Members Takeover: Week 3 - Josephine McCormick

During Week 3 - Long standing member Josephine is reflecting a bit on BPW's history
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Camilla Brown

Let's talk to Camilla Brown the workshop's first technician

It is a delight to host this weeks’ social media platform. I would like to take the opportunity to celebrate Belfast Print Workshops’ history, its international relationship, role and contribution to the cultural life of Northern Ireland and to acknowledge our technical managers that we have had across the years. Camilla Brown, was the first workshop manager for Belfast Print Workshop, who left to take up an appointment as the technical services co-ordinator at Ulster University.

You were our first technician at Belfast Print Workshop, when it was located at Riddelhall, when and for how long did you work for Belfast Print Workshop?

I started work on a part time basis in September 1979, eventually becoming full time in 1994.It started as a casual job lasting one year but it was twenty years before we parted company.

Can you tell us what that was like, in the early days of the workshop?

Set in its own extensive grounds, Riddel Hall was a beautiful, tranquil location to work in in the dark days before the ceasefire. The building was home to the ACNI (our employer until 1998 when the workshop became independent) and they sublet space to several arts related organisations.It was a very pleasant place to work with the common room the hub providing fresh coffee and daily newspapers, where everyone (even messy printmakers) could socialise.
When I started working there, the workshop was primarily for the use of the artist in residence with members access restricted to the afternoons and two evenings. There was a succession of professional artists, national and international, awarded the yearlong residency with most applying to extend their time to two years. These artists were more than generous with sharing their technical knowledge and expertise and I learnt a huge amount on the job thanks to them. Meanwhile, the membership grew as our facilities grew (I recall the membership fee was £5 per annum with an hourly rate of 20p) with local artists making good use of what was on offer; professional machinery, an extensive stock of quality specialised materials at affordable prices,and technical support from the manager Jim Allen and myself when needed.

You left to take up the position as the Technical Services Coordinator in 2000 at Ulster University, what did you miss about working at Belfast Print Workshop?

I missed the people, the regular members I’d worked with over many years and the collegial atmosphere of BPW. Working in Higher Education was such a contrast, but I quickly adjusted to working with students and twenty years later I take great satisfaction in encouraging and supporting a student’s emerging interest in using print for their practice.

When and how did you discover that printmaking was a medium for your creative practice?

I had gone to Art College to study painting but in my first year as we rotated through the Fine Art disciplines I was introduced to printmaking, loved it and never looked back.

Tell me about a printmaking project for Belfast Print Workshop you enjoyed working on

I can’t think of any over the years that I didn’t enjoy working on but perhaps the most memorable was an early project commissioned by NIHE, when I worked as printer for Basil Blackshaw and Tom Carr to produce their editions. Both were such gentlemen and it was an honour to work with them.

Do you have a preferred process?

Definitely screen printing as I am very comfortable using that process, but I do enjoy etching and the unpredictability of it as a medium.

What are you working on now?

I wish I could say I’m working on some amazing project but sadly, I’m not. I haven’t made any of my own prints for some time now.

How are you coping with Covid 19 lockdown, have you made any new work and future plans?

Pretty well so far. I’ve lived alone now for several years and am used to my own company. I’m been using Facetime and WhatsApp daily to keep in touch with family and friends so that helps, and there’s a weekly video meeting with work colleagues for updates and planning. Otherwise, I’m keeping busy and taking each day as it comes. At some point I will run out of tasks that need doing and maybe then I will pick up a pencil and start drawing again! As for the future, with Covid19 it’s hard to envisage what our lives will be like when this is finally over, so no plans.

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Works by James Allen

Excavating the Past - In conversation with James Allen

In this great pause, ‘excavating the past’ is one of the activities that we all are undertaking. One of the people in relation to Belfast Print Workshop, who comes into focus, is James Allen.Without his vision, passion and commitment Belfast Print Workshop would not exist.So today I want to acknowledge and celebrate the work of James Allen. It is a mark of his contribution to creative practice in Northern Ireland that James Allen was elected Associate Academician of the RUA in 1980 and elevated to Academician in 1983.

