The Start! Setting up my Screen Printing Studio at Home.
I love Screen Printing. A few years ago I finally decided it was what I wanted to do and I couldn't shake the feeling: the blocks of colour, the layering up and the building of an image. I admire so many other printers’ work, and it was the art I liked to buy and the art I wanted to make. I needed to make it happen.
Having done a couple of workshops in London at Print Club to get reacquainted with the basics (I’d previously done a Fine Art Degree way back, working mainly in oils) I plotted how I could make that happen from Bedford, where I now live with my husband and two young kids, and whether I could become a member at a print studio and still get back to pick my kids up from school for 3:30… nope.
So here’s how I set up from home instead: I stole our dining room, a room that had become ‘designated room of crap’, and I stalked eBay and Gumtree obsessively for months. Of course, I made some mistakes. The first screen printing kit I bought on eBay was a little homemade set-up someone had cleverly created for T-shirt printing, with a small built-in exposure unit, but as soon as I took delivery I knew I had rushed into buying something that wasn't going to work. I didn't want to print T-shirts (much to my husband’s disappointment) — I wanted to make art, big, poster-sized prints. (I put it back on eBay and luckily managed to sell it on.)
If you watch eBay and Gumtree long enough what you are looking for will almost always come up at the right price eventually. (I will add I have previous for getting a little myopic over shopping for specific things — I did get the Ercol Dressing Table I was obsessed with, but my husband still can't bear to think about my search for the ‘perfect kitchen cupboard door handles’).
Still looking for the right set-up, I contacted auction houses, I messaged colleges, I followed up on every lead on Gumtree, I lost a few on eBay and eventually I scored with a proper Vacuum Flat Bed printing press from a school in London for £260. Bargain!!! I had been watching ones for £1K+ so I felt like I’d won the lottery. I also managed to get an A3 UV light box second-hand on eBay as well, for £60, and a £40 dirty old washout booth. I got a bunch of second-hand screens and a squeegee from a girl on Gumtree that had just finished her degree. I also signed myself up to the local college for some valuable evening classes in basic Photoshop.
Hours and hours and a year and a half later of printing and printing and making many mistakes, I slowly learnt more and got a bit better every mistake I made. As I started to dip my toe and begin selling things, I upgraded my UV light box for a bigger one, got a bit more organised, acquired a set of architects drawers to keep my paper & prints in from the local auction house, and I've just kept going, bad days, good days, and still learning from my mistakes every time.