12 students plus tutors from Plymouth College of Art travelled to Santander on the Pont Aven with Brittany Ferries for this exceptional printmaking conference. It was a festival of printmaking in every form imaginable, across 20 venues, with contributors from across the globe.
We had been allocated a huge new exhibition / workshop space at Centro Cultural Cazoña where we planned to hold our Potlatch meal only 3 days after our arrival. The indigenous people of the NW coast of USA and Canada had traditionally taken status from gifting their possessions to others, sharing food as part of the ceremony. Through our exchanges with people in the local community, fellow artists with whom we had developed collaborative work and others attending the conference, we created an art work that was much more than the beautiful long printed tablecloth that ran diagonally across the hall, draping over tables and dipping down to the floor. It was about sharing and gifting, of food and prints, songs, stories and ideas.
Prints I made on the journey included a teabag, parts of the ship, and a beautiful silver bracelet belonging to Adrienne from Cornwall who told me the origin of all the little stones and charms, and what they represented to her. She found me on the return journey and we exchanged stories.
We made prints on site and printed the tablecloth using simple, low tech methods, primarily Taku-hon. This is a traditional Japanese method using dampened paper which is moulded to the form of an object using a tampo (cotton wool pad with a silk covering), allowed to dry a little before inking the surface using another tampo. I found that printing 3D objects in this way most rewarding, and produced several loaves of bread to place on the table.
My collaborative partner Gemma from Madrid had generously sent me a terracotta urn, traditionally used for storing water, which unfortunately arrived in numerous pieces. However I took this as a metaphor for ‘fractured’ water supplies across the world through damming rivers, irrigation, global warming and pollution, and broken relationships through wars, poverty, abuse, forced emigration, etc. I wrapped each piece of pot and made a Taku-hon print, then repaired the pot with glue before making a print from the crudely repaired pot, revealing the scars. I planned to stitch the paper pieces together for the display but ran out of time. The pieces strewn across the concrete floor were evocative enough.
We also spent time out and about in Santander making Taku-hon prints from any surfaces, form the vegetation and rocks on the beach to the drain covers in the streets.
One of the outside conference events was a performance on the beach by the delightful David Faithfull from Dundee who was highlighting plastic pollution by ‘screen printing’ on the beach, using a mixture of squid ink and a gel derived from seaweed to create images of dozens of black bottles on the wet sand. Brilliant!
At the end of our stay we said ‘Muchas Gracias’ to our hosts at C. C. Cazoña presenting them with prints that we had made.
And saying ‘Adios’ all the young collaborators and artists who had dropped in to work with us.