Tell me how Belfast Print Workshop came into being

Belfast Print Workshop grew from an idea that was of its own time – the result of the happy alignment of a number of events in the 1970’s. Internationally this period saw pioneering efforts in art making by artists such as Robert Rauchenberg, Jasper Johns and Jim Dine in the United States and by David Hockney and Richard Hamilton in Britain. At the same time various print workshops for artists including publishing houses were started in a number of cities such as London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dublin. In Belfast a group of artists, excited by this reinvigoration of the traditional printmaking media, formed a group called Endhouse Press, later changed to Belfast Print Workshop and had purchased a Hunter Penrose etching press. Unfortunately the group couldn’t find suitable premises, and without this, it was a good idea going nowhere – fast.
Fortunately the Arts Council of Northern Ireland had just moved into the spacious premises of Riddel Hall and the Council offered the use of the kitchen area at the rear of the ground-floor and most importantly the financial umbrella of an operating budget to equip and run the workshop. They also funded a continuation of the residency programme which importantly included free use of the Gate Lodge allowing both local and international artists to live on site with 24 hour use of the workshop facilities plus use of the grounds and apple orchard thrown in. The variety and creativity of the residents over the years contributed greatly to building the reputation of the workshop locally and abroad.
In 197I was appointed, after interview, as the first resident printmaker with a brief to create and equip a viable workshop for artists etc; in this Sophie was a great help in the early years in running evening classes. This was the beginning of what turned out to be my own twenty five year commitment to the workshop. At the end of my 3 year residency the Arts Council appointed me full time Workshop Manager. In this I was assisted, first on a part-time basis, then full time by Camilla Brown who supported and worked for the Workshop for almost twenty years. When Camilla left Struan Hamilton replaced her and was there to ably oversee the move when eventually the move had to be made to Cotton Court.

When did you find that printmaking was a medium for your creative practice?

I went to Belfast College of Art, then situated on the top floor of the Technical College, from 1961-65 as a painting student and in the second year I “discovered” printmaking - both lithography and etching— and while a large plate lithographic press was available I found that I was more interested in the possibilities etching to expand my ideas where the copper plate could be worked, and reworked, to create an image using a variety of methods - line, aquatint, drypoint etc (sometimes to the point of destruction of the metal!) giving a three dimensional richness to the printed image. I then went to Brighton School of Art in 1965 - 67 to do a postgraduate printmaking course again concentrating mainly on etching and It was there that I met Sophie Aghajanian who was also taking the same course, eventually getting married in 1970. After finishing college I was able to continue making use of the facilities after graduation and with editioning work, exhibitions and part time teaching printmaking at Goldsmiths College and Ravensbourne College both in London we made it through to 1977 when I was offered the printmaking residency in Belfast by the Arts Council.

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Works by Struan Hamilton

Josephine McCormick in conversation with Struan Hamilton

Struan was our second workshop manager, currently he is the printmaking lecturer at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand. He provides a surprising hot tip for printmaking under lock down!

You were our second manager at Belfast Print Workshop after Camilla Brown left, when and for how long were you working for Belfast Print Workshop

I came to Belfast in June 2000, never having set foot in the place before. That was an eye-opener for me with ‘The Twelfth’ being just around the corner! I was technician until 2003 when Jim Allen stepped down and the position was split into workshop manager and workshop director for the move out of Riddell Hall and in to Cotton Court. I worked with BPW until 2009.

You had been working as the intaglio technician at Dundee Contemporary Arts, how did you find the move to Belfast?

I thought Belfast was amazing when I first arrived. Everything seemed to be alive and new bars, restaurants etc were opening up. The members of the workshop made me feel very welcome and there was a real tangible sense of professionalism in the art being created there [BPW]. I had a flat on University Avenue so was very close to work and nightlife.

When and how did you discover that printmaking was a medium for your creative practice and professional career?

I’d studied Illustration at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee. Illustration was a support practice for us and I just thought that etching was the most amazing medium. After graduation I moved to Edinburgh to look for illustration work and joined Edinburgh Printmakers just to keep printmaking. I found that I was devoting far more time to making prints than I was to finding Illustrative work!

Tell me of your experience at the Atelier in Paris? Did this experience influence you being the manager of BPW?

I remember that you purchased viscosity rollers for the studio which added a further dimension and choice to our studio creative practice. We still use those rollers today.
Paris was an amazing experience for me. My old lecturer from Dundee had been at the Atelier when he was young and had suggested that if I ever got the chance to go I should do it. I spent almost three years there in all, working as assistant to both the studio director, Hector Saunier, and the head technician, Sun Sun Yip. That opened my eyes to new ways of working as I found the initial couple of months quite frustrating as I was working in my tried and tested methods, which didn’t really lend themselves to the viscosity process. Having access to Sun Sun and Hector’s ink cupboards also meant a bit more creative freedom as I didn’t have to worry about my finances for purchasing the necessaries! I worked as an au-pair for a family that lived right in the centre of Paris and had my own quarters above their house. My flat had a view of the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, and the Sacre Coeur and the Seine flowed right by it. It was an amazing time. It’s good to hear the rollers are still used, they’re heavy beasts. I’ve just ordered brand new ones from Takach for the Uni I’m working in now. They arrived just as lockdown started so cannot wait to get back in and try them out.

How did you find working at Belfast in contrast with Paris?

