I made the first of my Australian studio visits last Saturday (24th Jan) to Bittondi Printmakers (two Facebook links, here and here), in the Aberfoyle Park suburb, in the hills south of Adelaide. A ‘photopolymer etching’ course was being run by Julia Wakefield and I met her and the three printmakers learning this technique with her. Also there when I arrived was member Kay Walker; she and Julia showed me around the premises.
The group have a lovely building in the grounds of the Aberfoyle Park High School:
A small group of printmakers from a nearby college were offered the building by the High School in 2007 and they moved in in 2008. The building has several rooms with space for teaching and plate preparation (including non-toxic etching and aquatint on copper and aluminium), printing and great large space for eating and meeting!
The group has since grown to about 30 full and student members and 20 associate members (anyone attending a course who is not a full member must join as an associate for insurance purposes). It is a non-profit organisation with decisions about operation, exhibitions and involvement in exchanges taken by a small volunteer committee. They are looking to expand their group and have recently appointed one member to focus on communications and PR.
The studio is open to any full member to come in and print whenever they want; associate members must be accompanied. They generally have two or three group exhibitions per year, held in a range of venues. The walls of the studio have prints from many of the members and is a good showcase for their talents and the range of techniques deployed by them.
I was shown some of the prints made by artists and students from the high school for a recent ‘Bears and Blooms’ exhibition from the exchange project of the same name.
I have never done any photopolymer etching printmaking and was intrigued by the process. It seems to take quite some trial and error to get the right exposure and inking, but the results were very impressive.
Members Geoff Gibbons and Mei Sheong Wong turned up a bit later and I was able to learn more about their work and that of the group. Geoff is Head of Art History and Theory at the Adelaide Central School of Art with a long experience of printmaking, including working in England for some time; Mei has just completed her thesis for her Honours degree.
I was invited to stay for lunch and the group put on a very impressive spread: their culinary talents matched up to their great printmaking skills!
The discussion over lunch was the usual printmakers’ fare of hints and tips and stories of past successes and failures and placed visited and people met. I’m sorry to say that I was so involved in listening and talking that I took no further notes or pictures: apologies to my readers. I’ll try to improve my journalistic technique on future studio visits.
I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone I met at Bittondi Printmakers for making me feel so welcome. I hope that next time I visit Adelaide I’ll have some decent printmaking experience of my own under my belt so that I can contribute better to the lunch-time discussions!
Note: I’ve asked Geoff and Mei to check this post for inaccuracies but have not heard back from them yet and have to publish this before I get into internet-free zone for the next few days.