My latest studio visit for this series of profiles takes me to a quiet, leafy back street in north-west London. It’s an unlikely setting for the former factory which houses the studios of Kingsgate Workshop Trust. There are artists working in many media here; painting, ceramics, film, jewellery, sculpture, carpentry, framing and textiles.
Theresa Pateman is a highly accomplished printmaker with a cv including linocut illustration, editioning for other artists and running a silkscreen workshop. In this spacious, airy studio she practices a range of etching techniques including hard and soft ground and aquatint.
She is passionate about her own printmaking ‘It’s as highbrow as science and chemistry, yet it’s also alchemy…almost a dark art, never fully knowable…’ Her work has been exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Mall Galleries, the Barbican and the V&A, amongst many others
The studio houses both her presses and she holds workshops here, currently for just two people at a time due to social distancing requirements. This sounds like rather a luxury for the lucky participants. Theresa also teaches at Hampstead School of Art and clearly enjoys the interactions with her students and the way their individual approaches can send her off in different directions in her own practice.
Theresa demonstrating at Southbank Printmakers
On the day of my visit, Theresa demonstrates how to print an etched image with chine-collé. This technique became popular in 18th C Britain when a wide variety of papers began to be imported from Asia. The image is printed onto a fine paper glued onto a heavier paper support, giving additional texture and possibly colour.
Theresa starts by soaking Somerset paper and then squeezing out the excess water before putting it between blotting paper.
The plates shown here have been etched with soft and hard ground techniques, and have been inked up in a single colour, in this case, black.
A small sheet of torn edged Lokta paper from Nepal, (traditionally made from the inner bark of a high elevation evergreen shrub), is rolled with PH neutral glue on the rough side.
The plate is laid ink side up on the print bed, then the Lokta paper sticky side up, followed by the support paper, and finally a layer of tissue for protection, before winding through the press.
The chine-collé method adds colour and texture to the image, while only involving a single plate.
Like many of us this year, Theresa has found her thoughts turning to the beach. So it is convenient that she has begun teaching workshops in Pembrokeshire. The unspoilt beaches around Broadhaven have inspired a series of atmospheric images, taking her in a new direction:
Beach buddies - Photo Etching Aquatint softground
She says ‘Water patterns and sandy textures are a current feature in my prints, but above all the escape into imagined underwater worlds. I love looking at rock pools and watching the life within. ‘
These two beautiful prints, Swimming Skelpies and Underwater Skelpies combine a photo transfer etching plate for the watery textures with an aquatinted plate using stencils for the figures.
Underwater Skelpies and Swimming Skelpies
The photo transfer process breaks down the image quite a lot, and the eventual image for the plate is often a combination of several transfers.
Achieving the soft edges of the figures on the aquatint plate involves a lot of delicate work around the stencils. As ever with printmaking, there is a high degree of unpredictability in the process.
The two plates for the Skelpies
The complexity and subtlety achieved in just two layers demonstrate Theresa’s skill and sensitivity. ‘I love the discovery of a different medium…it’s never-ending… all the ancient skills mix with the new…’
Theresa has also responded creatively to the limitations imposed by the pandemic, by beginning to teach Zoom. She is currently running a project in dry point. She sends a batch of materials to the student, who then makes the dry point image and returns it by post, indicating where textures are required. Theresa runs the print through the press and then has a Zoom conversation with the student to discuss the outcome. As she observes, it is a method she could easily continue with anyone unable to come to her London studio, regardless of lockdowns.
As she takes a call from a student during my visit, I can vouch for her supportive and encouraging teaching style. You can find out more about her workshops here: https://www.theresapateman.co.uk/printmaking-workshops
A wide range of Theresa’s work is on show at Southbank Printmakers Gallery at Gabriel’s Wharf, on London’s Southbank, where she is currently the Featured Artist, as well as on our website https://www.southbankprintmakers.com/theresa-pateman
Theresa can also be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org