition to browsing the artist stalls, attendees were able to watch printmaking demonstrations (including mine) to discover more or learn techniques.
The relaxed, welcoming vibe made the Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair a great event and I would definitely recommend a visit to those inky friends I know. The atmosphere as so calm that I soon felt relaxed, as I talked about the subject I am so passionate about - my printmaking!
One observer, a collector and a gallery owner from Paris, having watched me demo the whole process of printing of a Ravenswing bowl, bought the piece they had seen me create, despite me insisting that the ink would remain 'wet' for a while.
Here, I also need to name drop, as I was opposite the stand of Bonhams, with their Text Me If You Can editions - I was demonstrating while surrounded by the work of David Spiller Grayson Perry, David Shrigley, Paula Rego, and the Chapman Brothers, David Hockney, David Shrigley, Sir Michael Craig Martin, Bridget Riley, Sir Peter Blake, Harland Miller, Eileen Cooper, Julian Opie, Katharine Jones, and Gavin Turk, so I was in more than illustrious company. There was also a Jamie Reid print on the opposite wall.
I was using a geared No2 Gunning etching press to demonstrate how I use collagraph prints, doing so step-by-step, from inking to pulling. This versatile press is ideal for printing both intaglio and relief techniques with tremendous precision and pressure. I can genuinely enthuse as I now wouldn't be without mine. Just for clarity mine is a slightly different model but I am saving up for its larger relative!
I walked the audiences through how I build up the collagraph plates by using various medium, like carbarundum powder, glazes and aluminium , etc. on a rigid base. I explained how the tactile textures and variable thickness of the materials on the plate helped create beautiful tonal and textural effects when printed. I was then able to imprint rich details from each uniquely textured plate onto the Somerset paper.
My Collagraph Print Subjects- bowls and barns
I was proud to showcase a selection of my latest collagraph editions, including subjects like ceramic bowls, weathered old barns, swaying grasses, and undulating seaweed. The ceramic bowl collagraphs are intimate close-up compositions of various bowl forms and surfaces. I strive to capture the glossy cracks, rough pits, and nuanced colours within the glazes through the collagraph technique.
The textural possibilities of the medium allow me to translate the bowls' subtle visual qualities into vivid printed expressions. Whereas my barn series (or 'Within' as each has this word as part of their title and narrative) depicts aging rural barns from around the countryside where I live. Through collagraph, I render the worn surfaces textures of these historic structures. The audiences were drawn to the nostalgic mood and rich patina my prints evoke. Additionally, I displayed collagraphs of grasses and seaweed which make for entrancing repetitive patterns. It was extremely fulfilling to talk through my work behind these varied subjects as I printed them. One visitor claimed they knew where one of the barns was, when I mentioned the Highlands of Scotland provided inspiration. In reality, they are from imagined places, however they explained it was a compliment, that it felt so familiar.
Being able to demonstrate my artistic process from start to finish, at the fair, was a privilege and career highlight. The chance to personally connect with so many passionate art lovers and inspire others about the limitless potential of printmaking,
meant the world to me. I left the Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair feeling tremendously motivated to continue exploring collagraph techniques and subjects that intrigue me.
I have already been asked back, next year, and will be incredibly happy to demonstrate my artistic techniques again.
Before I sign off on this post, I must say a thank you to my hubby, Andy Dickenson. Behind many a creative there is a partner championing and supporting and this guy does above and beyond. He was invaluable at Woolwich not only in doing all he usually does, but also in being the most intuitive, mind reading technician I could have asked for!