Artist Liz Lake and Education Curator Emma Davies reflect on two days in 2016 spent printmaking outside at Sudborough Green Lodge, with students from CE Academy.
I arrived to Sudborough Green Lodge early, as I was unsure how long it would take to drive and remembered thinking it was a beautiful spot. It was a sunny and mild summer day. Once arrived and having shared cups of tea, I introduced myself to the students by showing them some examples of my work – they seemed particularly interested in the cast bronze objects, asking questions about how the work was made.
I wanted to include the outdoor space in the session, even if it was only in a small way initially, so we started by collecting plants and flowers from around the cottage.
In the morning we used a small tabletop press to make monoprints. Each student had a plastic plate, which they inked with a roller, and then placed collected scrap material and plants on top to create different compositions. This meant the backgrounds were various colours, and the materials and plants blocked out the ink and created white silhouettes of their shape. The students developed this by making further prints from the residue or ghosts left on the printing plate or by using a clean plate to print the reverse of the plants to create delicate results.
Towards lunchtime student attention was starting to wander so in the afternoon we took the printmaking outside, using a silkscreen to create a variety of monoprints. Reinvigorated participants experimented with blending and marbling the colours and using paper-cut stencils to create bold imagery. This type of printmaking can produce some unexpected and unplanned outcomes and is quite a direct way of experimenting with printmaking.
The students were great fun to work with. They had lots of energy and responded to the printmaking so positively that we had to hang all the prints up on a washing line to dry.
It was so liberating to be outside, printmaking in the sunshine, feeling the summer warmth on our skins, fully engrossed in pushing the limits of monoprinting and working quickly before the ink dried.
One student who typically suffered daily from extreme bouts of low confidence, anxiety and lack of self-worth, spent hours immersed in colour, shapes and experimental processes, carefully positioning stencils and choosing colours.
One of his prints perhaps unconsciously expressed the warmth of the summer sun, with its glowing orange and yellow shapes matching the unfamiliar glow and smile on his face.
More recently, Special Educational Needs researchers from University of Northampton have begun investigating the positive impact of our Alternative Provision programme, finding:
• The environment itself is an essential part of the experience for the young people. They outlined that it was a place where they felt comfortable, a peaceful place that was “not-hectic”. The young people regarded the natural aspect of the setting highly, helping them to feel calm indicating the environment helps them to regulate their emotions.
• From an emotional perspective the young people create a deep connection to the place, experiencing freedom, a reduction in pressures and enjoyment whilst on the programme. It appears the young people develop a strong sense of belonging, feelings of being valued and develop their sense of self worth through taking part in the programme.
The print in question remains on our office wall. A reminder to us of the power of the arts, the outdoors, and their ability to heal.
Look out for more Alternative Monday posts every fortnight, looking back on some of our favourite alternative provision activities over the past 10 years.