ALIVE! (and screenprinting)

Alive! screenprint

Happy New Year 2015!

I thought I’d start the year — and this blog — with something creative I’ve been wanting to try for a while: screenprinting.

I’ve been getting more and more intrigued recently by working more with my hands. Lots of modern work, including mine, is quite cerebral — thinking and only ‘producing’ using a computer.  It has some massive advantages, but doesn’t have that same quality or satisfaction as making something physical.

The Case For Working With Your Hands: Or Why Office Work Is Bad For Us And Fixing Things Feels GoodI’ve been reading this book recently which really influenced me: The Case For Working With Your Hands: Or Why Office Work Is Bad For Us And Fixing Things Feels Good.  It makes the case, pretty powerfully (though not enough to convince me to change my day job yet!)  for the fulfilment and challenges you get from doing hands-on work.

But this has clearly been on my mind a lot longer: I’ve just realised I posted this picture below to my Instagram feed as long as a year ago!

Why is modern work so cerebral? How can we use our godgiven manpower?

It’s also something that’s been brought home to me recently after hurting my back, which my physio tells me came about through too much time spent sitting at a computer, not enough being active.  With some good help and a lot of consciously improving my posture I’m now almost back to normal — but I still can’t sit continuously for long periods of time.  It’s like my body is an alarm, telling me to get up and move.

It’s given me a lot of cause for thought about how I live my life, which has been very sedentary both in and out of work.  They say sitting is the new smoking — in which case it feels like time to quit the bad habit and start taking steps to lead a longer, healthier life.

That’s part of how I came to screenprinting.  It’s creative (which fires me up) but also very physical.  I’ve also been inspired recently by the craftivism of Sarah Corbett and Sarah Daly, the way that physically creating something has its own transformative power — and a powerful message.

Making the first “ALIVE!” print (above) was messy and fun.  Slower than I’d anticipated as I learnt the steps.  And I had a slightly hairy moment when the emulsion (what you put on the back to stop paint coming through in the areas of the image you don’t want it) wouldn’t “come off easily with soap and water” as the instructions predicted… (but it turns out cream cleaner did the trick!)

The slowness was a good thing in fact, the stages and preparation involved.  If I was creating a digital image I could do it on my computer very quickly.  But screenprinting it, it made me focus more intently on what I was doing, take more care (there’s no “undo” button after the ink goes down!).  It also made me more inquisitive as the finer points of the process depended on me and my technique.  The shaky edges to the letters and the patchy parts of the print weren’t intended: they’re where my hand didn’t steady.  On my laptop creating a beautifully sharp letter “A” is the easiest thing: in printmaking by hand it’s an art.  The physical challenge is largely removed, but maybe that challenge is part of what we need?

I’m looking forward to trying more and will post here …possibly with less commentary!  If you’re looking for a starter kit, I’m enjoying mine so far.