Back in May I spent a week at Grafische Atelier Alkmaar or GAA as it’s known. Alkmaar – roughly a 50 minute drive from Amsterdam – is an historic Dutch town famous for its cheese market.

I went to make a lithograph with master printer Marja Vleugel and work alongside two of GAA’s founders, Jos van Amsterdam and Rolluf van Laar. This was my second visit and a rare opportunity to draw on the Bavarian limestone slabs used to make lithographic prints.

The greasy drawing materials feel unlike anything else to draw with, as does the surface of the stone itself, super sensitive.

Dutch: the word I hear most often from Marja is ‘Nee’. ‘Nee nee…’ slowly with a gentle shake of the head meaning ‘don’t worry but that’s not the way’. ‘NEE!’ loudly with a sharp movement, meaning ‘keep the clean sponge out of the oil’. All her nee’s are nuanced.

Here she is teaching me how to registered second and third colours using pins and two holes made with an etching tool in the actual stone. Infinitely patient.

I make monoprints rather than an edition, with the aim of maximising  this opportunity to learn. I layer them up watching the inks overlay. The inks are also a revelation: newly developed water-soluble oil based inks by Hawthorn. They are fantastic. There is a particularly wonderful graphite colour. The prints themselves are experiments in mark making and technique. As works of art they lack content.

I give a talk at the end of the week. We publicise it through my blog, a paper invite, an (e)mailout and the Atelier’s website. I talk about my working practice, artistic research, how I support myself, the two print workshops I rely on, the people I teach. I like giving talks and often learn something from the experience but this one is not good. I’m too tired to pick a clear path through all the information I could be giving, and I know the prints I’m showing are weak but I am sincere. The audience picks up on this and responds warmly.

Before I leave, Marja and I talk about the possibility of a project linking technicians from Europe. We also talk about exhibiting future work (mine) at GAA, the Atelier’s forthcoming return to the Gröte Kerk and the optimum timing of a Bath / Alkmaar exchange (this conversation is on behalf of Bath Artist Printmakers). I promise a room to anyone who wants to visit Bristol.


I work in two and three dimensions using drawing as my principal tool for research. To support myself financially, but also because it feeds the practice and keeps me sane I teach on the Foundation at Bath College and at Spike Print Studios Bristol.

Earlier this year I completed a-n’s Artist’s Development Toolkit which confirmed the following as issues with a negative impact on my development as an artist:

1) I moved away from the region where I did my MA and first established my practice. Now I am struggling to access ‘critical debate’.

2) Naturally comfortable in facilitating roles, I prioritise developing other people rather than myself, which is harder to do.

3) Currently I am not reaching a market for my work.

My work has been well received in Mainland Europe. It seemed logical to strengthen my relationships there: build a network, research exhibition opportunities perhaps and spend time collaborating with artist mentors.

Finally, I have an idea for a European print technicians’ exchange, which won’t go away. Underpinning activity in every print studio is the technician. I need to act on this idea preferably without taking on the administrative role. Discussion with technicians abroad might indicate an appropriate way forward.

Two years ago I went to Alkmaar to represent Bath Artist Printmakers at a six-week festival of print (GAA Drukmaken 2015) on a funded visit. The artists involved made work in public in a makeshift print studio set up in the town’s enormous deconsecrated church.

Prior to that I took part in a series of four projects involving artist from Kölner Graphik Werkstatt: Tiefschwarz DEEP BLACK (exhibition), which toured Serbia in 2010, two residencies hosting German artists based at The Bluecoat in Liverpool 2010 / 2011 and PenPal – an exhibition / collaboration in 2012. (The German connection was initially made by fabulous ongoing Liverpool-based project EightDaysAWeek.)

The PenPal exchange – I was paired with Jutta Vollmer – rang true, which left me pondering on our exchange in particular and collaboration per se. Jutta co-directs Kölner Graphik Werkstatt.

It seemed logical to embark on the Eurpoean networking with visits to Grafische Atelier Alkmaar and Kölner Graphik Werkstatt.