Thought Press Project
Can you introduce yourself?
Hello I’m Sanira Emon, artist at Paper Fight. I am a printmaker with a love of illustration too, particularly hand-drawing rather than digital methods. I started my artwork as a hobby and outlet for my creativity, but pretty soon I wanted to share it with others, so I started my own print workshops and now I make artwork to sell online and at craft fairs, as well as working with charities such as Edible Rotherhithe where I design and print fabric goods like aprons and totebags as well as making limited edition prints and cards. Last year I began a passion project through which I supported a charity called Heart Felt Tips for whom I am now a Trustee.
What is the Thought Press Project?
It is a nationwide charity print project which I began during lockdown by post and online using social media, involving 100 printmakers across the UK.
It’s called the Thought Press Project and 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 lockdown and we couldn’t see family or friends over Christmas and it was a really dark time where I thought about how people’s mental health and creativity were suffering. I also thought about all the charities that weren’t getting the help and support they needed from volunteers and how people weren’t focusing on giving to charities, each person having their own problems to deal with over lockdown. Together with all the news about home-schooling and children losing out on valuable education and social development, I thought it would be good to focus on helping these people and 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 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 the lockdowns and height of the pandemic, I didn’t include anyone else around the world 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, PR and social media.
Did you have a theme?
The theme I set for the project 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 really enjoyed chatting to each other about their childhood memories and ideas for prints. I partnered lesser and more well-known printmakers together to level the playing field and started by selling all the prints at the same price, which in the beginning was just £10 although now there are many available from only £8.
Monochrome lino print in midnight blue Essdee water based ink on 80gsm smooth cream A5 paper by Sanira Emon @paper.fight.art
This print is based on the Russian folktales of Baba Yaga and Vasilisa. The artist remembers her mum telling this story about the witch’s house that could uproot itself and move through the birch forest on its chicken legs! She treasures her childhood memories of sitting in the small but cosy kitchen in East London with her brother at mealtimes, being told this and many other stories from all around the world by her mum.
What happened next?
With all the excitement growing in one corner of Instagram, pretty soon I had built a small online community of printmakers and we 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 also 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 one of the 100 printmakers, who is based in Wales who was able to put together 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 The Hold, which we have rebooked for 2022.
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 great!
Which charities are you supporting this year?
This year we have narrowed down to a group of 50 printmakers and will be raising funds for a favourite charity of mine, Edible Rotherhithe based in South London. They are a community food growing, gardening and arts charity. They work between schools, educational facilities and community centres, to offer food growing, gardening and arts & crafts workshops for children and parents.
We are also supporting the Trussell Trust who support a nationwide network of food banks and together provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK.
Edible Rotherhithe are a small charity and Trussell Trust are a bigger charity. 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 last year they have returned to the fold!
We also teamed up with the Great Charity Pot and Print & Print Fair this year which took place on the 5 and 6 March. We donated all proceeds raised on those dates towards one of the smaller charities that is important to the organiser Laura Gilbert, called Sunshine and Smiles which is a support group for young children with down syndrome. Like me, she had the idea to gather all her fellow ceramicists to form a charity fundraising group and got the Great Pottery Throwdown BBC TV series involved and this year has reached out to printmakers too.
What is the theme for this year?
The theme for this year is Food Growing and Gardening to tie in with the growing concerns about families having to turn to food banks and looking to the future with effects of climate change, trying to teach future generations about being more green, growing their own food and helping the environment. This fits in with the work of Edible Rotherhithe and Trussell Trust who help with food distribution, fighting food waste and hunger and work to support people who are living below the breadline.
a family of heirlooms
Each print contains 62 hand-pressed block applications; 18 tomatoes, 18 leaves, 18 stalks and 8 sections of branch.
To plant a garden
Limited edition monochrome lino print in forest green ink on A4 sized Japanese Simili paper by Vicki Jordan @vickijordanart
The quote featured in this print is from famous actress, Audrey Hepburn ‘to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.’
Tree of Life
By Amie Bell @amiebellprints “Honey, Honey” is printed in gold and black ink on Lokta paper.
I’ve always been drawn to bees! They’re such lovely creatures and I find it fascinating that Honey Bees can make perfect hexagons and that Bumblebees can fly with such tiny wings! Watching them hop from flower to flower is a favourite pastime of mine and something I look forward to every Spring, so felt this fit in perfectly with the brief.
Tell us about the exhibitions you have planned.
We have 5 exhibitions planned all across the UK and 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 October we have 2 on at the same time, one at The Hold part of the Suffolk Archives at University of Suffolk campus and the other is at Level Best Art Café Gallery, which is also a trainee space for young people with learning disabilities.
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 Essdee have generously donated a set of these amongst other products to our big prize draw this year.
If you would like to enter the prize draw just go to www.thoughtpressproject.shop where you can get a prize draw ticket for only £5 (it ends on 31 March 2022). The top prize is a ball bearing baren worth over £90 with many exciting runners up prizes to be won, include 3 Essdee linoprinting sets!
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.
And of course you can:
- enter our Prize Draw
- come along to our exhibitions
- support us on social media by following the hashtag #thoughtpressproject
- purchase prints from our online shop www.thoughtpressproject.shop – we offer free postage and packaging to any UK address.
You can also follow us on Instagram to see how the project progresses this year @thoughtpressproject – there are lots of lovely prints in development and plenty of finished prints in the shop already. We hope to have all 50 designs ready by the end of March in time for the first exhibitions.
There are a great variety of prints this year including screenprint, risograph prints and etchings as well as linocut and woodcut prints, there is even a pop-up piece in the works! Prints are also still available from last year – there is limited stock though so do have a look before they all disappear.
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