What is the Washroom Print Shop?
During the early days of lockdown, I started creating a series of alphabetical lino-cut colouring sheets, hand printed and editioned from the kitchen, where I have a small studio set up. Every week, two letters were released for pick up outside of our house from the front pavement. They are completely free. I am now on letter 22 and the community have stood up with huge positivism and support for the venture. Dialogues about the arts, printmaking and expression have opened up with complete strangers. It has been wonderful and after letter 26 has been sent on its way (Q is for Quercus Robur) I will be generating the next series for free collection.
Involving the community directly with the arts and an artist has always been a topic of interest for me. This is not necessarily through a community arts programme, as many awesome artists do, but through the idea that artists and their practice should be a part of everday life in communities, like the Shamen of old. Many people do not wish to, and in some cases feel intimidated by, take part in a community arts project, but the majority of people are interested in things that are going on. If these things happen to be engaged within expression and the arts, then a natural dialogue and engagement will happen.
And this is how we came to the idea of transforming our front room, which faces onto the public pavement, into a traditional print shop. My first ever studio was in the old washroom at the back of our house, thus this will be named the Washroom Print Shop. It is an opportunity to engage people walking past, but without the pressure or necessity of an arts project. It has longevity, and continual commitment to a professional arts practice on a day to day basis, where every day offers the passer-by something new to witness. There are so many potentials of being able to integrate technology within the set up to include live streaming of print projects, podcasts, live footage to the pavement (if lockdown reasserts itself) to name a few. Having a set up print shop in the very public front room would also enable a community teaching programme to be put in place without people having to head off to industrial estates or warehouses in the middle of nowhere where printmaking workshops tend to operate. It highlights the importance of supporting local community and making it become the heart of practice. To stop 'going places' all the time.
Keeping It Local
Lockdown has forced many to stay local. I have never driven, instead relied upon two feet, pedals or public transport to move around when by myself with the children. It has never bothered me and in fact I love local. People seem so ready these days to look elsewhere for the solution, to leave a community when it just requires commitment. Communal printmaking workshops provide much needed facilities for artists who may not have access to printmaking spaces. As a family unit, we have always believed that the 'work' we do should be integral to our lives and our local community. My partner is a forester, working 3 miles away, and I have always worked from home apart from 2 years in a studio 2 miles down the road. If we can foster stronger communities by becoming stronger humans then these communities stand a greater chance of withstanding any storm that comes their way, and having a great deal of fun along the way. Although I can not offer communal facilities at the Washroom Print Shop, I can offer an open door, window, mind to open a dialogue with anyone. I can offer complete transparency to an artist's daily practice and a print studio, without the artistic ego stopping freedom. I can offer small scale workshops and teaching. I can offer a sense of strong community and the importance of looking and committing to those around us. I can offer a showcase of being a professional and respected artist without the need for a warehouse or a factory to generate interest and discussion about the arts. And I can take a leap of faith with our wondrous family.
Why Arts Education?
Art education can be both formal, through an educational programme, or passive, whereby the artist and their practice is in constant dialogue with the members of the public. This dialogue can be spoken or just through observation, and this passive education, is so vital to learning. If we look how children learn, through observation, play and interaction, then the idea of passive education is crucial if one is to engage in active learning. By taking such a simple step of moving a print studio from a hidden back room into a public front room, it opens up the possibilities of far more passive day to day education in expression. Lets put it out there, lets celebrate printmaking and lets make it accessible to all, even if they do not wish to do a single drawing.
Washroom Pop-Up Press
In 2015 I founded the multi award winning Washroom Pop-Up Press, which is a large floor-standing portable printmaking press and its equipment (all fits on a push bike trailer) that enables me to teach printmaking in situations that otherwise would not have the facilities. During lockdown, this has obviously had to be put on hold, but int he future having access to a small paved garden space in front of the future Print Shop would enable me to set up printmaking in the garden. It could be a regular event that the pop-up press pops out next to the pavement and lets passer-bys print away for free. By moving the Print Shop into the front room, accessibility of the Pop-Up facilities and the press is completely possible and easy to replicate out front.
How Ready Am I?
I have had access to basic print facilities in our kitchen throughout lockdown. This has been my professional studio for 2 years, from which I have produced several award winning prints and projects. I am thus ready to go. Give me a print shop and I will print. What is not ready is the infrastructure set up in the front room and the set up of a stone lithography press (see investments below) and my Rochat etching press, which is currently in storage in parts under our stairs. These would be the two main use presses on a a daily basis and would require specialist fit and installation.
During lockdown and for the future I have been creating various films about print online, and I have a set up to continue videos in various formats. I may need an extra tripod or two to suspend the cameras above the presses, but other than that I am prepared.
In essence, once the Print Shop is made safe, presses and plan chest ink, lets pop open the ink and get printing!
On a Very Personal Note: My Father
I have been deliberating whether to Crow Fund or not and I kind of heard my late father's voice saying, well you silly, of course you should, what have you got to loose? And he is right.
My father who was the local village doctor, passed away last August, far too young. This project is not for him, nor in his memory, but what I wish to say is that he instilled in me the Dalton sense of community. In his free time he made many woodworking projects for our village: the benches, the hand carved notice boards, the restored pub signs. Even if it wasn't carpentry, he and my mother would place surplus home grown vegetables on their wall. And there were many! It installed in me a sense of being at the heart of a community and committing to it. Of putting your skills out there to share and help others and to create dialogue with strangers. The Washroom Print Shop has a phenomenal opportunity to engage, educate, create a dialogue within the arts and share the joy of expression to a community. What have I got to loose? (well, apart from two comfy sofas, a floor, perhaps the bookcase, my sanity)
So What is the Crowd Funder Investment Going On?
Stone Lithography Press:
When I was 7 months pregnant with our first (now 6 years old), I completed the prints for a major Arts Council and Hampshire County Council commission on a stone lithography press in Brixton. This press is one I have been used to and been around since 2008, when I first starting using the communal print studios it was housed in. I was offered it, and all the stones and ancillary equipment, before the Brixton studio has to relocate. The press has a huge place in my heart and I feel emotionally connected to this beautiful cast iron weight as I would a child. Stone lithography was also the first ever printmaking form I tried, and started me on my current journey over 12 years ago. The Washroom Print Shop could house the stone litho press, which would enable me to restore it beautifully and then get it up and running to full glory. To have a stone press in the Print Shop opens up possibilities of being able to print text alongside imagery, thus being able to hand print awesome booklets and adverts, as well as explore, commit and teach this wondrous artform. It is an opportunity I could not say no to. The press requires purchase and this is why it is a major part of the Crowd Funder campaign.
The front room of our house has a suspended floor. This will need some work to take the load of the two cast iron presses. I have designers on board to offer services free of charge, which is incredible, but materials will need to be purchased.
The two presses also need professional installation and levelling, again something that will need to be paid for.
I have a basic set up, but what would be very useful would be to purchase a couple of ceiling/wall mounts to create overhead shots of the etching, the litho press and the plan chest/inking area, thus enabling some great footage of the shop in action. Having the tripods set up permanently would enable a quick and easy set up when wanting to film.
Art For All:
As a starter project for the Washroom Print Shop, I would like to print another series of free prints, and set up the live video feed for when I am printing them. It would be a great starter to introduce the Shop, and to test the film set up. The Crowd Fund investment is to supply paper and lino for the project.