Studio News Edition 9: 22 May 2020

Studio News Edition 9: 22 May 2020

Debby Akam BannerWelcome

Thank you to everyone who shared, tweeted and liked posts for The Late Shows. It was lovely to be reminded of past events and to see photos of treasured printed things kept long afterwards. We were also extremely grateful for the donations made to our new ‘donate’ page on our website. We are working hard to plan for a phased-return for studio users later in the summer. This is our priority ahead of classes and courses or gallery exhibitions which will take more time to work through. All of this will take a lot of thought to plan new systems and make some adjustments to the building. We need to protect staff and want to ensure you all feel safe to return.

Remember – if you do need materials you can email and she can arrange to post these to you or a ‘click and collect’ option is also possible.

This week our newsletter will focus on printed textiles. We know this is something that many of you are interested in and have adapted our facilities to print on fabric. We were of course established to print on paper; printed textiles and surface design are a distinct area of expertise that we don’t profess to know so much about but would love one-day to have more facilities dedicated to this so that full lengths of fabric or wallpaper could be printed too. This seems to be a rare facility for open access and one of the few studios that did offer this: London Printworks Trust closed in 2012. You can still see information about the studios and their work here. Their output straddled textiles, craft, design and fine art. Click on the ‘archive’ button on the right to see the range of past exhibitions, events and projects.

London Printworks Trust   Yu-Wen Wu

Left: London Printworks Trust, printed sails for Yinka Shonibare’s ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ for Fourth Plinth Installation. Right: Yu-Wen Wu, from ‘Bundles’ Series of digital prints. You can see more of her work on her website here.

Our screen-printing facilities are better suited to printing smaller items than lengths of fabric and have frequently been used for t shirts, tea towels and tote bags. Of course – there are other ways of printing fabric such as this letterpress printed t shirt (image below) or the tradition of block printing fabric in places such as Jaipur in India. (check out Instagram and website for Rangotri, India) or the wax prints of West Africa. Originally a more labour-intensive batik-type process was re-invented by Dutch textile-factory owner Jean Baptiste Theodore Prévinaire to print the wax resist using blocks. These are the fabric designs used in the work of Yinka Shonibare and also the work of Yu-Wen Wu shown above.

Yu-Wen Wu was born in Taiwan and now lives and works in Boston, USA. Her work is about migration, displacement and identity. Her website has examples of her with work and installations working with refugees and migrants to tell their stories.  

Foundling Museum 1   Foundling Museum 2

Above: images of textile tokens from the Foundling Museum, London.  In the case of more than 4,000 babies left at the Hospital between 1741 and 1760, a small object or token, usually a piece of fabric, was kept as an identifying record. The fabric was either provided by the mother or cut from the child’s clothing by the Hospital’s nurses. Attached to registration forms and then bound up into ledgers, these pieces of fabric form the largest collection of everyday textiles surviving in Britain from the eighteenth century. You can read more about fabric from this period here.

If you want to explore the world through textiles, V&A have a good online resource with examples ranging from Japanese kimono to Mexican dresses. Check the website here. The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester also has an impressive textiles collection – the website takes a bit of navigation to find images of the collection but one treat is a book of sample block print designs by Thomas Wardle & Co. from 1909 – 1930.

Patterns, colours and fabric designs can evoke other places, times and cultures – they can also stir in each of us more personal and intimate memories of domestic spaces or clothes much-loved and long discarded. Perhaps there is something about a child’s mind weaving a route through the patterns of a bedroom curtain that means the design remains firmly imprinted.

Dock2Letterpress   Clothkits Dress   Anna's Curtains

Left: Letterpress printed T Shirt from Dock2Letterpress from a blog by Susan Angebranndt, USA. This blog also has some interesting posts about book-binding and some lovely examples of art in matchboxes. Centre: Clothkits dress – a dress design that was sold as fabric which had been pre-printed to cut out and sew at home – a sort of flat-pack fashion for the seventies and still going today. Right: Anna’s childhood bedroom curtains. ‘Jacanapes’ (seconds from Chesterfield Market!)

