Why I became a screen printer...

Posted by Julia Ogden on

It never crossed my mind to be a screen printer before my degree. I loved drawing, a bit of collage maybe, but that was it. However the print making department at Edinburgh College of Art was a very special place. It opened up a whole new world to me. I had already fallen in love with the concept of an artist's book and this was a place where I could print my primitively compiled words and illustrations. I did most of my lettering with letraset or words printed from my friends computer and then cut up and collaged, or even just my own handwriting. It was the 90's and out of four flatmates only one of us had a computer!

It did suit me to do it that way too, in all honesty.

 Ronnie the technician would always say to me that my text was too wispy or the drawings were too delicate for screen printing. A large intake of breath as a workman would do before he hits you with a quote and he would say, " Screen printing wasn't really made for this, Julia" But because he was a great technician and probably sensing my disappointment he said "But we will try". And that is why I became a screen printer.

These are the books I made for my Final Year Degree Show. At the time I was really into kitchen sink dramas and nostalgic northern literature....who am I kidding, I still love this. So these books were based on "Billy Liar" by Keith Waterhouse. The hapless Billy escapes his mundane reality in a number of ways; he conjures imaginary lands, plans a never fulfilled move to London and juggles three girlfriends. These books were based on each girlfriend with colours and formats to match them.

The Witch was Billy's long term girlfriend and drove him mad with her endless consumption of oranges and her small town ways. I made a formal book for her, no surprises with folds or format, as straight as the lady herself.

Rita was brash and had the best one-liners. I made a book that opened out like a concertina with her "catchphrases" there for all to see.

Liz was always travelling, living the life Billy dreamed of. I described her character in a series of postcards, which also tracked Billy's feelings for her and his inability to take the leap and go with her to London. They also felt a bit like love letters. I felt she was the closest he came to love, so they were collected in a printed envelope, preciously.

So these books were my first screen printed pieces that I felt happy with. They seemed formed and had an identity. It would take me a while to work out how that would translate in the real world to prints and products. And I am still learning that. Some things I haven't learnt though, I still push screen printing to its limits with wispy lines and detailed drawings. I hope Ronnie doesn't mind.





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