This early May bank holiday I was lucky enough to get chosen to be 1 of 49 printmakers from around the UK to exhibit at Printfest 2019. Founded in 2001, Printfest is the UK’s foremost artist-led printmaking festival and held annually at the Coronation Hall in the festival town of Ulverston, Cumbria.
As a first exhibition, it felt like I was very much jumping in at the deep end, but I couldn’t have hoped for a warmer and more encouraging welcome. So many lovely printmakers who gave me some great tips and advice, I definitely felt like I got looked after by everyone.
Some key lessons I learnt from the exhibition and I would pass on to anyone else doing their first show:
- Have a plan of the stand in advance: this was a lifesaver. If I’d arrived and been faced with a blank stand without any idea of where I wanted things to go, I think that might have been the end of my Printfest (especially after the 7+ hour drive up to the Lake District from Cornwall).
- Mirror plates: the worst fixings to use when people want to buy the framed version of your print there and then (having eager buyers watching you unscrew the mirror plates from both the wall and frame, feels like an eternity). Much better to just have wires and hang on single screws - even if it does mean you have to keep adjusting and straightening your frames throughout the exhibition.
- Leave the stool at home: you won’t have time to sit down and it takes up valuable room in your exhibition area. The buzz of the event will keep you standing and moving around all day.
- Carve out time to visit the exhibition yourself: I managed to have a quick look around, but would have really liked to have spent a bit more time meeting other printmakers and talking to them about their work.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to people: People who come to exhibitions like these are keen to find out more. This is the thing I enjoyed most, talking people through the process of collagraph printmaking and answering all their questions. Some were just starting out on their own printmaking journey and looking for inspiration or that final nudge of encouragement and others wanted some new art for their homes. I’m not actually that great at speaking in front of lots of people (I get all shy and tongue-tied), but I realised the trick is to find something you are really passionate about and then there is no stopping you. I met so many lovely people and had some fantastic conversations - I’m hoping that they came away with as much as I did.
- Lastly, have fun!: I came to Printfest with no expectations, but a promise to myself to just have fun, no matter how stressed or nervous I felt.
A couple of stand out moments from the three days:
- A young lady buying my goat print after she fell in love with it to go in her first home. This felt like a real honour and was lovely knowing it was going to such a great new home.
- Another one was talking to a very inquisitive young girl and her mum about the process of collagraph printing. The young girl listened to everything and was like a sponge taking in all the information. A printmaker of the future, I’m positive!
A big thank you to the whole Printfest team for having me, it was an absolute blast! For more information on Prinfest click here.
*Images by Kate Kirkwood