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Part of my last trip to London included a visit to see Sam Wingate in the print room at London Metropolitan University where he works as a Lecturer on the textiles course. He was working up some new prints for an exhibition Fabric of the City which is now open at the Cass gallery. Screen printing is both simple – pulling pigment mixed with a binder through a screen, and complex – appreciation of what makes for a good image to use, coating and exposure of screens, lining up multi-layered prints, achieving a consistent covering through the angling and pressure exerted on the squeegy, understanding surface be it paper, fabric, plastic. The integration of skill in each of these aspects (and others i haven’t mentioned) is essential to the creation of a successful and holistic piece of work that looks complete and not like a series of processes.

The print room is a very particular studio environment. Within an institution or organisation it needs to be kept clean. It needs to be respected because its a communal space, a central resource. Be neglectful of cleaning up after yourself and its others peoples work that can suffer. When I asked Sam about what he likes about the print room his response is quick “ its the equipment and the machinery. The processes of printing and exploring the potential of those processes”. When Sam studied at Degree level there were print rooms for Fine art and print rooms for Textiles, here at London Met the print room is a shared resource across a number of courses which Sam says “increases the learning potential”. It would be difficult to disagree, as cross discipline dialogue must surely be one of the greatest benefits of studying at any institution, so much of learning is about discussion of ideas, processes and context from different perspectives. Additionally some of the freest and fullest conversations can happen when engaged in manual tasks and processes. With the hands fully occupied the mind travels somewhere else, ideas spread into unknown territory in a way different from an interaction in a lecturer theater or in the union bar. Sam will be studying Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art in September when i will visit him again to see how the studios and facilities are set up and managed.

Having explored screen printing at art school, I feel, after a break of 20 years, it’s time explore screen printing again. The work I am producing indicates a connection and so I will be checking out the courses at Norwich based social enterprise Print to the People.