 Paul Poiret

The image above shows a garment designed by Paul Poiret, a French fashion designer (1879-1944) using fabric designed by French painter Raoul Duffy (1877-1953).

The original is now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York and can be viewed online here. It is accompanied by a wonderful quote from Poiret –

In his memoir The King of Fashion (1931), Poiret wrote, "Am I a fool when I dream of putting art into my dresses, a fool when I say dressmaking is an art? For I have always loved painters, and felt on an equal footing with them. It seems to me that we practice the same craft, and that they are my fellow workers." Dismissing the sibling rivalries that have always dogged the fine and applied arts, Poiret believed that art and fashion were not simply involved but indivisible.’

It is perhaps with the same spirit as Poiret’s describes in the quote above that many Modern British artists designed textiles – including Ben Nicholson, Paul Nash, Elisabeth Frink and Barbara Hepworth. They were commissioned by Alistair Morton of Edinburgh Weavers and the subject of a sumptuous book by Lesley Jackson from V&A publishing (RRP £45, a few second-hand copies available online for around £30)

Ben Nicholson had experimented with hand block-printed fabrics using linocuts – examples are in the collection at Kettles Yard, Cambridge. Nicholson collaborated with his sister - he was responsible for the design that was then manufactured by Poulk Press, set up by his sister Nancy Nicholson in the early 1930s.  

Nancy Nicholson    Ben Nicholson

Left: Curtain, c.1930 Nancy Nicholson Right: ‘Letters and Numbers’ 1933, Ben Nicholson. Poulk Press in V&A Collection here.

For a trip through mid-century British textiles visit this blog. For more information and links to textiles why not try the Textiles Society website or the Fashion and Textiles Museum, London website.

Robert Stewart

Thank you to studio user Bridget Jones for the introduction to the designs of Robert Stewart, a contemporary of Lucienne Day – some of which can be purchased from Glasgow School of Art’s digital print facility and viewed here. I was especially taken with ‘Machrihanish’ – presumably named after the huge, sweeping beach facing the Atlantic on the Kintyre peninsula and a perfect place to be this time of year!

Many of you will have enjoyed the furoshiki we stock in the gallery. These were imported from Musubi, Japan. Like tea towels and tote bags these traditional Japanese cloths are the perfect surface for printed designs. Furoshiki are traditional in Japan for wrapping gifts, there is a new video tutorial on how to fold your furoshiki to make a face mask. Enjoy!

Furoshiki 1   Furoshiki 2   Furoshiki 3

We do still have a small range of furoshiki available which are easy to post - let us know if you are interested and we can let you know the full range of designs that we have in stock.

Contemporary textile artists and designers working in print

Joanna Kinnersley Taylor, a textile designer based in Glasgow has worked with Northern Print on two occasions. The first commission was when the studio was still based on Fish Quay in North Shields and we commissioned Joanna to respond to the location and ‘dress’ the Quay to coincide the The Talls Ships Race. Joanna designed banners, aprons and wellingtons. We commissioned Joanna again in 2006 to design the formica on our reception desk. Her website is really worth spending time with and shows a range of commissioned work, projects and domestic linens. Joanna teaches classes in her studio in Glasgow and has written a book about dyeing and screen-printing on textiles for A&C Black.  

Joanna Kinnersley Taylor 1   Joanna Kinnersley Taylor 2

Woollen ‘skirt’ and aprons and wellingtons designed for Northern Print by Joanna Kinnersley Taylor.

Laura Slater is a printmakers and designer based in Yorkshire – her fabric designs used on cushions, lampshades and other surfaces use the particular mark-making qualities of printmaking to great effect. Check out her website here.

Laura Slater

Gail Bryson is an ex. studio user of Northern Print and is now working in London. She has designed the tea towel below for sale at £15 with 10% of sales going towards NHS Charities Together.

Gail Bryson 1   Gail Bryson 2

Northern Print Studio users work

Cath Hodson

Cath Hodson 1

As part of my work with the Creative Age project*, Queens Hall, Hexham, the idea of making printed ragdolls for the groups to make came up.  The participants would create a simple front and back design which I would photographically turn into a screen. They would print, make and dress the dolls which could then be sold as a fundraiser for the project, but, other ideas took precedence.

