Hello, I am Cath Bristow, a Brighton based printmaker. I use my printmaking practice to work in community engagement and outreach, facilitating printmaking
workshops across the South East with children, young people and adults within different community settings.
I have my own printmaking practice and my community printmaking practice and the two are inextricably linked. Facilitating the different needs, abilities
and emotions within a group workshop can be both mentally and physically exhausting and to balance this my own practice gives back to me and helps
to refresh my energy. Often working with a group will spark an idea that I might take forward into my own work and sometimes a technique that I have
developed within my own work I will take into my community practice, so the two go hand in hand.
Describe your printmaking process.
For the last 6 years I have been working in Collagraph. I begin with a drawing but this is the starting point and often as I make the plate the idea will
change and develop. For me it is important to be flexible and not stick too rigidly to a plan or drawing as this leaves room to also work spontaneously.
Using mount board as the base I use a combination of shapes that I cut from thin card and incised lines and areas that are cut from the mount board. Sometimes
I add a little texture by using textured wallpaper, lace, or carborundum. I play around with the layout and arrangement of the shapes and textures
then glue them to the mount board base
To ink up the collagraphs I use the intaglio process of inking and wiping for the incised lines and then I ink the raised card areas with a roller like
a relief print. This is very messy and I always have lots of clearing up to do! Finally I print the plate onto dampened Fabriano paper on a beautiful
Rochat etching press at bip Art printmaking studio in Brighton. Sometimes I make 2 plates
that are registered and printed on top of each other as in my print called “out of the shadows”:
How and where did you learn to print?
I feel like I am learning new things about printmaking all the time! I was introduced to screen print onto fabric and relief print over 30 years ago on
my Art and Design Btec course. I went on to study for a degree in Art and Social Context at Dartington college of Arts in Devon. The course was all
about honing your practice and stripping it back to create an accessible practice to take out and work within a community context. I developed a real
love of low tech printmaking and experimented with cut paper stencil screen print, overprinting and simple block making on paper and fabric. Following
this, I moved to London and began working with Cloth of Gold (now Social Fabric), an
Arts organisation working on collaborative print projects within schools, museums and galleries, working with lots of different simple but effective
printmaking techniques all of which after all these years we are still using with groups on a daily basis.
I have been lucky enough to work with some very skilled printmakers. I am always keen to keep upgrading my printmaking skills and over the last few years
have taken courses in Traditional etching, Collagraph and Zinc plate lithography at bip-Art printmaking in Brighton.
The satisfaction of seeing the print develop. Printmaking has so many stages to go through to produce the end result. Moving from the idea, the sketch,
to the translation into the plate, block or stencil, working out what will print, which way around, deciding what elements to keep, how different textures
might print. The element of chance and surprise that printmaking offers. The possibilities of exploring colour and how this impacts on the mood of
the finished print. And I am sure I speak for a lot of printmakers here, I love the surprise element of printmaking and never tire from the excitement,
anticipation and magic of lifting the screen or plate to reveal the printed work.
Why printmaking in community? Passing on the love of printmaking to more people!
Where do you work?
Different places every day, like a printmaking nomad! Could be a community centre, a school, an Art gallery or most recently Chichester Cathedral. I teach
short courses in Printed Textiles at bip-Art printmaking in Brighton. I work with Social Fabric who specialise in collaborative printmaking and participatory projects with young people and adults across the South East. Over the last 4 years I
have worked increasingly developing printmaking workshops within Mental Health and well-being.
I create my printing plates, stencils, experiment with print ideas, mix inks and prepare materials in a studio that I share with a lovely group of makers
in Brighton. I am a member of bip-Art printmaking studio and Screen-art Brighton where I use the presses and facilities to print my work.
How long have you been printmaking?
I have been leading printmaking workshops for the past 20 years and have been developing my own printmaking practice for the last 15 years.
The first printmaking job I did was t-shirt printing on a play scheme for my local community arts team in Lancaster when I was 19. During this summer I
worked with Social-Fabric, printing t-shirts with young people from the Grenfell community and I thought wow! here I am printing t-shirts 30 years
later and I still love it!
What inspires you?
The power of creativity. Going into a space with a group of young people or adults with blank paper, cloth or t-shirts, most of them having no previous
experience of printmaking and at the end of the session those people leaving with an amazing, colourful, individual collection of prints that they
have created -that is very inspiring!
What is your favourite printmaking product?
Caligo oil based water washable ink,
often I am working on a tight budget but even if people are making blocks out of polystyrene pizza trays or cereal boxes they always look really professional
when they are inked up and printed with good quality ink.
Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?
I sell my own work from my studio,with bip-Art printmaking at the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea and through artist open houses during the Brighton festival
What will we be seeing from you next?
more fun printmaking projects and workshops hopefully! Over the last 6 months within my own printmaking practice I have been going back to explore screen
printing on paper, so hopefully more screen prints too! I have also worked in collaboration with Brighton-based upholsterer Kiki Voltaire to create a series of limited edition hand screen printed noticeboards.
Do you have any advice for other printmakers?
Join an open access printmaking studio. It is inspiring to work alongside other printmakers. It is great to have access to professional presses, rollers
and a dedicated print studio. It is a really positive experience to work in a collaborative space with others absorbed in their creative processes.
At bip-Art printmaking we have a range of members, some who have just left 6th form college and others who are in their eighties and have been printmaking
for most of their lives. There is a fantastic spirit of generosity within the studio, printmakers sharing their knowledge and tips, making connections
and developing exhibition opportunities with each other.
See more of Cath Bristow’s work on her website.