BPW and Atelier Contrepoint have completely different characters. The focus really is only on the one technique in Paris, and they don’t do community classes or anything like BPW does, relying on private funding instead of an arts council. The access available to anyone interested in printmaking at BPW is incredible. They were different experiences, but I am equally fond of both.

Can you tell us what that was like, in the early days of the workshop? I remember fondly that we had a record player and vinyl collection in the studio, so we could print to music and also the studio had printing tables arranged centrally, so it was a very communal experience to make prints in that grouping, can you expand on why you arranged the tables that way?

There has to be music; but it shouldn’t dominate and annoy others. Printmaking is a very communal medium. Not everyone has access to space or money for their own presses so by its very nature people are drawn together to share. The tea area in Cotton Court and the kitchen in Riddel Hall were always the place to gather and expound on ideas and just laugh about life. The only way your work will progress too is by being open to constructive criticism and letting others see your way of working. I’ve never liked being secretive about my working methods and I think that the students I work with now benefit from seeing “professional” work being made so they can follow and take it in their own direction. Atelier Contrepoint has everyone doing the same technique, but not all the work looks the same.

Tell me about a printmaking project for Belfast Print Workshop you enjoyed working on.

BPW had one of the most amazing residency programmes. The artists who were invited to take part were inspiring and it was fantastic to see working methods from both established printmakers and professional artists trying print for the first time.

Do you have a favourite piece or series you can tell us about?

Claire Morgan was so-o fun! Getting blood from the butchers to screenprint with, crushing fruit and mixing in intaglio base to go mouldy! Scott Laverie did some lovely photo-polymer work, Barbara Rae made amazing prints and was so open to experimenting and trying new approaches. David Mach kept buying CDs for the studio and wanted a louder stereo!
But the members are the soul of the workshop and seeing their work being made was always the best thing for me personally.

Do you have a preferred process?

Intaglio.I’m not a huge fan of copper-sulphate on aluminium yet, I still prefer nitric with traditional ground on zinc or steel. I’ve recently completed my Masters and did nothing but large photo-polymer work, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also did a lot of cyanotype which was fantastic as it brought in a real painterly expressiveness, scale too could be quickly increased without worrying about press bed size etc.

You left to take up a position as the 2D Team Leader at The University of Auckland, what did you miss about working at Belfast Print Workshop?

Everything really, they were amazing times to be part of BPW. The members that were there, the social aspect, regular gallery shows, Arts Council funding and grants, working with the artist-residents, and acknowledgment of print as a serious medium in Northern Ireland. When I was back in Belfast at Christmas I was chatting to Jim and I heard that maybe things aren’t quite the same, funding is hard, galleries are closed etc so I feel very lucky to have been there when I was. I met Liza there and my three kids were all born there, so Belfast will always be a special place for me.

Congratulations on your new appointment as lecturer at Auckland University of Technology. What are you working on now?

AUT is big university with different streams all using the print facilities. Visual Arts, communication design, fashion, textiles, even engineering. It puts a lot of strain on the area with different requirements. My main interest is getting the visual art students to really get into the medium and to show them what can be achieved in it.

How are you coping with Covid 19 lockdown, have you made any new work and future plans?

We’re going to level three of the lockdown next week, but the university is saying that the rest of this semester will be online, so that’s at least eight weeks until I’m back in the studio. I’ve been trying to come up with ways for the students to work with print from home. So far, I’ve had decent results with using shoe-polish instead of ink for a couple of easily do-able techniques that don’t require specialist materials. We’ll see how that goes. And as I said earlier, new viscosity rollers are needing unwrapped and inked up.

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Works by Eva Nothomb

International Membership - Eva Nothomb

Belfast Print Workshops’ role and contribution to the cultural life of Northern Ireland is local, national and international. This is reflected in the workshops’ international membership. Today I would like to highlight two members, Eva Nothomb from Belgium and later, Felix Koehler from Germany. 

Josephine McCormick in conversation with Eva Nothomb:

When and how did you discover that printmaking was a medium for your creative practice?

I discovered printmaking in 2014, through my drawing practice. Silkscreen printing impacted my way of composing my vision/visuals: it has come to displace my way of seeing. With printing tools, I was able to think more in terms of textures and heterogeneous surfaces than in terms of depth. These tools allowed me to work with the reverse side of the form and to take into account the effects of stains, scratches, fading, and wear and tear. The drawn object becomes no longer univocal: it can move through images where it is composed differently, altered by different processes.

At the same time, two “patterns” gradually became important for me in the course of my readings: Labyrinths and maps. Both induce the idea of the path, of displacements the stages of which the image in series can expose. The composition is then done in layers, in fragments which can be derived from one or more previous forms. There lies an “opacity” of the image that I like. Why? Because it is multiple and has no fixed structure. I don’t know where it will take me. It is to be read like an enigma.

