Visiting Woolwich Print Fair

 I have been in a creative bubble since graduating from BA Drawing @ Falmouth University. When you leave a structure and routine of something you do daily, what I’m learning it is about how you choose to react to it. I am a printmaker who predominantly works with etching and monoprint, which requires special chemicals and more to work with. This often means the use of a studio and facilities (which all well and good) but means a new hurdle of money and accessibility. I have not printed since September except a few stints at Print Club London. This period of time between graduating and now has been an interesting time to actually think about how I want to use printmaking and what I want within my own practice. It’s also forced me to stop working, which as first I saw as a massive negative because in my head nothing comes between me and my art. However, what I’m learning is that I have come in between me and my art and this has hindered my thinking and ability to move forward creatively. I am learning that there are other ways to be creative, talking to people, visiting shows, new locations to feel inspired are just some of the things I have been doing.

Talking to John (founder of Pressing Matters magazine), he suggested a visit to the Woolwich Print Fair, which is in its third year. It’s something I had never been to before, but in the lead up to it, I followed the makers and install online. It was exciting to be able to go and see work in the flesh and hopefully feel a shift in my thinking.

The building the fair is held in is itself a thing of beauty. I am drawn to broken, run down and decaying entities and there was part of the building that had peeling paint (who know the good stuff I’m talking about), but these elements had been utilised so well and work was shown in between these aspects of the building. It works beautifully and connected so well to some of the subject matter of the work.

In particular that of Printmaker Emily Crookshank whose experimental approach to working with steel and open bite caught my eye. She was doing a demonstration of her work on a smaller scale, working with inking up and capturing different tones. We spoke a lot about her process and she was showing work in the fair as she had done a residency as part of the fair. Her practice encompasses elements such as pushing the plate to its absolute potential through manipulation and letting happy accidents dictate the narrative. I love this juxtaposition as a characteristic of her work is the stark variations in tone contained in familiar shapes. We spoke about how she uses these components to build and create larger scale works but because her work is fragmented these parts can be joined together to create something bigger and more experimental in the terms of presentation. Parts of her work come from installations she has made in the past, and she selected certain compositions to be framed up. I am always interested in how other Print folk display their work and whether they consider other ways rather than just frames.

I then headed over to Bainbridge Print Studios where I got speaking to Katherine Jones RE, and at first I didn’t realise it was her, I only say that because I am a huge admirer of her work and approach to printmaking. I think I first came across her work in a show at Bankside (near the Tate Modern.) and it was her sensitivity to colour and texture but also her awareness of space and what this can influence in a print. I was intrigued to hear how she draws and documents the world and we both agreed on the importance of drawing as a way of keeping your eye on the world, through documenting. The work of Lucy Bainbridge and Helen Dixon were also favourites from this particular exhibition because of how both women see the world. Helen’s work I’ve followed for a little while on Instagram and there is a sentimentality to her work and I think that’s because of how she utilises the colour blue. It is my safety colour and something I find solace in. Lucy’s work and way of seeing mirrors up to mine and she was showing some screen prints depicting the mundane, elevated through process. Her work is so poignant and still.

After this, I headed upstairs to the second part of the fair. It was such a grand and open space, but I was met with the sculpture of prints by Carol Wyss. Each individual print representing a fragment and bone but once together highlighting the monumental scale of form. I love printmakers who are focussing on this idea of intricacies in isolation and looking at how things can be pieced together.

Lastly, I had the opportunity to finally meet Martin from Open Press Project. He has designed and built a tiny press that enables us printmakers to have something we can use pretty much anywhere. He has also made the plans available for anyone to download and use, so in theory (if you have a 3D printer) you can make your own! I was intrigued to hear about how worldwide the project had reached and he showed me presses that had been built as far as Hawaii and Australia. I really love what he is doing because through this project he is making something accessible a creating a community of people.

The whole event was such a privilege to visit and I left feeling inspired and motivated to continue to find ways to mould my practice to new ways of working and adapting.

Megan Fatharly
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Megan Fatharly