FUNdementals of Print with OPI

In March 2020 we ran project with ACNI's Rural Development Small Grant

Omagh Printmakers Inititive was founded in 2018 by a group of local artists who had a range of practices including sculpture, painting, photography, ceramics, glass and textiles and were united by a strong interest in printmaking. Currently working out of the Strule Arts Centre, the group have a view to become a recource and hub from prinmaking in the region. 

Using the ACNI's Small Grant, BPW proposed a tailored programme of mentoring, knowldge exchange and technical instruction which was designed to accelerate ad enchnace the groups developement. Although the programme was cut short due to Covid-19 we managed to complete stage 1 - and on March 7th, BPW staff Meadhbh McIlgorm (Studio Manager), Raquel Amat (Studio Technician) and two artist-members with extensive educational and teaching experience Maura Lynch and Majalla Clancy, headed off to Omagh for our ‘Print 101 - Development Day’. Here’s some feedback and reflections from the day - we hope to work with this group of talented ladies again! 

Some feedback form the group 

'Thank you for the great day in the Strule Arts on Saturday. I found  all of your presentations fantastic and very helpful. It was good to see Majella and Maura's processes revealed in the production of their beautiful prints. I was struck by Maura's question, "What are you trying to say through your work?" It has made me reflect on my own ideas and imagery. I plan to keep little sketchbooks like Majella's to note ongoing ideas and development of them.'

'Everything excellent on the day. Delivery, personally,artists and their work was amazing. The day flew in and I enjoyed every minute of it. Could sit through it all again, 100%!'

'I enjoyed the day, and found it useful in discussing the issues we need to consider as a newly formed Printmaking group.  I thought the facilitating artists ran the event efficiently. The facilitators were knowledgable and generous with information.  The standout piece of learning was looking at the work of the two printmaking artists - I found their work inspirational.  As a group we have discovered we have a strong variety of talents and we are a strong group who support each other. We are hoping to have an exhibition of our work in August 2020.' 

'Fabulous day and so well prepared-really enjoyed the opportunity for us to have the chance to think about our practice and plans-very affirming. All the artists were so interesting and inspiring-definitely feel ready to move on in my own work and develop more skills.  I also learned how much skill and experience we have in the group - I hadn’t realised the variety of our histories and I feel excited by our potential.'

Meadhbh McIlgorm - BPW Studio Manger

Julie Murphy, current chair of Omagh Printmakers Initiative (OPI), and I met back in August 2019 at an exhibition opening. I recognised her name for the course registers at BPW - we spoke about OPI - who they were and what they wanted to achieve and wondered if there was some way BPW could help them. We (BPW) are advocates for the practice and promotion of printmaking and ‘a rising tide floats all boats’ - if we can help a group set up in the Fermanagh and Omagh area it would strengthen the medium’s profile in the country generally.   

The ACNI’s Rural Development Small Grant was a wonderful opportunity to get this project in motion and, working in partnership with the group we tailored the application to provide a range of informational, artistics and practical support for this emerging collective, starting with a ‘Print 101’ Development Day’ on March 7th, at the Strule Arts Center. I opened the day with introductions, followed by a ‘strategic development’ style presentation, which asked the group various questions to identify what opportunities and challenges they had in their locality, what skills and contacts they could utilise and what the next step for growth should be. The presentation also provided some practical suggestions of building an identity and improving communications both internally and externally. 

Sessions like this are so important for development but when, as we learned, accessing space is the group’s biggest outlay it’s easy to see why time together is focused on making rather than planning. For this reason I felt our session was both timely and well received since it provided space and time to think on these bigger issues. The OPI group were so welcoming, open and eager to learn I think we could have spent longer on many aspects of the day, however it was only designed to be a starting point, and that’s what it achieved. Unfortunately, our follow up, practical workshop sessions had to be suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic but we’re looking forward to continuing the project once it’s safe to do so.  

Majella Clancy - Artist and Educator

I felt the day was organised and structured by Meadbh in an excellent manner. It was inclusive and had a good balance of practical and informative information for the group in terms of how they see themselves as a collective currently and what their collective ambitions for the future might be, giving the group step by step real life possibilities.