Two years later, in 2016, my artistic work as it had been taking shape got to be put into practice via, amongst other things, a socio-cultural workshop for a refugee audience . In this workshop—that took place within a larger project called “Odyssey of the liberties” held over several years in Brussels—each participant was asked to tell of their “trajectory” (the route they had taken before arriving in Belgium) as they saw fit, in a storytelling style. At issue was: How can one help people discover uneven lives and how can almost “impossible” situations find a base or an inscription in the space of a drawing? The difficulty was the lack of a common language: it was necessary to find ways of expressing oneself “without words”. To do so, we resorted to printing and engraving techniques which allowed us to approach the stories in the form of gestures and different plastic stages. One could say that these techniques have demonstrated their social “usefulness”: they made it easier for people to register in the moment, to open up to the narrative, to enhance self-expression through poetic images.

When did you become a member of Belfast Print Workshop?

I became a member of Belfast Print Workshop in October 2019.

What was your experience of working at Belfast Print Workshop?

There’s a great creative and dynamic atmosphere at BPW. I’d been eager to go there for some months, having been introduced to the place by a friend. There’s a feeling there of being “at home in being completely elsewhere”, or in all of us a creative spirit that seems to mark the place. A form of openness without emphasis, a climate conducive to work without control or mundane preoccupations. It’s an environment made stimulating by the diverse and committed artists as well as by the fantastic job done by the manager and the technical manager who are so energetic. I learned different techniques during the courses (and this format of courses we don’t have in Belgium) and I must say that these workshops are delivered very well. Before going to BPW I knew Seacourt, and had visited many other artistic structures. But BPW can only be compared to one of my best memories: the Master’s drawing workshop at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. My work moved and refined itself. And even if I got lost in testing techniques at the beginning, I never felt stressed. This freedom of action is really precious. I intend to pursue my printwork as soon as the quarantine is lifted.

Do you have a preferred process?

Serigraphy, salt etching, collograph.

Tell me about a printmaking project you enjoyed working on.

Last June, I was immersed in the subject of bog bodies. I was working on images of objects ungoverned by the imperative of resemblance. Such objects- rendered-other make something else appear, like the mummified bog body revealed by acid in the peat. Salt etching, screen printing: I especially enjoyed using these techniques to surface various alterations of the image.

What project are you working on now?

It’s a work in progress at BPW between words/weather/ground. It’s a relationship of my imagination with the territory of Northern Ireland, among others. So it involves mythology and other stories that are very useful to me. Formally, it is a montage that began with layouts working in particular with the relation between text and images. I plan to continue this project with a scenography that involves sound. It’s a project that is growing in size, and that requires a lot of experimentation in the studio.

How are you coping with Covid 19 lockdown, have you made any new work and future plans?

As the current project is strongly nourished by writing and reading, I am taking advantage of this time to flesh out ideas. It is obvious that printing practice will have to follow to get the project off the ground.

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Works by Felix Koehler

Josephine McCormick in conversation with Felix Koehler

When and how did you discover that printmaking was a medium for your creative practice?

I kind of stumbled across printmaking by coincidence. I studied BA time-based Media (film, animation, interactive design) at the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz, Germany and knew i wanted to mainly animate. In order to get better at drawing, I attended life drawing sessions at the illustration department, and ended up taking an illustration module in 2011 there too. In that module we got shown around the different workshops they had and once I saw the screen printing workshop and I was smitten. That's when my adventures in printmaking sort of started.

When did you become a member of Belfast Print Workshop?

I joined in 2018 after attending a view courses at the workshop and loving the open atmosphere in the physical space and amongst the artists working there. There are so many different styles and approaches here, yet everyone understands and respects each other as creative’s. That encouraged me to dive a bit deeper into printmaking and I ended up joining.

Tell me about a printmaking project you enjoyed working on?

I don't have many projects under my belt when it comes to printmaking, but I really enjoy the BPW courses, especially if it's in a technique I don't know yet. The last one I attended was for salt etching and I liked it. We learnt how to etch aluminum plates and how to make different types of textures and strokes. I actually ended up liking one of the etched plates I made so much I want to get it framed.

Do you have a favourite piece or series you can tell us about?

I'm still mighty chuffed with the giant night glowing moons I screen printed a while back. Every time I switch of the lights and it starts glowing, I turn into a little kid for a couple of seconds and can't stop smiling. There's no deep meaning or story behind it, I just externalised my inner child and made something very pretty.

Do you have a preferred process?

I like the physicality of screen printing, there's something deeply satisfying in working with big screens, the printing tables... AND (after you're done) cleaning with a power washer hahahaha. I like having the comfort of working digitally until I'm done with the design, then it's almost magical to see how the printing process breaths a life into it.

