It was an exhilarating and exciting experience, as a new arrival to Norfolk in 2008, to be leading screen painting and printing workshops in St Nicholas Chapel. There was no water but an enormous table with enough space to accommodate 20 people and large screens and squeegees. I was very surprised by being in a church environment for the first time as a practising artist – gradually it dawned on me that coming to Norfolk was going to church! Everything seemed to be happening in churches all over the county. Having just re-located from Yorkshire where white spaces in galleries museums and disused mills were the norm it was considerably different to be participating in workshops and exhibitions in these environments.
West Norfolk Artists Association had a fantastic programme whereby professional artists were paid to lead workshops which were free to participants and at the time attracted a lot of interest. It also allowed me the chance to experiment a little without feeling too concerned whether I was succeeding or failing – everybody made a work of art to take home – sometimes great sometimes not so great!! I remember one occasion taking the steamer (six foot high ) for an acid/discharge print workshop – the great joy of it all lots of people turned up and were not too concerned about the danger (toxic fumes curing the velvet/canvas/silk!). I think its probably unlikely I would ever have the opportunity to do this again particularly now that the Chapel has been restored.
The seaweed gum, which is used to print off just about anything painted onto the screens, ie dyes, pigments, stencils etc., was key to the success of the workshops. I discovered much earlier on during a residency in a Leeds school, that if the screens were printed with this gum and left for several days no damage was done, the screens could still be washed down ready for future use. Normally as soon as a screen has been colour printed it needs to be washed out with a jet hose – it was the best accident that ever happened to me as there are many many venues without access to water paving the way for opportunities to lead workshops in a variety of spaces.
We now have a new programme being organised alongside the King’s Lynn Festival West Norfolk Artists’ Summer Exhibition and it will be interesting to see how artists develop their ideas in the newly restored Chapel. The continuing Workshop Programme will shortly be advertised on the West Norfolk Artists’ Website and bookings taken for anyone interested in participating.