22 August 2019
As the Printmaking Technical Officer I look after the Printmaking resource, teach the processes it offers and provide one to one technical and practical support to students, staff and artists. I also run a programme of refresher sessions, open to the whole school.
Students will come down with ideas to realise through printmaking and may need advice on a particular process – screen printing, off-set lithography or etching – and I'm there for technical support. There might be process, mechanical, chemical, or exposure issues that I can resolve. I also suggest other artists the students can look at relevant to their work, and other resources, animations, exhibitions, places to visit. I aim to support and enhance their journey and their work.
I’ve been knocking around in print rooms for 27 years now. I first became interested in printmaking while at Suffolk College studying for a BTEC National Diploma in General Art and Design with time in my second year spent between the printmaking and ceramics workshops. Dale Devereux Barker would give me off-cuts of specialist printmaking papers to try, and Pris Forrest would allow me to work in the print workshops during the evening while she worked on her prints. I completed my degree there in BA Graphic Arts, specialising in printmaking, before gaining an MA in Printmaking from Camberwell College of Arts.
I recently had a solo exhibition in the Ruskin Gallery called On Finding Silence. To be standing alone in the gallery with the series of drawings was a career highlight and a stern reminder that I need to get cracking with Part 2.
My awareness of printmaking on a national and international level and the fact that I am a practitioner myself is something that students can really draw on. I understand the need to be patient and that people learn differently, that levels of self-confidence and sensitivity vary. The print room is a communal working area. Students learn to support each other too - it’s a mixing pot of creative energy.
My advice to new students would be to really see their time at Cambridge School of Art as an opportunity: take it by the scruff of the neck and go for it big time, use the resources. They might never be available to you again.
Play, make mistakes, make more mistakes, work incredibly hard (not forgetting to play), do not give up, keep going, believe in yourself (you are the only one who can do what you do) - and ask lots of questions.
John Williams is the Printmaking Technical Officer, working with students at undergraduate and postgraduate level, staff, AA2A artists and visiting artists.
Find out more about undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Cambridge School of Art.