What are you working on now?

Friends of mine own a plant nursery in the Dublin Mountains and I want to explore printmaking with all the different shrubs they have. I was supposed to visit them earlier this month, but then the lockdown happened. So for now I'm happily sketching away in my tiny sketchbook and using the sunshine to work out how Cyanotype works.

How are you coping with Covid 19 lockdown, have you made any new work and future plans?

The lockdown hasn't affected me too much yet. I work as 2D animator for a Belfast animation studio, once the reality of Covid 19 hit, the owner of the company made the decision to have us all work from home. Remote work comes with its challenges, but also with its own set of lovely benefits. I'm trying to see the bright side of it by enjoying lunchtime naps in my sunny backyard and catching up on my bucket list.

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Works by Declan

Josephine McCormick in conversation with Declan Byrne

Celebrating Belfast Print Workshops’ technicians and workshop managers. Belfast Print Workshop has had many technicians and workshop managers over the years, and today I want to acknowledge them. Technicians’ bring to the studio a fresh perspective concerning skills, workshop practice and international networks. All of which strengthen the aim of BPW as a place of printmaking excellence. Today I will be in conversation with Declan, Dónall and Raquel.

You were manager at the Belfast Print Workshop, when and for how long were you working for BPW?

I started off as a volunteer in BPW back in 2007 and worked on several occasions as an interim technician. Then in 2009 I started teaching etching classes at the workshop. Once I completed my Master of Fine Art I went on to become the workshop technician in 2012 then workshop manager about a year later. Seems like a lifetime ago now haha.

When and how did you discover that printmaking was a medium for your creative practice and professional career?

I made my first silkscreen print around 1998 cutting out intricate Celtic knotwork designs on Rubylith film. The process and creation of multiples intrigued me. I was an avid collector of stamps, banknotes, comics, ephemera etc so the idea of editions, numbering, and collecting greatly appealed to me. In 2003 I was introduced to photo-polymer intaglio printmaking by my tutor Ray Henshaw at Southern Regional College in Newry. From that period on I began to explore many printmaking techniques. Since that time, I have went on to work at BPW, engage with many community groups, teach printmaking at Belfast College of Art, was a member of Seacourt Print Workshop and currently I am based at Flax Art Studios.

Tell me about a printmaking project for BPW you enjoyed working on.

I enjoyed all the projects I worked on over the years for BPW. Many ranged from working with various organisations including Arts Ekta, The Northern Ireland Muslim Family Association, The MAC, secondary schools, printing demos at Ulster Hall…the list goes on. However, the workshops Artist in Residency scheme was probably by far, the most enjoyable I’ve worked on. Notable artists I’ve had the pleasure of working with include Tom Hammick, Clifford Rainey, Victor Sloan and Micky Donnelly.

Do you have a favourite piece or series you can tell us about?
I created several etchings over the years as part of an on-going series of work titled ‘Contemporary Noir’. From this series I have 3 prints which all went on to win awards. The first was titled ‘The Naked City’, a large composite etching comprising 6 plates measuring 250cm by 200cm approx. which was purchased by the University of Ulster. ‘Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes’, a large steel plate etching which won the Arts Society of Ulster Award. The 3rd in this body of work is titled 'Kent Street' which went on to win the Nicholson & Bass Printmaking Award at the Royal Ulster Academy in 2013. The ‘Contemporary Noir’ series was highly influenced by the style and aesthetics of European and American film noir.

Do you have a preferred process?

My preferred process is etching. Prepping the plate, using an aquatint booth, painting stop-out varnish, dipping into ferric chloride…. The process itself I find deeply therapeutic. The next stage of inking and wiping, the careful handling of dampened paper, the turn of the flywheel…the big reveal as you roll back the felt blanket. The sights, sounds and smells bring me back to my days at the art college. Etching creates a rich, textured image ranging from subtle gradients to rich, deep tones. Depending on budget or timeframe, I can happily labour over a plate for days.

How are you coping with the Covid 19 lockdown, have you made any new work and future plans?

I have just recently been un-furloughed from work so back to porridge for me. I haven’t made any plans for printmaking at home but have been working on some small-scale paintings and some photography. I will be keen to get back into printmaking once the lockdown comes to an end. Post-pandemic we shall be entering a new art world. There has been a surge of many during lockdown to turn to the arts as hobby, as a way to pass the time. Many people who haven’t created art since their childhood are now becoming creative. This is great. I hope this is something that they will continue after lockdown, but I also hope this doesn’t dilute or ‘hobbyise’ what people think artists do in their daily lives. Many artists live hand to mouth through their art. Art is more than a hobby to such artists. It is a vocation, it puts food on their table, it’s how they live and breathe. After lockdown I would like to see a bigger support for artists. Better funding for the arts.

