Kickboxing and dragonflies - bringing generations together to print!
Since becoming a full-time printmaker over four years ago, I have really enjoyed sharing the joys of collagraphy - printing from a collaged surface - to a variety of people. I market my workshops as "bespoke" because I only have room for up to two people in my studio (could possibly squeeze in a third), so by necessity they have become very personal. I have welcomed established artists wanting to expand their portfolio of skills, complete beginners wanting a new creative experience or creative people on a birthday treat (I do vouchers by the way!). They come on their own or sometimes with a friend. I make cake, provide drinks, we chat, we ink, we print. I like to think I can adapt my teaching to suit all kinds of themes, so everyone leaves with original prints they are proud to hang on their wall. If someone comes on their own I welcome them as I would a friend, give practical demonstrations and guidance, but also allow some space - so they are not too overwhelmed by 100% tutor attention.
A particular favourite of mine are the workshops where I teach two generations from the same family; so far "grandmother and granddaughter", and most recently "mother and son". Having this family dynamic within a bespoke workshop is a special experience. In the case of the grandmother, herself a proficient artist but new to printmaking, she brought her granddaughter during the summer holidays. They both learnt side by side, pursuing their own projects, and it was a truly rewarding thing for me to witness their close relationship. The grandmother took home some beautiful prints depicting the echinacea flower, as she is a keen gardener. The granddaughter was doing a summer art project for school, based on hares if I remember.
A mother approached me at a local art fair in September this year. I was busy weighing down my cards and cellophane-wrapped prints on my stall with stones; it was sunny but gusts of strong wind were sending our wares flying across Blandford market square. She talked about her son, a black belt in kickboxing, and how he needed to produce a reflection on his love for the sport to reach the next level. This is a sport that he enjoys doing with his Dad. Mum wanted to be involved too, and it became evident that presenting a visual interpretation was just as acceptable as an essay - and far more personal. A few weeks later, they both arrived on a Saturday morning and we started making some collaged plates. At 13 years of age, I was impressed by how willing the son was to try something completely out of his comfort zone. I did an inking demonstration first, as an ice-breaker, and to show what we would be doing the following week - giving me the chance to put everyone at ease and also gauge how best to pitch the session.
The nicest thing was seeing the interaction between both of them, as they encouraged each other and gave each other feedback when we reached the "big reveal" stage in session two. Nothing beats pulling the paper off the plate after running it through the press, and the reactions of surprise and joy were genuine and heartwarming. The mum told me that her son would never have contemplated accompanying her to a creative workshop involving a large group of people. The privacy of coming to my home seemed to be the deciding factor that brought them both together to learn something new, side by side.
Teaching a workshop to two generations at once is so much more than just demonstrating technique, guiding and encouraging; it's about providing an atmosphere that equally suits both - a young person does not want to feel outdone or suffocated - the adult needs to feel comfortable handing over the reigns so she/he can enjoy the experience on his or her own terms too.
I hope I can persuade more family groups to book a collagraph workshop: how about a mother and daughter, father and son or father and daughter?
Many thanks for reading this. Please share with anyone who might enjoy this type of experience. Contact details on my website if you wish to talk about making a booking.