Fancy printing your own poster? Try a screenprinting class!
I’m wandering down a rainy street in Dalston, searching for the tucked-away Print Club London studio. It’s been four years since I’ve screenprinted, and I’ve brought a design with me to print. A smiling, confident young artist greets me at the door. “Hi, I’m Marco,” he says. “Have some tea and biscuits and we’ll wait for the rest of the workshop to arrive!”
Print Club London caters to anyone and everyone, ranging from large corporations like Sony, to bands like MGMT and curious Londoners.
“It’s important to perpetuate the art,” Marco says, unscrewing the press’ clamps with a pair of blue-inked fingers. “Print Club London promotes a hands-on, affordable
experience…it’s important to expose the public to the process.”
As soon as everyone arrives we’re provided with a multi-coloured assortment of smocks. Before Marco takes us into the hazy orange darkroom, and we line up around him like schoolchildren in our inky smocks. He slides a tray of emulsion up a taught silkscreen, scraping excess liquid from the screen with a stiff bit of card. While that dries, the workshoppers huddle over light boxes with tracing paper copies of our designs.
Irene, the artist next to me, is tweaking her design with a thin black pen. “Practice is what is most fun about this workshop,” she says, her brown eyes following the careful strokes of her pen.
Once the emulsified screens have dried, Marco takes us each individually into the darkroom to transfer our designs to the silkscreen. Using air compression, the designs are set. Marco lets me flip the switch that projects light through the trace paper and onto the screen, exposing my design to the emulsion. The emulsion is then power washed from the screen, and ink will pass through where the lines have been transferred from the trace paper to the screen.
Once again we line up together in the darkroom to wait our turn at the power washing station, and I get to know the playful Paula Fanning from Belfast.
“I love to get my hands dirty and explore new techniques,” she says, hands shoved into the pockets of her ink-speckled overalls. “Working computer-free adds a human touch to the whole thing.”
The assistant, Simon, lets me take a crack at power washing my own screen. The power wash hose looks like a blaster sneaked off the set of Ghost Busters, and I strike the best Han Solo pose I can muster.
After the emulsion-blasting process is complete we are ready to print. As we gather round the printing press, Marco introduces us to the squeegee. A squeegee is a sturdy block that is used to first flood the screen with ink, then dragged swiftly and firmly down the screen, pressing the ink through the screen onto the flat surface beneath (Print Club London prints onto paper, totes and tees). The preparation of a print is hugely extensive compared to the actual moment that the ink is dragged across the silkscreen!
Once everyone has printed their image, we place them on the drying racks around the studio and relinquish our smocks. We’ve done it!
I needn’t have been worried about how much time had passed since I’d printed my first images in high school. Print Club London offered a friendly, encouraging atmosphere; we were all there to create some art, and to have a good time on a rainy Thursday afternoon.
Screen Printing Workshop, £45 (incl. VAT)