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Works by Dónal Billings

Josephine McCormick in conversation with Dónall Billings

Today I have reflected on why being a member of Belfast Print Workshop means so much to me. To me and I think for others' it is ‘home’, a communal, sociable and creative space. It is one of the main reasons why I live in Belfast. Deep friendships are forged at Belfast Print Workshop. I have observed if a member comes in, they are welcomed with open arms and smiles. Being present in the studio I have seen everyone support each other, each person is mindful of leaving the press,tools and printing table in a suitable clean condition, so that the next person can use it.
There are quiet extended blocks of time, everyone is focused, heads down printmaking, but at certain points during the day there are natural intervals or pauses, where we laugh, converse, exchange news, offer a lift home (most printmakers are like pack horses, we’ve always got a lot of stuff to take home) It is an unspoken understanding of being together in a creative pursuit that we love and we respect each others’ creative journey. The technicians are part of that ebb and flow of being there to support the members. That’s why I want to celebrate and acknowledge their contribution to Belfast Print Workshop.

You were our technician at Belfast Print Workshop, when and for how long were you working for Belfast Print Workshop?

I was a stand in technician for a short period of time, around a nine month transitional period for BPW around three or four years ago. There were a number of technicians I have worked with during my time at BPW. Since then I have remained a member of BPW and on occasion have been called in to act as a casual technician when required. I continue to print at BPW and facilitate printmaking courses.

When and how did you discover that printmaking was a medium for your creative practice and professional career?

Art has always been an intrinsic part of my own personal and wider family life. Education was also a major driving force for both interpersonal benefits and the ability to contribute to society. Printmaking, for me, could combine all the elements that I valued in achieving those aims while allowing me to indulge my creativity. I choose to pursue printmaking because it can be anything you choose it to be and print lends itself well to cross-disciplinary purposes. I have the freedom to be as technical as I want and/or as expressive as my imagination allows. You were one of my teachers in printmaking along with some other past and current members/technicians and I learnt much from being in the company of creative people. I still see and work with people who I studied under and I still see their desire to create and play which I find incredibly inspiring. I aspire to be like that and endeavour to provide a professional and quality technical service in print.

You undertook an Arts Management course at Queens University, how did that inform your work as a technician at Belfast Print Workshop?

The Arts Management course at QUB opened my eyes to the many other realities of working within the wider arts sector. The programme allowed me to engage with and question cultural policies that have the potential to impact courses of direction for studios like BPW and the artists who make use of them. The research elements of the programme gave me the opportunity to read about historically influential policy decisions that,for instance, have led to where the arts sector and BPW is currently situated. What the future holds is to be determined. The programme allowed me to challenge biases and gaps and hopefully developed the flexibility of mind and tools to be able to thrive in an increasingly competitive professional world while enriching my arts practice. As well as those benefits I enjoyed meeting other people with diverse interests from many walks of life which is also another reason I got into printmaking.

Tell me about a printmaking project for Belfast Print Workshop you enjoyed working on.

I have been involved in a number of different types of projects for BPW as it is that kind of place, which is one of its amazing assets. I really enjoy the educational projects particularly when working with people who are new to printmaking but I also enjoy the more collaborative or co-creative side of things on professional projects for different reasons. One of these projects was working on an edition of prints for an artist’s book in collaboration between BPW and artists from Queens’s Street Studios. This was a completely new and enjoyable experience and I got to see printmaking and performance art working co-creatively.

Do you have a favourite piece or series you can tell us about?

As a technician I have editioned a number of series for artists and clients and always enjoy the moments shared when the print is revealed. Recently I took part in a mentoring scheme with Arts for All as a mentor. Multi- plate colour photo intaglio was the main focus of our exploration towards an exhibition and knowledge based outcomes. Mentoring really challenges teaching and technical approaches and I have to say that I gained as much from the process as Lisa Murray did on the programme. It re-ignited a new understanding in the characteristics of this process that I have continued to experiment with. These experiments have led to a more painterly approach in how I now use photo intaglio and I have subsequently created a series of prints based on this approach.
It demonstrated to me how printmaking can be approached in various ways with many diverse and beneficial outcomes. I am pleased that Lisa’s series of photo intaglio prints have turned out to her satisfaction and that she continues to gain in knowledge and skills with this process.

Do you have a preferred process?

It changes year to year and at the minute I am working with aluminium, salt and copper sulphate (salt etching). There are certain qualities that I am pursuing in this process which has resulted in intense experimentation with it. The plates allow for unconventional hybrid approaches that combine the elements I enjoy in printmaking, experimentation, play, randomness, chemistry, depth and sculptural qualities to name a few.