In March 2020 with the Covid-19 epidemic and lockdown, Susan Priestly, the organiser contacted me and the idea was resurrected.  I would print and make kits for the participants to turn into dolls. They could make outfits for the dolls which would be donated to a food bank in West Northumberland and given as gifts to children for Christmas.

Jane Foster 1   Jane Foster 2

I took inspiration from Jane Foster a Textile Designer and Illustrator who created a series of quirky dolls alongside her other work.

As Lockdown had been well and truly enforced at this stage I didn’t have access to the ultra violet light box and wasn’t quite confident enough to use sunlight so went back to basics and started to create paper stencils

Helen suggested using freezer paper which has an adhesive side which can be ironed onto the screen or fabric - if just making one, at a low temperature. I have kept the design very simple and limited it to 2 colours initially. I used a wide 43T  mesh and the printing ink was a 50:50 mix of textile medium and acrylic paint.

Cath Hodson 2   Cath Hodson 3   Cath Hodson 4

Fabric is much more absorbent than paper so you use more ink and depending on the fabric type more pulls may be needed. It’s quite addictive and after a while you become one with the process.

I love printing on fabric, the smell, the noise of the squeegee - it takes me back to the print room in my University days at Derby.

Cath Hodson 5

This has been a really enjoyable project. As the dolls are only 30 cm the paper stencil cutting has been a bit fiddly.  I’m not a great sewer but have really enjoyed assembling and dressing the dolls. I’m on to my second batch now - dogs this time.  At the end of this will I want to see another paper stencil?.....I’ll let you know!

*Creative Age is a programme of creative workshops, projects and activities for people (men and women) aged 50 plus which is funded through the Kellett Fund (via the Community Foundation of Tyne & Wear and Northumberland).  The programme has been running for 3 years and in that time has established and/or supported groups to come together in social settings to learn/share skills within arts, crafts and other creative processes.

Bridget Jones - New work

Bridget hosted our first virtual studio visit and shared her current thoughts about making new work. It is interesting to see how she is developing ideas about the wooden blocks she talked about.

 Bridget Jones 1Bridget Jones 2

“I have been thinking a lot of making new work. What that might be is what I am finding difficult at the moment. There are some good Scottish words which were part of my everyday lexicon growing up. They describe my process perfectly.

Guddle : a mess, a muddle, feeling your way with your hands.

Fushionless : lacking energy or drive.

Footer : to muck about aimlessly

Dwam : a state of reverie. Being in a daydream

I know this feeling, having earned my living as an artist for 30 odd years. I know not to panic, but to keep at it until something happens that feels right. The one thing I have at the moment is time, although I have always found deadlines very useful.

I have been watching Graysons Art Club and felt envious of all the people suddenly energised to start making work, not having been creative since they were children. Antony Gormley and Paul Smith – short self-filmed pieces - were also really good to watch on ‘Culture During Coronavirus’ on BBC iPlayer.

I have been slowly working towards two prints, one about my childhood bricks and one which has evolved from a little vase of flowers from my garden picked early in lockdown. I did a quick pencil drawing on some scrap paper – less pressure than working on a lovely blank page in a sketchbook. I spent some time redrawing this in ink on a much larger scale. I started well, then I overcooked it. At the same time, I did a very small – 2cm – version, and really loved it. I’ve been enlarging it gradually until I’ve found the right size for the print.

My printmaking in the past has mostly been screenprinting. I have worked this way in parallel with work on architectural glass commissions so I know how a screenprint will work, how to use elements from drawings to compose the layers. I sold my screen bed when I downsized studios and now am restricted to my press for relief prints and am trying to learn a new language of colour, line, markmaking and texture.

So, the next stage will be to cut the plates. I am going to try it with conventional cutting tools but also with a Dremmel multi tool. I am looking for a painterly print. I have recently been looking at the prints of artists who are mostly known as painters like Christopher le Brun and Gillian Ayres.”

