When August comes around, you can generally find me lugging around, for days on end, one of those vast blue Ikea bags, stuffed with blankets, a feather pillow, a cashmere jumper and carrot batons, along with any booze that doesn't come in a glass bottle (AOTW is all about safety first). Why? Because it's Summer Screen time at Somerset House, silly, and I virtually make those stony cobbles my home. It's a wonderful thing, Summer Screen - those clever chaps at Film4 select a load of brilliant films, both new and old, and encourage us to wallow in the celluloid wonder of cinema whilst lying under the stars (or perhaps a brolly if the weather turns a bit shit) in one of the most beautiful settings in London.
Concepcion Studios : Roman Holiday
What's even more wonderful is that each year, there's a brilliant tie-in exhibition of screen-printed posters, featuring illustrations depicting the films on show throughout the fortnight. This great idea is curated in collaboration with Somerset House by the top folks at Print Club London, whose selected artists create an inky mise-en-scène interpretation of their chosen flick for our delight. I caught up with Rose Stallard, illustration top-bod and one of the brains behind Print Club, to find out more. Are you ready for your close up, RS...?
So, tell me - how did Print Club get involved with Summer Screen?
We started off doing Pick Me Up (Somerset House's annual illustration and graphic art extravaganza) and over the years a good relationship built up between Somerset House and Print Club. I suppose, it just went from there. We'd already curated exhibitions and events, and making prints for the Summer Screen event seemed a natural project for us to collaborate on.
Is there a Print Club process for deciding who gets a go at what?
Well, we select a load of Print Club artists to be involved each year, then we're given the films that will show over the fortnight, and we send the film list off to the selected artists, and they choose which they'd like to work on. Often each artist will have a shortlist of three choices, which makes it easier if there's one film that turns out to be really popular - so they do get some choice! And obviously, an artist needs to be excited, to feel an affinity with their film - they end up watching it a few times to get the vibe and pick up the visual or verbal cues to help create the piece.
What happens next?
Once the piece is created, all the artwork is shown to the partners involved in Summer Screen, so there's the usual process of roughs, final, and then sign off of artworks, and finally the artists get down to the business of printing. In years past, it's just been a two-colour print, but this year it's as many colours as they like! We print 200 editions of each piece of work, and then have a launch evening at Somerset House to showcase the work just as the Summer Screen fortnight approaches. The launch night for the exhibition is on July 29th this year, and Summer Screen runs from August 6th to August 19th. It's such a brilliant event, Summer Screen. They really do curate a wonderful mix of films, so it's great there are some beautifully illustrated screen prints as mementos of the event.
How long ago did Print Club begin?
It was back in 2007. I met Fred (Higginson, director of Print Club) at Absorb, which is more of a fine art studio here in Miller's Avenue, he was running that. I went off to Camberwell College to use their screen printing facilities as part of the AA2A project, and I came back all fired up. I asked Fred if I could have a corner space at Absorb to put a couple of screen print beds that Camberwell were giving away, and then the space which is now Print Club's studios became available below Absorb.
So, then we were off - we said 'This is Print Club!'. The idea was there was this place where you could just hop on your bike, turn up, all your screens and equipment could be left there, and you could just get straight into printing, not fine art, but illustration and graphic art - something simple, quite spit-and-sawdust.
Quite humble beginnings, then?
Yes, that was September 2007, and at first it was just me and Fred. Then, I think word just naturally started to get round, and in July 2008, we had our first big Blister Show (Print Club hold print sales of work on a regular basis, usually held at MC Motors, an adjacent location house hewn from an old garage). It was such a huge success and really launched Print Club. That's where Kate (Higginson, fellow director of Print Club) comes in. She saw all the post-it notes and piles of paperwork and told us it was time we got a bit more organised. So, then she organised us, thankfully!
I guess Blister Show helped spread the word?
Definitely. That first Blister Show put us on the map. It meant we got to work with really great illustrators, and more importantly, that people could come to one of our shows and see work from an established artist alongside more up-and-coming artists. It was very important to us that the art was always affordable, and Blisters is such a fun event, one-night-only, it creates a great buzz. It's an awful lot of planning for one night, but it's so worth all the hard work. There's a plan to have another Blisters next year - watch this space...!
I love that this little street in Dalston has become such a creative hub.
It's great being here. Alongside Absorb and Print Club, there's also Miller's Junction, which is a creative desk workspace for artists and illustrators to rent, and there's a gallery too. All the artists have started to cross over into each of the resources and spaces available. It's really collaborative, there's always something new happening.
And you hold workshops. Can a total novice like me turn up and not make an idiot of myself?
Of course! We have complete beginners workshops, where you arrive with an image or design, and we show you how to get it onto a screen and you leave that day with your first print. Once you've got the bug, we hold a two-day course - deluxe! - where you understand how to make your positives using Photoshop, and that takes you on to the next level. Over a year, we help around 2,500 people to get started on their first screen print.
Joe Vass : Warriors
Blimey! That's a lot of people printing.
Yes, and a lot of them progress to become members of Print Club. People love to see the results of something they've made by hand, and I definitely feel that's becoming more and more important in the modern world. I can remember when I was growing up and all the bands handmade their fliers, and I've noticed now that there's a real return to printers hand-making their positives, leaving the computer behind. I love this. It gives you time and space to think about what you're creating, when you're not knocking it out on a computer.
It's led me onto a bit of signwriting, and I did a wonderful course recently with Mike Meyer. He's a master sign painter, such a craftsman, and it was a real joy. I've asked him to come in and the plan is to film him hand-painting his positive and then creating a screen print, so we'll document a completely analogue process. That'll be around September time, and I'm very excited about that. We're also at The Affordable Art Fair in October in Battersea, so I suppose that's the next big thing after Summer Screen.
Going back to Summer Screen, I hear you've created a design yourself this year. Which film did you choose and why?
I sure did - my film is Spike Lee's 'Do The Right Thing'. I couldn't resist those 80s colours and then there's MISTER SEÑOR LOVE DADDY providing an awesome soundtrack. 'Y'all Take A Chill!'
If any of you print lovers and cinéphiles fancy a bit of that, get yourselves down to the finest Neoclassical picturehouse around for a signed and numbered limited edition print from the likes of Rose Blake, Claudia Borfiga, Lucille Clerc, Concepción Studios, Barry Leonard, MoL, Ben Rider, RYCA, Rose Stallard, Peter Strain, Joseph Vass, Holly Wales, Joe Wilson, Steve Wilson and Cassandra Yap. How's that for some thoroughly outstanding closing credits?
Steve Wilson : American Werewolf in London