How are you coping with the Covid 19 lockdown, have you made any new work and future plans?

It’s a strange combination of planning and enjoying the moment, anxiety and freedom, for my own future and for those in my family that work for the health services. The covid-19 lockdown has impacted the momentum in my ability to work and the arts sector in various ways. It has caused very difficult choices to be made in whether to risk working or not. Hopefully those in charge will prioritise the importance of the health services and the arts particularly in regards to mental health when planning their next strategies. I am attempting to adapt to the new current norms of online learning, digital creative processes and the limitations imposed on travel and resources. Much of printmaking involves plenty of preparation and there are things that are possible particularly in regards to photo intaglio like preparing positives and research.
There are many analogue, DIY and back to basic art skills and techniques that could be practiced and those background details that I always promised myself to revisit and refine. Some of the images on display are re-evaluations of previous work with a fresh mind-set as well as new work created just before the lock down. My intentions are to use any time wisely and consider what my options may be for the future and the potential outcomes if and when this lockdown is lifted. As I am curious as many others may be as to how things will eventually manifest.

  • Raquel
  • Raquel
  • Raquel
  • Raquel

Work by Raquel Amat Parra

Josephine McCormick in conversation with Raquel Amat Parra

You were our technician at Belfast Print Workshop, when and for how long were you working for Belfast Print Workshop?

I started working as a technician on November 2015 I have been working there until March 2020.

When and how did you discover that printmaking was a medium for your creative practice and professional career?

During my Fine Art bachelor studies, at the Fine Art University of San Carlos, at the Polytechnique University of Valencia, Spain. I took part in an Erasmus program for 10 months at the Fine Art Academy of Katowice, in Poland. I was signed at the Drawing and Painting department and I took all printmaking subjects. This was my first contact with the technique, at the lithography and relief studios. Since then, I have continuously been engaged with it. Since then I decided to incorporate print into any art projects being often related to bookbinding, paper installations and ceramics as well as work on fabric, animation or other multimedia work.

Tell me of your international printmaking experience across Spain, Poland and China. How did this experience inform you being the technician of BPW?

The welcoming of this technique, made me decide to move back to Poland after finishing my Fine Art Degree in Spain. This time I went to the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Graphic Art and Design in Wroclaw. I undertook a Fine Art Master in printmaking and visual media for two years which has kept me since engaged into different projects along national and international artists. These studies also allowed me to perform an internship program at Dreipunkt Edition in Munich, Germany where I was working as a printmaking and gallery assistant, working closely with the artists Alexander Arundell and Kristiane Semar doing a variety or print editions of large scale monoprints, woodcuts, etchings, mezzotints etc. Short after finishing this program I started working at Belfast Print Workshop.
My most rewarding international experience so far has been a Print residency program I took part in during last summer at Guanlan Original Printmaking Base, in Shenzhen, China. Initially, I was contacted by the director of the Chinese Printmaking Museum for purchasing my prints for the museum collection. Soon after I received a letter of invitation for taking part into the artist in residence program and thanks to an International Travel Award funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, I performed this wonderful project for six weeks.

Tell me about a printmaking project for Belfast Print Workshop you enjoyed working on.

It is hard to commit and pick only one project to talk about, but I would say it is the Printmaking Symposium during of March 2020. I loved working closely with my colleague Meadhbh McIlgorm who worked so hard with all our partners and guest artists as well as our team of helpers. I loved arranging collaborations with Polish artist Malgorzata Warlicowska, as well as the development of the workshops by her and Sumi Perera.
Preparing the posters and hanging the exhibition and all other related work was very demanding but so rewarding after hearing all the positive feedback we received after the event. We had such joyful, interesting and talented guests!

Do you have a favourite piece or series you can tell us about?

I am enjoyed working with the prints from my solo exhibition ‘Under the Phoenix eye’. This work involves a series of stone lithography prints, etchings, mokulito, and offset prints, as well as a series of cyanotypes. The work involves prints developed during my art residency in China. The work was inspired but the nature of the surroundings along the path towards the printmaking studio which was full of ‘melaluca’ trees. These trees have been used to make paper for papyrus in ancient Egypt and as a passionate and paper lover I could not avoid developing a project related to these trees.

Do you have a preferred process?

Being a technician makes this answer a bit of a hard commitment. (I laughed) This time working at BPW has made me engage more into the technical aspects of printmaking and its different combination with the different processes. However, ever since I started practicing lithography I have kept experimenting and researching about the process and its bridge with other techniques as for example mokulito (a lithographic process that combines lithography and relief into one matrix) so I would still consider lithography as my favourite printing process.

How are you coping with the Covid 19 lockdown, have you made any new work and future plans?

