How do you create something that stands for everything you are trying to say AND acts as a (pardon the pun) banner around which everyone can rally? The answer lies in the very great imaginative talent of Fiona Lovell, our printmaking tutor from Double Elephant Print Workshop in Exeter.
She decided to pose her first group of workshop participants on Wednesday morning a very big challenge: to make a banner several metres long in just over two hours and hang it from the minstrels’ gallery for all to see.
These were the basic instructions Fiona gave her band of complete beginner printmakers:
Tread Lightly on the Earth
Create a long banner which depicts a slice of the earth from the deep ocean to the interior and the sky.
We will look at the interdependencies of each area and a few of the Climate Scientists’ tools. The print material will highlight our impact on the system.
Materials: plastics and recycled materials collected from home and the scrap store.
I watched the process from my perch at the back of the Great Hall. First came a general explanation of the principles of the printmaking techniques to be applied, then the laborious preparation of the floor space where the banner was going to be worked on, and the stretching of the paper. It seemed a large area to cover, and I sensed a certain tension emanating from the group. Nothing much seemed to be happening.
Then suddenly, someone took the plunge and made that all-important first mark – and then everyone went for it, rolling pressing painting inks onto print mediums going from bubble wrap to bits of corrugated cardboard and foam shapes stuck on to cardboard tubes, and of course, feet.
Working at the image from both ends, the printmakers had to work fast to cover the whole surface. With one last frantic rush it was completed and hung from the minstrels’ gallery just in time for coffee. The other course participants started to trickle in from their workshops, and the delight and wonder of seeing this great visual bit of story-telling showed on every face. It was the perfect way to signify what we were about: a huge story told in the most immediate and concise way, a perfect metaphor for our relationship with the Earth and what it should be, and an energy-filled, delightful image full of details and surprises around which we could rally in optimism and creative purpose. Over the next three days, that banner became our totem.
The memory of looking up from my work to see a pair of pink feet marching around the Hall and the banner will stay with me and fills me with glee. The memory of the banner and what it represents in every sense fills me with joy.