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process & print: leeds print festival 2014

process & print: leeds print festival 2014


Photo by Leeds Print Festival via Instagram

For the next week the walls of Gallery Munro House will be a celebration of print as part of the third Leeds Print Festival. There’s more to see in the art on display than the finished product, though.

“Obviously it’s visually engaging,” said Amber Smith, who founded the festival in 2011. “I think print is, by its quality. But print started off as a means of recording information, then moving on through hundreds of years it has become about it being image based, so that now when we talk about print we think of it as being images and perhaps more decorative.

“So it’s interesting now because you have people who working in letterpress, which is about type and movable type, and using hot letters and things like that you would use traditionally, but also making prints that are visually engaging as well.”

That’s an extra element that Leeds Print Festival has over an exhibition of paintings or photographs – the techniques and processes are as important element of the finished product as the aesthetic effect, and those techniques are brought in and celebrated in the same room as the artworks themselves.

“We try to capture the whole, so the print exhibition is hung without frames so you can see the process and have that connection,” said Amber. “And as part of the opening night we’ll have live printing, so that you can see that process happening if you weren’t aware of how it might work or what an Adana press looks like. 

“Then in the print fair we have people from different presses and different collectives, all working in lots of different ways with print, so people can see that all first hand and discuss it with them.”

Photo by The Print Project via Instagram Photo by The Print Project via Instagram

As well as the print fair on Saturday at Gallery Munro House, there are also talks on Sunday on a range of print topics at Leeds College of Music, featuring illustrator, animator and ‘original Shoreditch beat busker’ Mr Bingo; design commentator Patrick Burgoyne, the editor of Creative Review; illustrator and designer Si Scott, who designed this year’s LPF charity print; and Pat Randle, who at Nomad Letterpress works with the original metal type technology invented by Johann Gutenberg in 1450.

That a 564 year old process can still be used and explored in 2014 is one of the joys of print, and a reason why it has a fascinating element that is about more than just nostalgia or the survival of traditional craft. 

“Digital is happening, and there are new technologies that are really exciting,” said Amber, “But when you think that books and print making have been around for thousands and thousands of years, print is so advanced in its own way in comparison to technology that has had such a relatively short time. So I think it’s really interesting that there is a relationship between the two and that they work together. There are presses that are in the middle of nowhere that are producing wonderful prints, and now because of technology they can connect with others from different parts of the world. 

“There are print makers that we speak to in America about what we’re doing, and we learn from each other, so digital technology makes that relationship and brings a way of working that is a much more exciting and quicker way. But while progress happens quickly, I think you can’t replace the actual print making techniques with new technology because it’s such a different, human, interaction.”

Even as communication enlarges the world of print making, this year’s festival has adopted an in-house approach, by attempting to keep all the design and production within Yorkshire. 

“We realised we had everything we needed within this community, within Yorkshire,” said Amber. “It was important to really embrace that. I just love what’s happening with Leeds at the moment with people just getting involved, things happening independently and people getting together and working together, and I think we should really embrace that. Not because we’re trying to be any other city that does that, but I think as an identity we’ve got so many small things happening, and people who are into creative things or people who are just into good things. And I wanted to capture that and use that, because it seemed like there wasn’t any reason not to. 

“It has worked really well, just in terms of working together with people that were in a close vicinity; and also practically it has worked really well. I’ve lived in Leeds for a long time, although I’m not from Leeds, and have this real love/hate relationship with it – and now I’m completely in love with it. So I think, then, if you want things to happen where you are and in the city that you’re in, I think you can do that, or you should be responsible for doing that.”

Photo by TONE via Twitter Photo by Colours May Vary via Instagram

As part of the Yorkshire focus, the exhibition (until Friday 31st) at Gallery Munro House includes artists with Leeds and Yorkshire tendencies like Lee Goater, Jonathan Ashworth, Mick Marston and TONE, who provided the Chevy Chase portrait for the cover of The City Talking’s Christmas issue (and who we featured previously here).

Next to Gallery Munro House, Cafe 164 is hosting an additional print festival showcase, with prints also available across the Munro House lobby at Colours May Vary; back in the gallery, the opening night celebration takes place on Friday 24th from 6 − 9pm, and the print fair on Saturday 25th from 10am – 6pm, which Amber says is a great opportunity to experience as much of what the festival has to offer in one go.

“You can see the exhibition, and you also get to talk to people who are actually print makers, who do that every day and are insanely talented. You get to talk to them and see them work, to look at their work up close and take it away with you and own it. 

“I’m also really excited about seeing the live printing on the opening night, and I’m interested in the talks because I really like print myself so that’s like a treat for me. I like the idea of the community coming together and just talking about what we do, that exchange, it’s always really quite nice.”

Leeds Print Festival begins today, and information about all the events and exhibitions can be found at and by following @LPF2014 on Twitter.

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