Thought Press Project
Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Sanira Emon, or Paper Fight Art as I am known on Instagram. I enjoy printmaking especially linoprints and I have a love of hand drawn illustration. I started with linoprint as a hobby and then wanted to share the activity with others so I started running my own workshops at art galleries, schools with Edible Rotherhithe, at events locally and even in other parts of the country, running workshops at venues such as Castle Rising with the reenactment group Black Knight Historical and always using Essdee supplies. I find that Essdee products produce beautiful colours and textures and are easy to transport and to clear up afterwards.
I have designed and handprinted fabric goods such as aprons and totebags and made limited edition prints and cards for Edible Rotherhithe since 2018. I now make art to sell online and at craft fairs and my clientele includes Dame Emma Thompson who bought my Robin & Marian print among others at Nottingham Castle in 2022. (Available in my Etsy shop www.etsy.com/uk/shop/PaperFightArt)
In December 2020 I started pulling together a nationwide charity fundraising printmaking project which is now known as Thought Press.
What is the Thought Press Project?
Thought Press began online during lockdown. I envisioned a collective of artists on the project from across the UK. I used social media to connect to as many printmakers as possible and made a list of the printmakers I had discovered and invited them to join the project. I organised printmakers in regional groups and connected them to each other over lockdown by allocating Printmaker Pals, encouraging them to reach out by direct messaging using their social media accounts.
In 2021 we raised a total of £4,700 for Mind Charity and Heart Felt Tips CIC, arranged 3 exhibitions around the UK and gained recognition from the UK printmaking community by featuring in both the RE (Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers) magazine ‘Printmaking Today’ and in the equally prestigious ‘Pressing Matters.’
How did the Thought Press Project come about?
The Thought Press Project was a collaboration I had in mind around December 2020. It was still Lockdown in the UK and due to the threat of Covid19 we couldn’t see any family or friends. Christmas that year felt like a really dark time and I got to thinking about how people’s mental health and creativity were suffering. Together with all the news about children stuck at home, losing out on valuable education and social development, I found that Mind Charity and Heart Felt Tips CIC were the perfect causes to champion with my project.
I set about contacting printmakers I was already following through my Instagram account @paper.fight.art, not knowing who would reply or agree to donate their prints to a then unknown project. Little did I know how enthusiastic people would be and it went from there really, growing day by day, adding people from all over the UK (because of postage restrictions and delays we faced during height of the pandemic, I didn’t include anyone outside the UK, although we did have considerable interest) until I had to cap it at 100 people, as running the project by myself meant that I would be dealing with all the admin, post and website, promotional material and social media.
The theme I set for the project in that first year was Childhood Memories and Imagination to link to the children and mental health aspects of the project. It really tapped into something we all had in common and many of the printmakers enjoyed chatting to each other about their childhood memories and ideas for prints. I partnered lesser known and more famous printmakers to level the playing field and started by selling all the prints at the same price, which in the beginning were just £10 each.
The idea for my @thoughtpressproject print came from the iconic Three Hares motif, found in many locations across the world since the 7th century. In particular in the UK, it’s found often in Devon churches, where it is referred to locally as the Tinners’ Hares. It’s a beautiful image, and has a certain magic and mystery to it, so it seemed an ideal choice for the Thought Press Project’s ‘Animal Magic’ theme.
A Beautiful Mind
Original linocut by Rebecca Perdue @bperdue.printmaker
Inspired by the magical work of creative polymath Kit Williams. I first saw his fantastically illustrated riddle book Masquerade as a youngster. I would pore over the intricate imagery long before I really understood the hidden messages and symbols they contained.
This wonderful book fuelled a lifelong love of literature, illustration, folklore and of course, animals, (although that particular seed had already been sown and nurtured with a succession of much loved pets). If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is!
This linocut print is an ode to an inspiring creative, (the Kit Williams version of this magic animal circle symbol can be found within the pages of Masquerade) and is for anyone who is inspired by the possibilities of a creative life, loves literature and the beautiful, pure minds of our animal friends.
What happened next?
With all the excitement growing in the printmaking corner of Instagram, soon there was a small online community of printmakers and I started a Facebook group to help organise people and set out rules. Pairing a smaller charity (Heart Felt Tips) with a much bigger and more recognisable charity (Mind) really worked to help people feel emotionally invested in the project, particularly those who had struggled with their mental health over lockdown in particular.
With more and more people getting involved, Tim from Pooki Presses reached out to us to give away one of his big lever printing presses and we had the wonderful support of Essdee and several other art suppliers.
We got the attention of local and global magazines and even the famous John Pedder who supported our project by donating 20 of his original embossed woodcut prints which sold out within a week of going in the online shop! We also had great champions on the project such as Jonny Scarramuzza, based in Wales. He was able to install all 100 of our prints at the very first of our exhibitions in a refurbished theatre, which was a huge success! We also managed to get a free space at a new venue in Ipswich at The Hold part of Suffolk Archives, which we have rebooked annually since then.
We have had so much great feedback from our customers and it has meant a lot for me to and the other printmakers to be able to connect with each other during the lockdown and some lifelong artist friendships have been formed. There is quite a tightknit community on Instagram and the artists help to promote each other’s work which is really what the project is about!
