Printmakers' workshops exist in order that artist-printmakers may continue working in their chosen media.
Many workshops provide access to all the necessary facilities and in cases such as the Glasgow Print Studio have become a focal point for the local, national and world wide community of artists and a vital resource of expertise for practice and education in the arts.
The workshops here are some in which I have worked (and taught), or continue to work in and have had a profound influence on my printmaking.
Glasgow Print Studio - 1982 onwards
Senej Print Workshop - Moscow, Russia, 1992
Jerusalem Print Workshop - Israel 1996 onwards
Belfast Print Workshop - Northern Ireland, 2004 - 2006
My Home Studio - RavenEsk Press
This is my home studio. As well as providing me with a painting studio, it functions as an intaglio workshop, equipped with a new 26"x 48" Rochat copperplate press. The washout sink with integral ferric chloride etching dip-tank (accommodating 50cm x 70cm plates), hotplate for traditional soft/hard grounds and a compressor with airbrush for acrylic aquatints are sited in a separate ventilated process room.
The studio also houses my 27" iMac computer, the basis for my digital printmaking workstation.
Glasgow Print Studio
The Glasgow Print Studio (GPS) has been my base since I arrived in 1982. On several occasions when interviewed about now being one of the "mainstays" at the GPS I have remarked that my involvement came about by "showing my face too often and being given a set of keys and a job to do". It’s not so far from the truth such is the nature of being a regular at the GPS. There is a large and very open community of printmakers who have the time to mix and communicate with the many resident or visiting artists who use the studio. The GPS has links with printmaking workshops world wide and has run exchanges with studios in India, Japan, Russia, Germany, Denmark, Israel, Cuba, Canada and the US to name a few. As the GPS is one of the largest publishers of original prints in the U.K., and is very active in both marketing and education there are many jobs needing to be done. With a membership of well over 300 printmakers we have a large pool of expertise on which to call.
Richard Mock, writing for the International Print Collectors Newsletter summed it up. He says that the GPS has gained an outstanding reputation for high quality, high impact graphics. What he saw when working with us in 1990 proved this and wrote that he was also surprised to see that it was an open access studio with professional artists working next to beginning students. Everyone signs up for press time and awaits their turn. Finally he would "recommend the GPS to anyone who likes a more humanity-orientated printmaking experience".
Senej Print Workshop
The print workshop at the Senej Artists' House had to be one of the Soviet Union’s finest arts facilities. I use the past tense as sadly the whole organisation came to a grinding halt with the collapse of Communism in the early 90's and the change that followed.
Established in the early seventies some forty km north-west of Moscow, the complex was situated in a picturesque setting on the edge of an extensive silver birch forest on the shores of lake Senej and under three feet of pure white snow when I arrived in March of 1992. This was the second of two very successful exchanges run by the Glasgow Print Studio to Senej. The residential Senej Artists House comprised of well equipped printmaking studios for etching, lithography, serigraphy and relief printing and housed some three dozen printmakers in personal studios. As there were also forty painting studios, Senej saw groups of almost eighty artists throughout the year with support from the Union of Artists in residence for two months at a time. As artists were coming from the four corners of the vast Soviet empire, from Armenia to Siberia, Baku to Leningrad, it was a place of genuine creativity where the exchange of working practices and cultural ideas could take place.
Housed in the etching workshop among the other equipment was a beautiful old star wheel Karl Krause (Leipzig) copper plate press (seen in the photograph above) which I immediately fell in love with. Although the bed was only 20" wide, the lower roller was in the region of 14" in diameter. With its cast iron frame and solid steel bed it printed mezzotints and deeply etched plates extremely well.
Senej also had a cinema, a bar, an arts materials shop, dining hall, television lounge and a sauna all of which would have been available to us had the funding not disappeared with the collapse of the system. There was however, 24 hour access to the etching workshop and painting studios. With the closure of most of the facilities and the lack of artists working at Senej, there was little else to do but work a fifteen hour day.
Alas, the facility had to close and it was a sad loss as much fine printmaking had come from Senej for many years.
Jerusalem Print Workshop
If Senej was situated in one of the most pictureque places, then the Jerusalem Print Workshop (JPW) has to be sited in one of the most globally significant. Housed in a splendid detatched stone building (a former dwelling house) on the corner of Shivtei Israel Street and Street of Prophets, the workshop sits on the three way split between Arab East Jerusalem (and the Old City), with Mea Shearim, one of the most orthodox Jewish areas to the north and the modern secular city of Israeli Jerusalem to the west.
The workshop is on the first floor above their ground floor gallery (a beautiful series of interconnected rooms). From the workshop windows one can look straight down Street of Prophets to Damascus Gate and the golden Dome of the Rock beyond.
On climbing the external stone steps and entering the foyer area you will almost certainly be greeted by Arik Kilemnik, the dynamic and enthusiastic director and founder of the JPW. The workshop was born of Arik’s vision to have a printmaking facility in Israel where the very best of printmaking could be made by artists from all over the world. Although Arik and his team have achieved their goal many times over, it has done nothing to dampen their enthusiasm and commitment to the art of printmaking. The facilities cater for etching, screen-printing, relief printing, photography and lithography. Artists working at the JPW workshop generally do so by invitation and collaborate with a resident master printer on specific projects. There are however a small but regular number of etchers who pay a daily rate to access the facilities.
On the floor above the workshop is the upper gallery. It is particularly attractive being spacious and yet retaining much of the ambience of an open plan upper floor dwelling. It is also partially top lit which gives a soft diffused light to the space.
The workshop below is in contrast to this in many ways. But although it contains the necessary equipment to facilitate an active and dynamic workshop, it too has retained something of the character of the building as stone arches and internal coloured glass windows are still in evidence.
Belfast Print Workshop
A fantastic place to work, BPW is the longest established printmaking resource in Northern Ireland. Initially known as the Endhouse Print Workshop in the early seventies, it was established by a group of enthusiasts dedicated to the art of printmaking. In the nineties the decision was made to move to allow for much needed expansion and development and by 2003 the workshop re opened in Cotton Court in the artistic Cathedral Quarter of the city center.
The workshop is on the top floor of an old refurbished Bonded Warehouse with many other art organisations sharing the building. Of the many features in this arts complex, the bar on the ground floor has to be one of the most valued "for when things get really hectic"!!!
I was first there (in the workshop, not just the bar) in 2004 as the summer Artist in Residence. One of my lasting memories of working at BPW is the tea breaks. One morning early in my residency, I boiled the kettle and shouted "does anyone want a cuppa?" With several affirmatives I expected to pour and distribute several cups of tea to be had while working. But no! when I turned round, every one had downed tools come over and sat down waiting for the tea to be poured and ready for a good "craic". And so began a long and leisurely session of tea drinking.
2006 saw my return for an extended period of personal printmaking research and development.