To those of you who dived deep into your old-school creativity bag of tricks and began roughly sculpting potatoes into crudely-formed star, square and cross stamps — way to show the kids how to print.
Taking a super quick glance at the history of printing, the more sophisticated potato stamp, the woodblock, appeared approximately 2000 years ago, allowing our East Asian mates to replicate text, images or patterns onto textiles and, later, paper. Screen-printing appears about at the mid-point in our chronology, as the Chinese and Japanese created stencils out of paper and mesh weaved from human hair. Stiff brushes pushed ink through the hairy mesh and past the voids in the stencil to print onto fabric. Digital printing is one of the latest kids on the block, becoming popular in the last 30 years.
Leap forward to the 1960s and the pop art crew, artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, popularise screen-printing in the art world. The technique’s application in creating some of the very best band posters solidified its coolness. And what’s not to love? Entering the medium of screen-printing isn’t super difficult as you can cut stencils of paper, pick up a secondhand screen and squeegee, and start pushing paint out to create your own dope new T-shirts. Then you’re hooked and you start trying to create multicoloured prints formed by several layers of different stencils — each print seemingly identical, yet with its own individual quirks.
Sharon, who has deep connections with arc in Yinnar, has taught many of our region’s current screen printers and continues to foster a passion for printing in her classes today. Gratefully, Sharon has dived into her archives to present the following prints from the 80s and 90s — classics.
Bryce, who originally learnt printing from Sharon, is featured in the inset photographs running through this spread. The photo series features Bryce preparing a tricolour print of a cherished, old wooden chisel.
Andrew Northover’s photo series of Bryce was shot on a manual, mechanical Mamiya 645 PRO medium format camera. Utilising Tri-X 400, Kodak’s premier black and white film, the film stock was ‘pushed’ to allow its application in darker environments, which results in increased grain and contrast through the photographs.
Bryce selects a screen that fits the size of the artwork, and considers the medium to be printed on, the mesh, and the condition of the available screens.
The screen is coated with a light-sensitive emulsion and stored in a drying cabinet. The emulsion can take up to 15 minutes to set correctly. During this time, the proposed design is transferred from an inkjet-printed image into a transparency required for the emulsion screen.
To print the chisel in three colours, a stencil is cut out for each colour.
Ultraviolet lamps transfer the design onto the cured light-sensitive screen. Once successful, the screens are flushed with water and prepared for printing.
The screens are fastened into place about the medium that the chisel is to be printed on. Paint is applied to the screen, then evenly pushed through the screen by a squeegee. This process is repeated for each colour of paint required, building the layers, until the final print is realised.
Bryce kindly provided a list of other local screen printers that you can check out:
‘Robyn Long, behind Blue Starfish Designs, was in the class with me. One of her students was Lydia Beamish, who used to run her own label, Chubby Turtle, but now focuses more on illustration. Another friend who prints is Dylan Malady, the guy behind Blind Pirates. Insalt Surf Co. are two young guys who went all out and launched a clothing label, printing their own stuff. In the wake of the bushfires, they did a fundraiser for the Red Cross and raised over five grand selling shirts. Another friend and neighbour is Bre Tepper, who does a little bit of printing, painting and other creative stuff under the label Studio South.’
Clearly, Gippsland’s screen-printing scene is still going strong. Don’t be afraid to get a squeegee and begin slinging paint too.