I first met Kate Newbold Higginson when she was just setting up Print Club London and only had a pop-up shop on Brick Lane. Since then, the collective have gone on to great things, with a huge screen printing workshop in East London as well as their new gallery and workspace, Millers Junction. Artists like Bob Gill, Kate Moross and James Joyce call the studio home, and every year the fantastic Blisters exhibition showcases their talents alongside that of unknown newcomers. I caught up with Kate to look back at the studio’s success story, and to find out what it’s like screenprinting bags for Stella McCartney and throwing parties for Pinterest.
Fred Higginson, Rose Stallard, Kate Newbold
Tell us about how you and your husband Fred set up Print Club London; artist Rose Stallard is involved too, isn’t she?
About 10 years ago Fred set up Absorb Arts which is a fine art charity based initially in a church in Norwich that he converted into studios. Then he came to London and we did the same in London. Rose Stallard, our Creative Director, knew Fred from Norwich University of the Arts and rented space from us. One day she asked Fred if he would consider setting up some screenprinting studios as she couldn’t find anywhere suitable and thought that lots of other people would want space too. She wanted it to be like a gym with open access where you could rock up on your BMX (this was Rose’s main aim, there had to be BMXs!) and screenprint all night and day. And so Print Club was born; Fred set it up with Rose’s creative help and screenprinting know-how and it went from there. I joined a year into the saga after leaving my job in film. Fred and Rose were great at the creative side of things, producing amazing artwork and getting artists on board, but they were pretty bad at actually managing a business, so I set about ensuring we had clients, members and could feasibly run as a studios. The fun stuff, no less!
You have lots of other established artists under your roof, like Bob Gill, Kate Moross, James Joyce and Margot Bowman. Who are the rising stars whose work we should be snapping up now?
Joanna Ham (above) works on these amazing fashion pictograms! And her bunnies are uber cool and popular. She produces two very different styles, both incredibly successful Rosie Emerson works with very interesting techniques, and again, is often influences by the fashion world.
Claudia Borfiga is one of my techncians and a genius! She’s very witty and that comes through in her illustrations: the one above is titled Egg and Soldiers.
Cassandra Yap draws lots of naked women and has a taste for fetish; her work sells very well!
Johnathan Reiner is a doctor by day and print maker by night!
As well as screenprinters, you have lots of illustrators working in Millers Junction- can you tell us a bit about this space?
This space is our most recent addition to the print club warehouse. I was actually renting office space with a previous company in Shoreditch and it was pretty basic, all in separate rooms. There was no camaraderie, no tea meetings and most importantly no shared jobs or feedback on work which is hugely important when you are freelance and work alone or in small teams. You really want to talk about your work, pass jobs around and get ideas from others. I noticed how many people in Dalston sat in cafes with laptops so when we took over the final space it seemed obvious to me to set up an open plan deskspace for creatives.
The idea is 39 desks are rented out and we provide you with all you internet needs, tea, coffee, bike storage, dog storage (we have a few hounds here) cake, meeting room, gallery hire, free use of the print club and a workshop. Plus lovely extras like events – in December Jameson Whiskey came in to give everyone a whiskey tasting event, Gü Puds brought in cakes and then there are less exciting but useful events like a VAT talk for small businesses from our accountants. The idea is that we support small businesses and individuals so that they look from the outside to their client like a bigger more professional company. We also do stuff like sign for courier deliveries – it’s a basic thing but in my old office nobody would do it! When you work alone it’s a basic requirement that someone can sign for your deliveries. And we try to achieve these little details in everything we offer at Millers Junction, it’s important to us that people here love it and we provide one of the best and more affordable deskspaces in east London. You can find out more about our studio space here.
You also print for clients like Stella McCartney and even Facebook and Twitter- do you think screenprinting has become ‘cool’ again because of the backlash against the digital age? I suppose this could apply to the rise in popularity of illustrations over photographs too…
Yes, we are super lucky. We print beautiful bags for Stella McCartney, her ethos is very green and ethical which makes us a good fit. Everything here is waterbased and the energy costs for manufacture are low as its hand made. So we can produce bespoke initial bags easily and very well- it’s a lovely commission. Likewise we have been doing workshops and events for Pinterest to get bloggers into the studios with some great people like Jo Robinson and Hattie Stewart. Facebook invited us in to give a screenprinting workshop too.
People want to manufacture again, it’s what Britain was so great at and I guess people are realising that not only is digital not always so exciting but that we are brilliant at making things. And screenprinting is just one of the products we are fortunate in the UK to have not only great artists to produce work but also now great facilities like ours. We bought our warehouse two years ago so luckily we won’t be priced out of Dalston! Its one of the few remaining commercial factories in the area, lots are now flats so it was important to us and the previous owner, whose father ran it as a sewing factory, that it stayed commercial and a manufacturing hub- which it most certainly is. We have 50 fine artists upstairs, 70 print makers a month in print club and 39 designers and illustrators in Millers Junction. We are literally churning out work. Although I’m sure much less than the sewing factory did in 1910! But we will get there.
How can people get involved with Print Club London?
Do a workshop and join up! It’s easy. You don’t need to know how to print, we can teach you everything in our workshop, and then you can become a member. We assist you in learning the ropes and producing new work and once it’s up to a level thats sellable- and this can take time for some and not for others- then we sell the work online in our gallery.
Or you can join our deskspace in Millers Junction – its £220pcm and you get free use of print club in that so its really cost effective for designers who want to do a little print making on the side.
And lastly you can be part of our shows. Every year we commission artists to take part in BLISTERS our annual screenprint event. Its open submission so anyone can take part. Previous shows have included Eine, Jamie Reid, Kate Moross, Mr Bingo, lots of well known people! But also newbies or people still in college. We choose work based on merit not who you are.
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- Absorb Arts Open Studio and Print Club London Exhibition
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