A group of artists based in Cumbria have launched a campaign to raise funds for a new printing studio in the area.

Cumbria Printmakers are aiming to provide an open access space, allowing anyone who has an interest in the medium of printmaking the opportunity to create work, regardless of experience or background.

To get things started they have set up a Kickstarter page with a target of £5000. This will help pay for the initial 12 months rent and deposits, plus moving in costs, utilities and staff wages for a studio manager.

“We have the printing presses and all the equipment we need in storage, waiting to be installed,” says Fliss Watts, artist and treasurer of the group. “We are ready to go – we just need the space.”

It is hoped the studio will be based at Ellers Mill in Dalston, Cumbria. Founded in 1782, the site was used to produce bandages during both world wars. It now produces non-woven textiles for craft and also environmental filtration systems.

The new printmaking facility will fill a gap in provision for the area, believes Watts. “Carlisle College has recently reduced its printmaking facility,” she says, “so this studio will be valuable to students and alumni of the college’s art department.

“We will be offering courses to schools, colleges, community groups and the general public as well as access for individual artist printmakers. The facility will also be available to printmakers from the whole county and the borders.”

Cumbria Printmakers was originally formed last year, following the closure of another space the artists were using. Watts explains: “Printmaker and painter Bill Cummins had set up a studio at Lillyhall, near Workington. He offered various courses and generously shared his expertise with individual artists, including myself.”

For personal reasons, Cummins had to close his studio and put the equipment into storage. However, the group were determined to carry on. “Now with a larger group and with charitable status, which was granted earlier this year, we are working hard to get the studio going again,” says Watts.

The group currently consists of artists Kevin O’Connor (chair of trustees), Denise Mason (deputy chair of trustees), Vega Brennan (secretary), plus Jill Davis, Liz Redmayne and Dawn Mills. Cummins will continue to be involved in an advisory capacity.

High-profile support

The campaign has already received high-profile backing from the artist Conrad Atkinson, who has also provided a limited edition silkscreen print for a Kickstarter pledge of £800 or more.

In a statement supporting the project, he said: “In recent years the visual arts in Cumbria have been diminished in a number of ways through loss of exhibiting space and studio facilities. This group and the interesting and valuable notion of an arts hub will hopefully stem the flow of young artists to the metropolitan centres, particularly Manchester, Liverpool and of course London.”

He added: “Clearly the pressure on arts granting bodies is very intense in the current climate, especially from the metropolitan areas with a number of higher education and gallery-focused communities, so this new and effective initiative within the rural community of Cumbria will hopefully draw support from funding organisations.”

The rewards for donating via the Kickstarter also include specially designed banknotes and t-shirts, personal portraits painted by Watts, and a colour linocut by Cummins (pictured above). All funders will also have their name featured on a poster by artist David Miller based on the Dalston cockerel – the village’s emblem. This will then be turned into a limited run of 100 etchings.

Ultimately the aim is to make the project self financing. Watts explains: “We’re planning on running artist residencies, employing an apprentice, editioning prints and hosting exchanges with international print studios. In order to do this we need money in addition to the Kickstarter.”

The group are busy lining up fundraising exhibitions. “The next one of these is in September at Dalemain Historic House and Gardens as part of the C-Art Open Studios event. We are also applying to other funding agencies to help us get established. Our biggest risk is sustainability.”

Back ‘Cumbria Printmakers Need A Studio’ on Kickstarter. Deadline: 6 July 2015