Yesterday the Management and I went across the Pennines to the Sheffield Print Fair. It was organised by Jane Elliot who I know from her printing days at Hot Bed Press in Salford but who now lives in Sheffield. She has helped set up Sheffield Printmakers and this was her first, as well as Sheffield’s first, print fair. Obviously a fairly new print studio organising their first print fair was going to be a small, poorly attended ‘damp squib’ of an show, wasn’t it? Forget it! Loads of printmakers (just check out the list on the above link) and crowds of people, many of whom were buying too!
We eventually got there at about a quarter to three. Not good timing considering the venue was about fifty yards away from Sheffield United’s football ground with a three o’clock kick off! (United lost incidentally!) However, we got in and the Management said she needed a drink in the café. I left her there and sought out Jane to say hello. Returning to She Who Must Be Obeyed, I said ‘There’s one printer with some etchings you’ll like.’ ‘I’ve no money for buying prints,’ she stated firmly. I never said who or where this printer was, but within a few minutes of going in, she was looking at the stall I’d spotted.
I’ve previously mentioned the Management’s love of Norman Ackroyd’s etchings, especially of the west coast of Ireland. The etchings of the stand of Neil Woodall had similarities, so we started chatting to Neil about his work and about our Ackroyd prints (seven at the last count). ‘He’s bringing out a set ten etchings about Donegal,’ the Management informed him. ‘I know,’ came Neil’s reply, ‘I’ve just finished printing them!’ We were only talking to Norman’s master printer! Despite her earlier protests, she bought one of Neil’s prints, though admittedly as a present. Here is a different print, called Stepping Stones, from Neil’s website:
I was taken by the wood engravings of Duncan Pass and also the story of how he had built his own printing machine which has a six foot wheel. I had hoped that his website would include some of the photographs of the build which he had on his stand but sadly I can’t find any there. There is this print called The Voyagers though.
I chatted with Lisa Moore who is a neo:artists printer. She ran a workshop in Bolton last Saturday about solar plates. Unfortunately I was not able to attend as I was at the Delicieux fair, but she said that she should be running another in January so fingers crossed that I can make that one as it is a technique I want to learn. Here is one of her solar plate etchings on her website called Deep Water. I think this is the one she has entered for the Bolton Open Exhibition.
There were a load of other top class printmakers, but finally here is one of Jane’s screenprints. She specialises in tree houses for some reason.
But Mr Milkman, sir, why does it say ‘Return of the Native’ in the title? Well, dear reader, that is because I was born and brought up in Sheffield, leaving only to go to university aged eighteen. This was my first opportunity to walk round the centre of the city. Yes, there obviously had been changes, but I was still able to find my bearings around the Church Street and Fargate area. The Marks and Spencer shop where I’d had a Saturday job was still there, though the ‘hole in the ground’ where I’d arranged to meet my then girlfriend many a time was not. (It was just an elaborate subway, but it did have an aquarium, a convenient rendezvous point.) If you’ve seen the opening credits of The Full Monty, then you’ve seen the Sheffield I remember, including the Hole.
On our way to eat at Pizza Express (we had a money-off voucher – I am a Yorkshireman!) I passed a shop with a print of a comic cover about the Man of Steel, ‘the tale of a lycra- clad Yorkshire lad’ who is ‘faster than a speeding whippet’ and ‘stronger than a supertram’. It brought a smile to my face, considering I’d just ridden on a supertram, fifty years after Sheffield’s ‘last tram’ had been scrapped.