We at People of Print are big fans of Bristol-based print duo Alexandra Higlett and Georgina Hounsome of Pirrip Press owing to their knack for creating exceptionally attractive printed goods. Founded in 2012, Pirrip Press are a lovely screen printing and design studio and is where you can gain an insight into the future role of crafts. From stationery, cards, self-published books, bags, and a whole bunch of stuff in between, their products serve well to show their love for print and how much they enjoy using the squeegee to spread the paint.
We find it quite difficult to describe how beautiful their prints are through digital screens. So we caught up with one half of Pirrip Press Georgina Hounsome to delve deep into their working lives and to discuss the key to turn creativity into a career.
Please tell us a bit about your background. How did you two start collaborating? Where did your journey into print begin?
We started collaborating after we both completed the MA Illustration Authorial Practice course at Falmouth University. After that, we did several residencies over the next few years – Penzance, Norfolk, Berlin and Norway. On these residencies we collaborated on writing, designing, and illustrating books which we could self–publish and we figured out the nicest way to do this would be small screen-printed editions.
We’ve both always been interested in print; we had great print tutors and technicians on our BA course at Bath Spa University and we carried on this exploration on our MA course, producing Collagraphs and screen prints for our final show.
In the past three years, we have been printing at Spike Island Print Studio, which is brilliant. For her MA show, George wanted to print an A1-Collagraph and at the time there wasn’t a press in Cornwall that could take that size so Spike island Print kindly offered to help print it. We remember the first time we visited Spike Island. There were all these happy faces of people printing and the atmosphere was perfect. The etching room was very meditative and tranquil and the screen-printing room industrious and fast-paced. We both knew that we wanted to belong to this community and when we left Cornwall in 2012, one of the first things we did was apply to be members. We now happily print there with lots of other wonderful artists.
What got you interested in screen-printing and not other types of printing?
We started to design bespoke stationery and products but screen-printing seemed the most natural and efficient process for this. We wanted to create our products by hand and keep the precious tactile quality of paper and ink. There are so many things that are amazing about screen-printing – the enjoyment of using layers and transparency, mixing and playing with tones and colours, printing with light ink on dark papers, using neon inks and metallic finishes. There is a unique luminosity that you get with screen-printing on white paper. Someone once told me it’s where the ink sits on the surface of the paper and the light reflects from the white paper behind.
What do you think is the advantage of digital technology to traditional printmaking i.e. screen-print?
It can be cheaper especially on larger runs but we really like the quality of screen-printed products and books. With digital printing you are often restricted to size and paper, especially with books, with screen-printing you can use any flat surface and do all sorts of shapes and sizes.
Paper plays a vital role in the printing process. We have heard that you choose paper from a variety of mills and suppliers. So for you, what defines good paper?
Something that has a quality feel to it, has a nice weight and receives the ink well. We are easily seduced by good colours, and love looking through paper sample books. We try and always use recycled and environmentally-friendly papers and never waste any; all our old prints are chopped up into business cards.
To make money as an artist and run your business at the same time – how do you feel about making prints for love versus profit?
We try and only make prints for love. If you invest interest and passion into a design or idea, then that translates into the work. We run a small shop, Long Weekend in Bristol, which is work that is all self-generated. The other side of our business is bespoke wedding stationary. We work closely with clients to offer them something unique that captures the narrative or feeling that they want to evoke. Here, although we are working with many different clients to different briefs, we always try our hardest to maintain our authorial voice.
Do you go about getting gallery/exhibition representation? Is it vital to a printmaker’s career?
I don’t think it’s vital and it’s perfectly possible to sell from your kitchen, bedroom, studio etc. With online platforms to sell work and social media, you can build up a following and represent yourself. Comic and zine fairs, conventions, print fairs, and pop-up shops are all other ways that printmakers can show their work.
It’s clear that we are striving to promote our print products and the art of printmaking. What’s your opinion on other printmakers in the industry? Do you see other printmakers as competitors?
No, the bigger the print community the better! From our experience, it’s a very generous and supportive community with lots of knowledge sharing.
What was it that attracted you to become a Department Store vendor?
Department Store has a contemporary and clear vision, bringing together a wealth of talented printmakers. We were attracted to the enthusiasm and positive energy of the company.
Are there any particular trends you see in screen print?
Printmakers like to use neon and bright colours in the Summer! The drying racks at Spike Island Print are bright and glorious right now.
Can you tell us about your forthcoming project? Any new items we can expect to see on Department Store in the near future?
We’ve just finished a new book, written and illustrated by Alex. ‘BEST’ is a short contemplation about all the best things in life. It is lovely reminder of some of the things we might sometimes forget – ‘walking into sunlight from shadow. We’ve also just completed two prints based on the experience of landscapes and weather. These experiment with gradients, halftones, and CMY layering to create abstract compositions.
Thank you very much, Georgie and Alex! You can now head over to Department Store and enjoy all the goodness of print by ‘Pirrip Press’