Never tried screen printing? Well, you probably should.
It was a warm Friday afternoon when I walked into the autumn-coloured city centre and found my way to the ink-smattered space that is Sheffield Print Club, hidden away in the rather unromantically named ‘Unit 2’.
I’d never done any screen printing before, but had always wanted to give it a go as I love the aesthetics of the finished product. So, after a short but sweet email conversation with Jane, the woman behind the ink, I signed myself up for this: a private half-day course with one of the space’s more permanent fixtures, Lawrence, a commercial screen printer.
I arrived unfashionably and unknowingly late (half an hour, apparently) but was warmly welcomed and invited to get stuck straight in. We began the class by discussing the prepared artwork that I’d not brought in with me. Always ready to improvise however, I spluttered out, “Mm, Christmas cards?” Surprised at my own embarrassingly early festive preparation, I nodded and confirmed the idea. “Yes. Let’s print Christmas cards. In September.”
We began by preparing our screen for exposure, allowing it to dry while we digitally edited and resized a fittingly festive stock image of some cabins in the snow. Then, through a beautiful process which I won’t attempt to explain in the expert detail which was given, our festive image was printed out, prepared and exposed. Once our screen exposure was ready, we prepared our second, hand-drawn layer. I decided on a textual design and got about sketching before using a scalpel to cut out each letter. Then came the deliciously thick ink.
Lawrence stuck the kettle on while he explained the all-important moment where I’d get to print for the first time. I chose my inks, a wintry blue for the cabins and a pale pink for the overlaying text, hoping to create a third, greyish colour by layering the two. First was the text design. We set up the screen, did a few practise runs and then put our paper in place. With full instruction on placement, pressure and even stance (yes, both feet firmly on the ground, hip-width apart please) I did it. I printed, and I liked it.
At the end of the three hour class, I came away with ten original cards which I’ll now tuck away until Christmas when friends and family members will be encouraged to tell me how impressed they are at my obvious, natural talent for screen printing.
Sheffield Print Club, it was a pleasure.
Words: Danielle Mustarde.