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Interview with Lucy Bainbridge

Since graduating from an MA in Print at Camberwell College of Arts, Lucy Bainbridge has become an established printmaker making atmospheric cityscapes. She also set up the Bainbridge Print Studios in 2008, which provides open access print facilities, artist studios and a varied programme of courses taught by professional artists and designers.

You work mainly with screenprint. What do you like about this as a medium?

I like the process of screenprinting, even though I try and make my prints look as if they are not screenprinted. I like the look of etching, I love the work of artists like Norman Ackroyd, but I don’t enjoy the process of etching as much. I manipulate photographs using photoshop, screenprint them, then draw on them and screenprint over the top again. It’s a long process and it’s almost like drawing with print medium.

How did this process evolve?

I’ve made it up as I went along! My work started getting a little too photographic and I wanted to make them a bit more drawing-like.

I’ll take a photo and when I come back to the studio and put it on the computer, I often need to go back to slightly adjust my position to get the right photo. It’s not until you are playing and manipulating it that you realise what you want.

Then the paper has graphite dust rubbed onto it and then I print over the top. Then I can rub bits out. It’s like a drawing into a print.

What is it about the quality of the graphite dust that you like?

I haven’t been able to work out another way to get the grey background and then be able to pull out the whites.

Graphite dust is really dirty and takes forever to black the paper up. I tried to find another way of making my work without having to use it. I spent a year mucking about with different ideas and then ended up going back to it again. I seem to keep going towards it.

Your work is incredibly atmospheric. What kind of mood are you trying to create?

I like playing with different lights, whether it’s first thing in the morning or at dusk. The periods when you are going from one thing to another. All of them are cityscapes of London because this is where I live and work. London is constantly changing. I like pausing it for a minute, knowing that it’s not going to be the same in a few months’ time. There are always new buildings going up so the cityscapes are always changing.

I’m trying to create a stillness and a quiet, that is sometimes difficult to find in London.

Tell me about the dawn and why you like working at this time…

In the summer it’s 4am. Although I don’t particularly like getting up so early to go and take the photographs, whenever I come back I’m in a really good mood. There is no-one else there. It’s gorgeous before the city has properly woken up. In the winter it’s a bit later and it’s obviously much colder.

Are you drawn to particular locations?

I live in Kennington and my studio is in West Norwood. Because I’m interested in first thing in the morning or the evening it needs to be somewhere I can get to relatively quickly. That’s the main reason they started off being set by the Thames but I really like the openness of the Thames as well, the way you get a bit of a gap between the buildings. I like to have some space and a view with some distance in.

I tend to cycle around a lot and constantly looking for new and different views even if its somewhere I’ve walked through a million times: you look at it one day and it will be slightly different, whether because there are cranes in it or the time of day so you see it in a different way. I like Battersea at the moment because it’s constantly changing.

It’s easy to ignore the changes and not notice because we are always so busy. In six months time you have forgotten what it used to be like. It’s definitely about pausing time.

You founded Bainbridge Print Studios in 2008. Where did the idea to do this come from?

I was teaching before then and I didn’t particularly like it. I’d used open access print studios for years and then it seemed like a good idea to set up my own, thinking that I would be able to do much more of my own work. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve been able to do more of my own work again, because it was all self-funded so for quite a long time, I was teaching as well as build it up. In the last two years, we’ve taken on another space in Elephant and Castle and everything is starting to tick along. Finally I’m able to do my own work a few days a week.

What kind of environment were you trying to create when you originally set up West Norwood?

Originally in the business plan, I’d said that it was going to be fine art based but that wasn’t really what happened. Now it’s fifty percent textiles, fifty percent paper printing. The criteria changed. As it’s open plan, it’s important that everyone gets on. I’ve been very lucky with the collection of artists. It’s been the same group for ages. When I started West Norwood, we were all around the same age. They have all just stuck with it. Everyone there is quite established and knows what they are doing. They have grown up together. West Norwood isn’t open access, it’s just studios with print facilities.

What about your studios in Elephant and Castle. How long have they been running?

I got the keys two years ago but then it took over 6 months to get it up and running. They used to be shops but have been derelict for 40 years. One of them had been burnt out. Our landlord is ASC, Artists Studio Company. They are the landlords for all the units which is why they are all creative spaces. They go above and beyond. We had to knock walls down to get the screen tables in.

There are 25 artists working now in Elephant and Castle. Everyone is a little bit younger. A lot of people have just graduated so the atmosphere is quite different. People are still finding their feet, they come and go and bit more often, people give up on London because it’s too expensive.

We also rent out studio spaces and do courses in etching and screenprinting twice a week. There is open access studios in Elephant and Castle – there are 40 members who come in and just use the facilities. Half of those people need some help, so you need to be a bit of a technician too.

What do you like about Artists’ Open House?

I’ve done it for years. I started off doing it in a friend’s house, when the festival was tiny, before I had the studio. It must have been about 12 years ago. Over time, it’s got bigger and bigger. There are such nice people who come round, they are really interested in what’s going on. I’m always surprised at how busy it is over the two weekends. There is a really loyal following of people who want to collect work.

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