A day out in Dalston:
Fun at the Print Club
Print Club, Dalston.
Print Club is a workspace in Dalston, north east London where for a rolling monthly membership you can access everything you need to do water based screen printing (using water based inks mean screens are far easier to clean and it is also better for the environment). As part of an introduction to the facilities and everything you need to know to get up and running with the printing process they put on a weekend workshop for beginners - I've wanted to do screen printing for years so yesterday I was booked into the workshop and got my first taste of what is on offer.
Dalston is the other side of London to where I live, but it was easy enough to find the club, a short bus ride from Old Street and I was there. Tucked down a side road the warehouse/studio environment is authentic and no nonsense. It isn't a tourist trap for hipster runoff, its a practical space for working artists to get access to the large and expensive equipment needed to do screen printing.
I arrived and was greeted with tea and biscuits and a selection of design books to look over whilst waiting for the other participants to arrive in from the cold. For the introduction workshop you can do a single colour print which we were asked to bring a 'positive' of to reproduce. These were scanned into one of the macs and printed onto tracing paper for use when developing our screens.
There were about a dozen of us for the workshop which is a nice size to have a chat and feel part of a group. The workshop was £35 for 11am - 4pm and it's all inclusive of materials and tea.
First we were given a tour of the space, looking at some of the work that club members have hung up around the main room to see what is possible. Print Club owner Fred Higginson led the way before and explained the steps we would be taking throughout the day.
The way the screens are prepared is to paint a screen with light sensitive emulsion which is then exposed in a light-box which bakes the areas which aren't covered by your design leaving the actual emulsion covering your design to wash off, leaving exposed mesh for your ink to pass through when printing onto paper or fabric.
Coating your screen.
Painting the emulsion onto the screens is done via a trough which you drag up your screen at an angle leaving a thin film of emulsion left on the screen (this takes place within a dark room style area which is lit with red lamps). The whole day is hands on and you are thrown in to do everything yourself under the watchful eye of Fred who keeps the daunting task lighthearted. Any mistakes present themselves as an excellent way to teach us how to remedy our beginner mishaps for future use.
Exposing the design.
Once the emulsion on the screen has dried, you can expose the positive upon it using the light-box which is a huge vacuum operated beast. The actual exposure takes 15 seconds, once this is done you simply wash off the emulsion that hasn't been exposed leaving our design ready to print. At this point we left the water to dry off our screens and headed out for lunch.
The final part of the day was getting to grips with the print beds, which vary slightly but the principal function is a clamp in which to hold your screen in place allowing you to lower and raise it to just above the paper or fabric you are printing onto. When using paper the beds have lots of tiny holes in them much like an air-hockey table, except they suck air instead of blow it out which holds your paper steady.
Setting your guides.
To ensure you can print multiple copies with accuracy, or when doing multiple passes for multi-colour prints you overlay your original design template (which has been fixed to a piece of the final paper size you are printing onto) with some acetate and print on top of the acetate. You can line up the two designs and mark where the edge of the paper is with card to use as a guide when loading the bed with paper after each successive print.
Creating your image.
Once you have all your alignment ready you load the screen with ink and simply pull the ink across the screen to 'flood' it with ink, this part is done with the screen raised off the bed so you don't actually print onto your paper. Then you lower the screen into position and drag the squeegee back across the screen in a fluid single sweeping motion, before finally lifting the screen to reveal the print.
You simply re-flood the screen by dragging the squeegee back in the other direction before loading another sheet of paper onto the print bed, being careful to line up the edges to your registration marks and print the next one. Repeat as necessary.
For the workshop we each did 6 prints of our chosen design, and we were encouraged to experiment with colour. Some of my fellow participants managed some really cool effects with their prints, whilst I somehow managed to do a 2 colour pass which was technically against the rules of day.
Either way it was a great day out, and I will definitely signup for a months membership later in the year once I have enough designs to do a big job lot of prints.
If you are interested in screen printing, or just looking for a fun day doing something different then I definitely recommend the Print Club. Perhaps even a good present for the creative ones in your life?
Get down there.
For more information check out the website at http://printclublondon.com/ and book yourself in for a fun saturday of hands on fun.