Monochrome handburnished print from a wood engraving by Beth Robertson @end.grain.prints
This wood engraving depicts a robin protecting her nest. The young in our society need to be protected and nurtured, and this little print is happy to be part of Thought Press project as part of a collective of printmakers raising money to help provide hot meals, creativity and support to children who are most in need.
A Blessing of Narwhal
Original linocut by Dave Hall @davehallprintmaking
Using Essdee Block Printing inks in Black, White, Silver and Turquoise
The concept of magic has always felt dark and mysterious to me so although my work is usually a riot of colour, I knew I wanted my Animal Magic print to be very moody. After recalling that Narwhals are known as ‘The Unicorns of the Sea’ everything fell into place and I focussed on creating a Narwhal design for the 2023 Thought Press Project.
To achieve the texture and markings of the Narwhal skin, I handpainted the carved block so that each print would be unique and I could come up with patterns and colour combinations which can’t be created using a brayer.
I love how the glossy turquoise and white stand out on black paper and the murky background was very reminiscent of Narwhal documentaries I had seen following pods of Narwhal around the Arctic Oceans.
Linocut print by Steph Dean @mrs_m_designs
‘On the theme of Animal Magic, I wanted to celebrate the magic of nature. It’s the lunar year of the rabbit so I’ve placed the bunny in front of the moon with moths navigating around him. Moths are magnificent and contribute greatly to our ecosystem. The funds raised from the sales of all prints donated go directly to supporting children to learn about proper food in both creative and practical ways.’ Steph.
Which other charities have you supported?
In 2022, where I experimented with half the number of printmakers, we raised in what was a very difficult year economically, over £3,500 for Edible Rotherhithe based in South London and the much larger charity, Trussell Trust. I like the idea of small and big supporting each other and we have the same pairing of printmakers including famous names as well as beginner printmakers and those who are less experienced and who really love the boost and thrill of working alongside their printmaking heroes.
All of the artists have been tremendously generous with their time, energy and materials, contributing everything for free and even helping with social media and promotion, organising flyers and exhibition venues. We have a core membership of some printmakers who loved it so much the first time around that they have returned to the fold!
What is the theme for this year?
The theme for 2023 is ‘Animal Magic’ which fits in with the work of Edible Rotherhithe focusing on biodiversity in their gardening projects at schools and Magic Breakfast who provide healthy breakfasts to pupils in schools who need it, fighting hunger and providing fuel for learning. The Printmakers absolutely love this year’s theme and have responded to it in various ways – the images are fantastic.
We also have 10 Young Thought Pressers joining us this year from a primary school in Southwark, so please do check out their colourful and imaginative screenprints in the shop. They worked with Printmaker Liam Richardson to produce the prints from their designs and printmaking sessions run by Edible Rotherhithe.
Tell us about the exhibitions you have planned.
We have 2 exhibitions planned, and maybe 2 more in other parts of the UK, and we have rebooked a couple of the venues we used last year. The ones that are definitely confirmed I can tell you about but you will just have to wait to find out about the others.
In mid August we have a show at Cass Art in Islington which also includes two free workshops where people can come along and learn how to print.
We also have our regular, month-long show in September at The Hold part of the Suffolk Archives at University of Suffolk campus.
Do you have a favourite Essdee product?
My favourite Essdee products are the wood-mounted lino blocks and the metallic printing inks. I cannot wait to try out the new fabric printing range and you should know that Essdee have generously donated a set of these amongst other great printmaking products to our big prize draw at the end of March 2023.
If you would like to enter please go to www.thoughtpressproject.shop where you can get a prize draw ticket for only £5!
How can people take part/contribute/donate/buy a print?
Although we have reached full capacity for printmakers this year, there is a chance to join next year’s project which will be run by Edible Rotherhithe. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved and book your space for next year.
Donations can be made to www.ediblerotherhithe.org.uk/donate
And of course you can buy a print any time, come along to our exhibitions and support us on social media by following the hashtag #thoughtpressproject or purchase prints from our online shop www.thoughtpressproject.shop. We offer free postage and packing to any UK address.
You can also follow us on Instagram to see how the project progresses this year @thoughtpressproject or follow/search the hashtag #thoughtpressproject – there are lots of lovely prints in development and over 30 finished prints in the shop already.
We hope to have all 100 designs ready by the end of April in time for the first exhibitions. There are a great variety of prints including screenprints, risograph prints and etchings, as well as linocut and woodcut prints, and even a pop-up linoprinted piece in the shop! Some prints from 2021 and 2022 are still available – it is very limited stock so do have a look before they all go!
Got 5 minutes? Have a read of one of our other blogs for more inspiration!
How to create your own bespoke Christmas wrapping paperFollow this step by step guide to create your own christmas wrapping paper to make your gifts extra special! A great crafting activity to get you in the Christmas spirit. You can also use your unique...
Residencies for artists We were interested to talk to Artist Scarlett Rebecca about Residencies for Artists and her own experiences. Could you explain what a residency is and how you got one? Residencies are for artists to develop their practice through...
We were excited to speak to printmaker Dave Elsom from Sombreo Printmaking to find out about his style of printmaking, including how he got into printmaking, what inspires him and his recent exhibitions.