Tower Street Press creates a printing community
- Credit: Archant
Creating art can be a lonely endeavour, wrestling with ideas in a studio, but it need not always be. Arts Editor Andrew Clarke spoke to Alison Smyth one of the founders of a new community print project bringing beginners and experts together
The arts and creative expression should be a communal activity – a coming together of people of all abilities to express themselves and learn from one another.
This is the philosophy of the Tower Street Print Project, run by the Oyster Community Press CIC, in Ipswich. It has just launched an autumn programme of workshops and classes aimed at introducing newcomers to the world of print-making as well as offering support and facilities to more experienced practitioners.
There is also a Gallery Club starting this week that teaches print-making techniques which will lead to the Print Project’s inaugural exhibition at DanceEast’s exhibition space on the Waterfront.
Alison Smyth, one of the projects co-founders said: “We have previously been operating as a mobile facility, going out to schools, village halls, town halls and community centres around Ipswich and Suffolk, but we really needed a base where we could use some of the bigger presses we have and offer a more comprehensive series of workshops and classes.
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“So, it’s been great that the church authorities at St Mary le Tower have offered us the use of part of their premises in Tower Street. We are committed to our outreach work, which will continue, but it’s hard to be constantly on the move.
“We are excited to be working towards an exhibition at DanceEast. In the past we staged an exhibition at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds, funded by the YMCA and Age UK, which looked at negative images of young people and older people in the media.
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“We have also created the I for Ipswich exhibition at the County Library which was commissioned by the Borough Council as a means of bringing people from the Norwich Road area together who may not know one another and created a fabulous exhibition, created by complete beginners, which opened on the day of the Brexit vote, which was interesting.
“We have also worked at Whitton and Whitehouse schools, working in the playground to create wall-hangings for the school hall and did the printing by using a steamroller and working with Suffolk ArtLink on the use and history of protest art.”
Now that Oyster Community Press have a settled base at Tower Street they are hoping that the Tower Street Print Project will become a focal point for those wanting to experience the magic of print-making.
“We are conscious that print-making can appear to be quite intimidating and we want to be as open and accessible as possible. We are as happy to work with complete beginners as we are to work with people who are familiar with print-making and want to stretch themselves or learn new skills.
“We can lead you through the different techniques, show you what to do, how to make prints, build your confidence, develop your skills and allowing people to discover that there is nothing quite like expressing yourself through art. We do linocut, drypoint etching, monotype there lots of different techniques for people to try but if you want to develop existing skills then we are here to facilitate your needs as well.
“We do editioning and supervised practice for the more advanced printmaker.”
She said that Oyster Community Press is a community interest company and runs a variety of different courses ranging from half-day workshops to ten week courses.
“The advent of computers changed graphic design but the essential elements of printing have stayed the same. To really understand printing you have to get your hands dirty. It’s a real hands-on experience.
“One of the problems of computers is that you tend to focus on the technology rather than the basic concepts of graphic design. We’re not anti-computer at all. We use computers as a tool but if you use a direct printing method like etching or linocut, applying and removing ink, then the experience is magical.”
The Tower Street Print Project can be found at 17, Tower St, Ipswich, behind the bus station and opposite St Mary le Tower Church. Full course details: towerstprintproject.org.uk