My main role was to discuss and share my practice as well as offer 1-1 advice and feedback to members who wanted to share their practice with me. The group responded well to the print examples I took along as well as the sketchbooks which are very much the nuts and bolts of my practice and ideas. The group asked lots of questions and had a genuine appetite for information and knowledge on a practical and conceptual level. The 1-1 feedback sessions were extremely beneficial and popular as individual practices were acknowledged and given advice on how they could proceed. In hind insight, the group were so open and so enthusiastic for everything set out in the agenda for the day, that ideally, we could have run the session over two consecutive days. 

Collaboration, support and the sharing of knowledge is so important in an arts context and even more so when a group is new, operating outside of a big city, and is trying very hard to find a platform that works for the group and for the individuals within it. I think support for small groups like these are so important as these groups act as a social and cultural lifeline for the individuals within it. I would suggest a follow up session (talks, discussions, troubleshooting, 1-1 feedback etc) every 4 – 6 months approx. so the group can feel they have support as a group but also feel supported on an individual level. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day that was extremely well organised. I believe events like these need to happen more frequently.

Raquel Amat Parra - BPW Studio Technician

I really enjoyed taking part in this project providing the technical information for the creation of a print workshop sharing all general knowledge about health and safety, chemical regulations, space needed usage etc. I brought information about the different techniques and possibilities they can take into consideration for current or expanded approaches. The response of the attendees was very rewarding since they were very interested and saw and understood what they will need to do and how they could manage the different possibilities regarding venues.

My role in this project was to share expertise, collaborate with another collective to build up their group by sharing my passion for the practice and knowledge of all technical aspects of printmaking. The whole experience of discussing and putting together the presentation was very fulfilling and enjoyable. Seeing the interest of the women and their involvement making questions to understand what they have viable and what they will need to look at after, had a very good outcome. My presentation was the last one of the day, which allowed me to get to know the group, their backgrounds and available facilities first which gave me guidance for what information I should cover in more detail during my presentation. Time was tight but detailed notes were provided and the opportunity for follow up afterwards was provided. 

I enjoyed listening to the other presentations and learning about the different situations of other studio groups. It was great to see that they may be looking after different aspects or collective approaches; it was also a very encouraging day for all the speakers and was wonderful to see so many inspirational ways of art practice.

Maura Lynch - Artist and Educator

I was very interested in contributing to this workshop especially when I realised we were to facilitate a group of women artists  on International Women’s Day weekend. I was not disappointed. It was really worth the journey time both ways to meet such a vibrant group of creative women, all artists from different disciplinary backgrounds trying to set up and develop their own print workshop. They were positive and welcoming and supportive of each other and supportive of us as visitor facilitators. The engagement was of a very high level and after discussions in small groups and feeding back into the large group there was a sense of the Omagh group recognising their own collective bank of skills and strengths. The response to our artists talks was so affirming and generous and generated a lot of talk and laughter. Everyone joined in when I talked about ‘ good drying’. The appraisal remarks were lovely and typified the generosity of spirit apparent in this group.

I felt the day was well received and mostly beneficial. With hindsight I think the technical information would have been better placed at the end of the morning as a shorter session. The feedback to the Omagh artists work would then have followed on naturally from the artists talks and wouldn’t have been so rushed. As I believe this is a very crucial and necessary part of the process I would hope that we can do something to address this at a later stage. I would like to return the interest in their work that they showed to mine. This could be in BPW perhaps to assist the upcoming show whenever that may actually and realistically take place..

This Workshop reinforced my belief in working collectively. Printmaking studios are very collegiate, democratic places and great for cross fertilisation of ideas and transfer of skills from other disciplines. In thanks to Frances response to my question ‘what are you trying to say in your work?’ I would say we can’t always supply the right answers but asking the right questions can be very rewarding. I am grateful we had this day together. I am glad I spent it in the company of my dear friends and colleagues Meadhbh, Raquel, Majella.

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