PUBLISHED: 15:43 14 April 2014
Lucy Etherington meets an enormously talented community of printmakers at Sudbourne Park as they prepare for their Easter exhibition
At a crossroads on a high point of the Orford Road, a glorious landscape stretching for miles beneath sprawling Suffolk skies, are the gates to Sudbourne Park, once home to the famous art historian Sir Kenneth Clark.
Along the driveway, in a remote cluster of outbuildings known as Bothys Yard, The Sudbourne Park Printmakers have established a workshop vast enough to house a collection of huge Victorian presses and cater for its increasing membership.
Some such as Derek Chambers and Peter Chadwick are prestigious artists who have had work exhibited and collected all over the world. Others are just starting out, Sudbourne Park being the perfect place to develop and experiment with traditional printmaking techniques, producing etchings, woodcuts, collagraphs and monotypes.
“I don’t like the term collective or co-operative,” says their founder, the artist and printmaker Gareth Jones, who is always on hand to supervise or just chat to members adding to the general convivial atmosphere of the place. “We’re more of a community. The original aim when we set up in 1990 was to provide a focal point and shared creative space for like-minded people.”
The original group of around eight began to gather in a workshop in Butley in 1990. As membership increased, they moved to Sudbourne Park in 2002.
“Now the age range and experience are as vast and varied as the work itself,” says Jones. “The wonderful thing about having somewhere to come is that we can all inspire and help each other. Everyone pitches in and it’s a lively, supportive atmosphere. Great friendships have formed over the years.”
Their Christmas show which takes place in the workshop itself already draws a large local crowd, happy to drive out into the middle of nowhere to wander among the presses in an atmosphere suffused with mulled wine and printing ink.
But if you can’t wait that long, the annual Easter Exhibition in Aldeburgh offers another chance to sample or indeed purchase the vast array of work currently being produced. Many of the member artists take their inspiration from the Suffolk landscape, such as Tessa Hale’s image of Aldeburgh beach on the exhibition poster. But unlike a lot of ‘local’ shows, there is a refreshingly broad range of themes and images. The money goes to the artists whose membership pays rents and sustains the group.
“It’s a non-profit making organisation,” says Jones. “Whatever the artists sell they keep. The membership pays the rent and running costs of the studios.”
While members have the run of the workshops three days a week, Jones also runs two day workshops throughout the year which anyone can attend. Members Jennifer Hall and Valerie Armstrong run workshops for schoolchildren.
Thanks to Jones’ expertise (he worked alongside Anthony Gross at the Slade School for Fine Art), the two-day courses attract people from all over the country, many of whom return regularly - one lady has been coming for ten years. Some had never done anything remotely artistic before. Christine Buttery, for example, did her first workshop in 2006 and now her woodcut prints are sold all over Suffolk.
“It’s a very therapeutic process,” Jones says. “You can’t rush it, it’s slow and focused and incredibly rewarding. People love coming here not just to develop skills and techniques, but to escape the frenzy of the modern world. We do get a lot of art school graduates, but through trying all the different processes, people discover hidden talents they never knew they had.”
Sudbourne Park Printmakers Easter Exhibition
April 18 – 23 at the Peter Pears Gallery, Aldeburgh.
Open daily: 10am – 5pm except on Wednesday, April 23 when the gallery will close at 4pm.