Being day and night working in the print workshop both as an artist and as a technician made this isolation period very challenging since I do not have access to printmaking equipment either a studio-space at home and I’m used to working all the time. However, I found this time a good time to think and go back to my day-life sketching, drawing figures and taking notes of ‘everyday-everything’, feelings, stories, people we miss…led me getting some good ideas for upcoming work. I also have barely managed to put together materials I had around for bookmaking and I have started working with projects on paper like books and collecting sketches and ideas, all to avoid making a mess of ink in the house of course. Yet, I have also started working again with printmaking techniques that use water based ink and made some hand-pulled tests.
I am looking forward to share them shortly and have some videos of the process up online. So keep posted!

  • International
  • International
  • International

BPW International Exhibition ‘Verein Fur Original Radierung’, Munich

One of the first International exhibitions by Belfast Print Workshop was an exhibition of members work in Munich, as part of an Irish cultural festival.

I apologise for the lack of pictorial documentation as this event took place before social media gained a central role in documentation of events. The festival took place in February 1999.

The festival was initiated by Angela Feeney, who was at that time the lead soprano with Munich State Opera in collaboration with Arts Council of Northern Ireland director Philip Hammond. Participants representing Northern Ireland were; The Ulster Orchestra, Belfast Print Workshop, Belfast Exposed, (photographer Sean McKernan) and artist, Victor Sloan. In the photograph of participants, there is also Peter Schneider, the music director for Munich State Opera.

It is worth noting that Angela Feeney is also the founder of the Belfast Classical Music Bursary and she also initiated Feile an Phobail’s West Belfast Classical Bursary Awards.

Members who represented Belfast Print Workshop were James Allen, Eddy Rafferty, Janet Preston and myself.
We attended Munich State Opera where the Ulster Orchestra played for one night only on the 27th February 1999, afterwards we all went to the British Embassy for a party and the ladies were presented with a signed presentation silk scarf on behalf of Munich city (a side note, we weren’t offered any Ferrero Rocher chocolates but the food and wine flowed from the kitchen)

James Allen was invited to stay an extra week as artist in residence. He had an assistant translator called Kristiane Semar, whom I stayed with while in Munich. Kristiane was a printmaker who had undertaken a printmaking course at Ulster Polytechnic under the tutelage of David Barker, then Head of Printmaking.

I think the photographs show our excitement and enjoyment at being part of the Irish Cultural Festival. Especially the photograph of Victor Sloan and Kristiane Semar and a Berlin Gallery owner deep in discourse. There was a great exchange of ideas and the opportunity to connect and share with another culture through printmaking.

  • Viscosity
  • Viscosity
  • Viscosity
  • Viscosity
  • Viscosity
  • Viscosity

Images from International Exhibition of Viscosity Prints from the Atelier Contrepoint at Belfast Print Workshop

International Exhibition of Viscosity Prints from the Atelier Contrepoint

I co-curated this exhibition of viscosity prints (also known as intaglio simultaneous colour printmaking) with the director of the Atelier Contrepoint Hector Saunier, funded by the British Council. The exhibition was shown at the Belfast Print Workshop Gallery.

‘Viscosity printmaking’, was developed by Stanley William Hayter. The method of simultaneous colour printmaking is an etching technique involving several colours on the same plate, which offers increased possibilities for experimentation and innovation. I undertook two separate three month residencies at the Atelier Contrepoint in Paris funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The residency was intensive, you learnt the principles of viscosity printmaking and the philosophy behind the technique.
One of the main principles is that you had to undertake the three month stay in order to be allowed to teach it to other people. So I now deliver authentic viscosity printmaking workshops approved by the Atelier at Belfast Print Workshop. Ensuring that the technique taught is of a high professional standard in line with the principles of the Atelier Contrepoint.

A brief History of the Atelier Contrepoint:
The Atelier Contrepoint began as Atelier 17, founded in 1927 by Stanley William Hayter. The name was derived from its location at 17 rue Campagne Premiere, Paris, where Hayter settled in the beginning of the 1930's. At the outbreak of World War II, Hayter moved Atelier 17 to New York City and taught printmaking at the new school. Artists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko made prints at the New York Atelier 17. Returning to Paris in 1950, Hayter took Atelier 17 with him. Hayter, during his life worked with many contemporary artists to encourage their exploration of printmaking as a medium such as Miró, Picasso and Kandinsky.
Shortly before his death the British Museum purchased 400 prints from him, the largest purchase the museum has ever made from a living artist. Upon Hayter's death in 1988 the Atelier, in tribute to its founder, was renamed "Atelier Contrepoint."

 

This is my last post of the week and I would like to say a big thank you to all members who have participated. I have loved hearing about the history of BPW and seeing members work. I look forward to the weeks ahead and the cascade of beautiful prints.