The Late Shows is two nights in the year when arts & cultural venues in Newcastle & Gateshead open late, for a public arty party of seeing stuff & doing stuff. I’ve taken part before but this was my first time volunteering at an event.
It was fun. I was at Northern Print printmaking studio, where I’m a studio member. The activities all had a campfire jamboree theme – partly because it’s an awesomely dorky theme, partly because NP’s building works meant we only had access to part of the building & the marquee out back.
There was letterpress printing of postcards home from camp.
There was knot tying and embossments (tie a knot, then the pressure of the press pushes it into the paper – printing without ink).
Each activity was fairly straightforward, which was a very good thing indeed. Letterpress and screenprinting were all set up & ready to print – just pull the handle – which is a great way to have a go at techniques that require a lot of preparation. Embossing was a simple technique with a lot of scope for individual variation – tie a fancy knot or bow, or twiddle some string into a shape. All simple and quick for people to have a go at up to 3 different printmaking methods, all free, all just turn up and have a go.
I’d expected to get a little bored explaining the same methods over and over again, but I didn’t. People were willing to have a go so required minimal encouragement, & were interested to chat more about printmaking in general & NP’s courses in particular. Which is a very good thing indeed: whilst NP has a very swish printmaking gallery & some proper class exhibitions, it’s a genuinely friendly studio & an encouraging place to have a go. And then have another go, and another, and keep going. They help you learn methods then let you get on with making what you want to make, which suits me juuuuust fiiiiiine.
Helping at print studio events is a pretty niche form of volunteering. I first visited NP at a Late Shows oooh way back in 2012 and talking with studio members made printmaking seem like a thing I could totally do, not a distant and unachievable art form. Then I did it. I know my own art-ing has benefited from joining in at NP, so I’m particularly glad to now be able to encourage other people to get involved.