Christopher le Brun - website                     Gillian Ayres – vimeo 

 Bridget Jones 3   Bridget Jones 6

Bridget Jones 4   Bridget Jones 4

 Photos from Bridget Jones – new work

Debby Akam - Textiles as an inspiration for Printmaking

People often say that my work reminds them of textiles, and ask whether I’m a textile designer. I’m not, but a love of textiles has been with me as long as I can remember, and the power of colour in environments, including the clothes worn by the people who inhabit them, as a source of emotional response is fundamental to my approach to my work.

Woven fabric has a powerful effect on me - finding an old garment transports me back to the time when it was new or current. It is the same response that impels some people to sew their old clothes into patchwork quilts, the impulse to bind memories into the fabric of the present.

 Debby Akam 1

West African woven blanket                      

The materiality of textiles is life- affirming. The feel and smell of cloth, especially hand- woven cloth creates an unconscious connection with another human being- the one who made it. Blankets are made to nurture people or keep them warm. A tribal dowry bag from Northern India speaks to me of an anonymous craftswoman, making a precious gift with love because there is no money. When I first saw Navaho weaving, I was entranced by the use of plant dyes to dye the threads, making the woven cloth a reflection of its’ environment. In traditional cultures, weaving is often done in the home, and is a testament to aesthetic awareness, and the importance given to how things look and feel. 

Debby Akam 2     Debby Akam 3

Left: Tufted Gabeh rug from Pakistan Right: Oil on canvas, Debby Akam

My partner Gary and I spent February 2020 at Tasara Weaving Centre in Beypore, India on an international artist’s residency (Tasara Beypore on FB). We were hoping to experience new ways of making things using low tech methods.

Debby Akam 4

Screen printing on fabric outdoors, Tasara 2020

In India print making is fundamental to textile production, including wonderful intricate patterns, created using low- tech methods like Dabu printing- a mud paste resist.

Debby Akam 5   Debby Akam 6

Left: Dabu print from Northern India  Right: My Indigo Shibori on linen made at Tasara

Debby Akam 7   Debby Akam 8

Natural dying, and painting on unstretched silk

There are also large modern department stores where you can lose yourself in colour and pattern for hours, not to mention all the clothes on people that you see every day.

Debby Akam 9

At Tasara, there were 8 traditional handlooms. Gary and I had never done weaving before and we collaborated on a textile, marvelling at how quickly inches of cloth can be generated, and enjoying the creative mind and body workout that operating these looms provides.

Debby Akam 10   Debby Akam 11

The handlooms at Tasara with our textile!

The warp and weft of cloth speak of the fundamental truth of vertical and horizontal that is very calming. That you can make a useful object by cleverly combining threads in a particular way to create a web, membrane, net, or matrix, and even make wonderful patterns like this is magical. 

Debby Akam 12

Weavers at the Khadi Factory, Chermancheri, Kerala

However, my creative focus is primarily in making images with print and painting and I’m interested in exploring how to make a translation of the process of weaving, in another medium, rather than making a woven textile itself.

Debby Akam 13   Debby Akam 14

Woodcuts on Lokta paper, Debby Akam 2019

Debby Akam 15   Debby Akam 16

Surrounding substance, 2019 screen print made at Northern Print in colour variations

My work often combines hand- made techniques such as woodcut printing with digital technologies. Drawing, painting, photography, and printmaking all contribute to my practice, and I often work with layered images, where different kinds of source material are juxtaposed, for example, the gestural marks of woodcut blocks contrasting with the immediacy of events captured in photographs. Motifs are drawn from life, from ‘found’ source material, patterns noticed in textiles, the natural world or the built environment, an improvisational approach that allows an element of chance into the making process, and one that often results in images that invite multiple readings.

Debby Akam 17

‘Homely’, 2017 screen print incorporating images of textiles from around my home.

Debby Akam 18   Debby Akam 19

Print making is a good medium for exploring juxtapositions of marks and textures within layers of colour. The process whereby the marks, motifs and patterns are cut in advance, allows me to intuitively and completely focus on colour relationships once I’m at the printing stage. 

Weaving is fundamentally about verticals and horizontals, and so invites a dialogue with minimalism and painting based on grids. It involves repetition, and repetitive body movements, bringing the relationship between line and colour, and rhythm together simultaneously.

