There is a special affinity for the tactile and tangible within Hamilton’s artist community.
Printmaking in the city is a growing medium that allows artists to share their stories and ideas through manual labour. Whether artists choose screen-printing, intaglio, wood block pressings and century old letterpress technologies to pursue their craft, creatives aren’t limited to one sort of medium to learn or pursue.
The physical nature of printmaking lets artists see their vision through from inception to creation, while making it a much more intimate method of storytelling and artistry. Printmakers are able to define their work entirely by hand and are enabled to manually produce their art in ways that other methods are not subject to.
Hamilton’s printmaking scene is particularly unique. With various mediums to choose from, several accessible, artist-run, print focused centres and workshops in addition to an inclusive community of supporters, independent printmakers are an integral aspect to Hamilton’s growing arts scene.
Printmaking and Activism
Printmaking can mean leaving a mark, quite literally. Several artists use their work as a voice in today’s political sphere by sharing stories of their experiences through zines, posters or exhibitions.
Sahra Soudi is an artist, organizer and third-year multimedia student at McMaster. As a member of Hamilton’s Audio Visual Node and the Coalition of Black and Racialized Artists, they try to integrate art with social justice activism using the resources that they have.
“As someone who is black and gender oppressed, having the agency to tell stories about the celebrations of my identities/the struggles of oppression that come with those identities is extremely important to me,” said Soudi.
The differences between printmaking and other art forms as a method of self-expression and storytelling is the durability and physical nature of printmaking, as Soudi notes.
“That sense of accomplishment and respect for the craft really helps one grow as an artist.”
“Printmaking challenges other art forms as a form of self-expression because it’s harder to erase,” said Soudi. “It’s more of a tangible medium which makes for a more intimate form of self-expression.”
Another Hamilton artist used her work to comment on societal standards of beauty throughout time at her most recent exhibition.
Stylo Starr, a local designer and visual artist, has been involved within Hamilton’s printmaking scene f
or some time. Calling herself a visual alchemist, Starr uses multimedia collaging and screen printing in order to create printed material that transcends modern pop culture.
“Mastering each step and creating pieces that at one time only existed in your mind is a great feeling,” said Starr. “That sense of accomplishment and respect for the craft really helps one grow as an artist.”
Starr’s most recent exhibition, titled 89DAMES, is currently being featured in the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s The Living Room: Self Made series. Entering its final month in December, 89DAMES explores and obliterates the notions of white beauty standards, specifically within the nostalgic and glamorous era of the 195
0s and 60s, by showcasing pop-art style images of black actors, artists and creatives adjacent to Andy Warhol’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe.
“These are the so-called times of Marilyn, Audrey and Elizabeth,” said Starr. “89DAMES seeks t
o break the spell and divert gaze to the magic that always existed in plain sight.”
Alongside of the AGH Team, Starr was able to curate a dialogue that pays an homage to similar techniques and uses of screen printing while confronting blinding notions of typical white beauty standards.
One printmaker in Hamilton uses century old technology to make modern stationary and custom prints.
Sara Froese, the artist behind All Sorts Press, specializes in producing handcrafted, high-quality prints using a human-powered Chandler & Price platen printing press from 1910. The 107-year-old press, equipped with handset type combines the quality of antique equipment and traditional printing with current design.
“You have this idea of what your print will look like and no matter how much you plan for it, the press will give you something you can never quite expect.”
All Sorts Press
The art of letterpress printing dates back to the mid 15th century when Gutenberg invented printing pr
esses. The process behind letterpressing is time-consuming and entirely done by hand. Paper sheets are placed individually then rotated within the press using a foot pedal, while individual letters and characters are placed together and locked into the press.
“The work is so physical and hands on and requires such an interesting process, which to me is just as great as the final print itself,” said Froese. “You have this idea of what your print will look like and no matter how much you plan for it, the press will give you something you can never quite expect.”
Pairing the quality of antique technology with modern designs, Froese’s use of letterpress creates unique and tactile prints that make for a different finished product than other printing techniques. In Froese’s work, you can often feel a physical imprint whereby the letterpress carved the paper, lending to the overall quality of the piece itself.
“Letterpress printing to me is also about preserving a bit of history. This method is so beautiful and unique, I feel it’s important to keep that practice.”
Hamilton is chock-full of artist-run printing spaces that enable artists, both seasoned and beginner, to practice and perfect their skills in any medium they choose. From workshops to studio spaces, these facilities are enabling Hamilton’s artists to become involved within the local arts scene while honing their skills as artists.
Centre3, located in Hamilton’s “art district” on James Street North, is one of the most dynamic artist-run print and media arts centres in Canada, offering facilities for printmaking, including lithography, silkscreening and intaglio among others, in addition to state of the art digital media facilities. As a not-for-profit centre, their programming aims to bring art education and community arts to the greater Hamilton area.
“Hamilton is so lucky to have this [Centre3 as an] incredible resource,” said Froese. “Having access to a proper studio is so crucial as a printmaker and this gem of a spot makes it easy and affordable to do so.”
In addition to Centre3, Hamilton has several artist-run centres that focus preserving contemporary art while providing professional development workshops to artists in the area.
Particularly, Hamilton Artist Inc. sets out to facilitate a national dialogue that surrounds issues in contemporary art through exhibitions, publications, performance, education and outreach programs, engaging community arts programming and educational initiatives that represent the cultural life in our city.
“Having access to a proper studio is so crucial as a printmaker and this gem of a spot makes it easy and affordable to do so.”
These initiatives and communities support artists by providing opportunities to practice their skills while developing as professionals within Hamilton and beyond. The collaborative nature of Hamilton’s arts scene ultimately allows printmakers within the city to fit in quite naturally, contributing to the city’s growing community of artistry.