Early Days - a short history lesson.

In my first post I mentioned how my inspiration was largely propelled by my admiration of the beautiful printing presses from the 1800's. While I can't tell you where these came from, I do know that these presses were meticulously restored to the condition you see in these photos.

The Printmaking Studio

Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee: Robert Fraser was the Head Lecturer for the Printmaking department of the Design School (the Fine Art Department had a different Printmaking department). He was an accomplished printmaker, jewellery designer and graphic designer who had spent some post-graduate years in Poland, training and refining his craft under the expert eye of well-known printmaker, Josef Sekalski. Sekalski later came to Scotland to teach printmaking in this department.

Years later, it was under Mr Fraser's guidance that the department took on it's present functional and organized state. The presses were all painted and polished, greased and tightened. Worn parts were manufactured from scratch and replaced. You can see from the photo above how systematic and well-aligned the tables and storage were. It was this level of discipline that set the foundation for Robert Fraser's students. He also started an annual award that was set up in Josef Sekalski's name and presented to the best printmaking student of each graduating year.

Students were always taught the value of good housekeeping in his department: rollers were placed on their backs, especially when loaded with ink, or hung when not in use. Turpentine and mentholated spirits in distinctly different dispensers for cleaning. Storage racks lined the walls and tables were always spotlessly cleaned after use. Used rags were kept in a metal box. Separate parts of the studio were used for Lino, Etching and Lithography. Everything was in order.

The Columbian Press

Setting conditions under which students would work took away any unnecessary concerns about the process. Once the set up was understood (and followed), everything was strategically placed and ready so that students could just focus on the creative elements of learning their printmaking skills. There was total creative freedom down here in the basement of the Art College. If so desired, students could get their own key to come in, and given responsibility to work on their own over the weekend. It is a rare occurrence that students are given such trust and access to treasured places - imagine someone giving you the keys to a museum or your favourite gallery after hours. For me, it felt like that. By the same measure, taking ownership instilled a sense of responsibility, pride and respect. The foundation of these principles is where I come from - and thanks to that I'm able to value my craft and it's teaching methods in much the same light. Hopefully passing this prestige onto my own students. Against this backdrop anyone can really raise their game. Learning and creativity has it's own rewards but it needs to be understood to be fully appreciated.

In saying that, although we didn't know how lucky we were back then, I'd hope that by writing this piece and setting it on record, I can acknowledge and give thanks to the Dundee Art College and Mr Robert Fraser for the opportunity and guidance that has served me and set me on this path. Those incredible years have clearly set an indelible mark and continue to push my lino printmaking ambitions to this day.

Comment on this post (1 comment)

  • Lynn says...

    I trained at DoJ from 1975-1980 and graduated in illustration/printmaking. It was printmaking I majored in, working under the guidance of Bob Fraser. Ron Stenberg was head of illustration at that time. I was awarded the Sekalski printmaking prize. I used it to buy a printmaking book which I still have. Thanks for the pics here….I loved that workshop, and also revered the acid room.

    August 11, 2017

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