Personal Manifesto for a Sustainable (Printmaking) Practice worth Practicing

(DRAFT – last amended 05 May 2023)

There are a great many examples of arts manifestos: some are lists of rules, others are slogans by which to live, and others still are essays, books, tomes through which artists and organisations express in words the principles of their practice.

When I started writing, I did not set out to write one.
I set out to reflect closely on my printmaking practice, but also to step away from it, to find the ‘gist’ of it, especially as it relates to sustainability.

Answers are out there. What I’ve come to conclude is, however, they are not “use oil instead of solvents to clean up”, or “try water-based screen printing inks”, or even “ten steps to replace nitric with saline sulphate”.

These are helpful, practical steps that may suit some practices, in some situations. What I’m looking for is sustainable principles for sustainable printmaking. Principles that will apply regardless of process. I know how that sounds – after all, isn’t printmaking all process? I say no, printmaking is a lifestyle, a philosophy, a religion, a choice full of choices.

I am writing as a person who has chosen printmaking, or maybe printmaking chose me. I make and teach screenprinting, etching, relief, lithography, photographic plate and digital print processes. I have worked in small private studios, and large, publicly funded workshops based in higher education, or tied to cultural institutions. I’ve taught in spaces with no easy access to water, worked on projects with almost no budget, editioned other projects that seemed to have endless budget (just once, actually). In each and every situation, these principles can apply, and in many cases, were already being applied.

If this is useful to you, please have it. If it isn’t, I urge you to take ten minutes and write your own rules down. Find the ten minutes. Stare at the words and see if they reflect your practice back. Give yourself longer if you need it. My stars may not be yours.

  1. Ask questions.
  2. Answer questions.
  3. Think about the before and after.
  4. Practice.
  5. Remember that one size does not fit all.
  6. Embrace change.
  7. Give yourself permission.

We can disagree, and still be friends.  

Next post: what do these seven phrases actually mean?

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