 Debby Akam 20Debby Akam 21Debby Akam 22

Woodcuts juxtaposing grids and gestural marks handprinted on Japanese and Lokta paper

These are abstract concerns that modernist artists like Paul Klee and Anni Albers were interested in. In Britain, artists like Terry Frost, Patrick Heron and Barbara Hepworth drew inspiration from tribal art, as well as reflecting the colours and textures of their surrounding environments. Today, there is a renewed interest in craft traditions because there seems to be a collective desire to make things, and look again at sustainable materials. Designers are revisiting proponents of the Arts and Craft movement like Ruskin and Morris, and restating the importance of mindfully making things.


Thank you to Cath, Debby and Bridget for contributing to this newsletter – their time is appreciated – as is their generosity in sharing their ideas and inspirations with us. Please get in touch if you would like to share your work in future newsletters.

Favourite prints of favourite places

With May bank holiday approaching and thoughts turning to holidays not taken, we are inviting studio users to take us a journey through print. Please share an image and short text on why a particular print matters to you, what is the essence of a place that the artist evokes and why? Please email image, credit and short text to by Wednesday 27 May. All eras, processes, interpretations and places welcome!

Remote Technical Support

Helen is available to provide support via email, telephone, Zoom or Facetime at the times below or can be contacted by email to arrange a time. Helen will answer questions and work through any technical support to suit your needs and at your pace on a one-to-one basis. Please note these support sessions are FREE OF CHARGE. Other times by appointment with Helen.
Helen date time
Tuesday 26/05/20 10am, 12noon, 2pm, 4pm
Thursday 28/05/20

10am, 12noon, 2pm, 4pm

Printmakers Coffee Break

Next coffee break is Tuesday 26 May at 11am

If you have any thoughts or questions about printmaking or just want to chat (or just listen in) with other studio users and staff you can join the coffee break via Zoom using a private link provided by us - just get in touch for access details.

Staying connected:

Sharing your work online #printmakerspost

If you have images of work in progress, finished work or perhaps sketchbooks or ideas you would like to share we are doing this via social media (Instagram; Facebook and Twitter) using the hashtag #printmakerspost. For those of you who would prefer to email images and short text we will share as part of our weekly newsletter. Just email to

Cat Moore       Kate Miller

L-R Cat Moore (Instagram @catmooreprintmaker) has been combining creative work and home schooling  by making sun prints in the garden with her children using ready made photosensitive paper. Kate Miller (Instagram @bykatemillerprints) has been making linocuts of hedgerow plants and is planning on collaging onto the prints.

Janet E Davis       Janet E Davis 2

Above - Janet E Davis (Instagram @janetedavis) is in the midst of making woodcuts of butterflies and plans to create chine collé prints.

 Keith Gray   Keith Gray

Above Keith Gray made laser cut wood engravings to represent water and has layered the technique with linocut.  L The Fish and the Ring (part of the Magic & Myth exhibition at Woodhorn Museum which was closed owing to Covid-19 measures). A couple hugged closely on a bridge over the River Tweed. A ring was presented, and fumbled, and dropped, into the river. Sometime later, the ring was recovered by a fisherman. It was returned to the couple, who, magically, lived happily. R - the Bells of Brinkburn.

Facebook group

Don't forget you can post images of your work and chat about printmaking using our Facebook group 'Northern Print Share and Chat.' The group now has 49 members and you can join by clicking this link and pressing the button on the top banner to request to join. We'll approve your request within a day or two and then we'll see you in there. Thanks this week to Chris Madge and Anja Percival  for showing us your work this week and keeping the conversation going. Want to see what they've posted? Follow the link and have a look!

Other opportunities

We are trying to do a weekly roundup of opportunities we see but please send in any that you’d like to share with other studio users.

  • Printmaking Today has a listings of opportunities available online here
  • CuratorSpace have opportunities across all visual art forms here
  • a-n has an updated page on guidance and support for artists – here
  • Arts & Heritage is looking for artists of all disciplines to work with local museums - details here

Please ask if you would like any advice with applications.

If you have any suggestions or would like to contribute to future editions of Studio News please get in touch via We’d love to hear from you!

Back to blog