Peckham screen-printing workshop

with Nicole Line

by | Oct 10, 2015

When I was a kid I loved arts and crafts. I was always painting, chopping, sticking, moulding, you name it, I was doing it. I then studied ‘resistant materials’ (product design, essentially), beyond the compulsory junior years of secondary school through my GCSEs and then for A-Level, and even ended up doing a BSc in Product Design and Innovation at the University of Portsmouth. I was good at the design part, but the modules in materials and manufacture (for which you had to be good at physics and maths), forget it. Looking back, I’d tell my 14 year old self to choose art or graphic design for GCSEs instead and then maybe follow one of those subjects into A-Level or degree. I still LOVE making stuff, but what with the multiple flat moves last year (six to be precise) there was not much point seeing as though Jamie and I had to be clutter-free. Now that we’re finally settled back in Peckham in a flat of our own, I can indulge again, and I’ve been seeking out such activities.

One of the things I love about London is the sheer amount of things to do, and without having to look too hard, there are plenty of creative activities across the capital to get involved in. Even better when they happen to be a mere five minute walk from my flat! The Peckham Pelican, as well as being an uber-chilled (and kind of hipster-Berlin-esque) bar and hangout, is also a music and culture hub. Recently, it hosted a screen-printing workshop, run by textile designer and UCA graduate Nicole Line.

If you haven’t been screen-printing before, or you don’t know what it is, it’s essentially printing a motif or design onto a fabric product using a stencil and specialist paint, with the aid of a mesh screen. Oh and a squeegee!

Screen-printing samples

A selection of the workshop participants’ samples, before printing final designs.

My good friend Kylie had spotted flyers only a couple of days before the workshop, so I’d not had time to buy any cheap tees or other fabric products beforehand, but Nicole was selling canvas tote bags on the day. There were about eight or so participants in the workshop and we were able to practise screen-printing on countless pieces of pre-cut scrap canvas before applying our designs to our chosen products. Nicole was amazing! She’s super charismatic, has got an incredibly infectious enthusiasm and a hell of a lot of patience, making sure we’d really got the hang of it before screen-printing the real thing!

The screen-printing process itself is great fun. You take the item to be printed on (in my case a tote bag) and lay it on a flat surface over newspaper. Then you place your stencil in the correct position over the top. Next, you use a mesh screen (which Nicole provided), which is already attached to and pulled taut over a frame for stability, and lay it firmly over your stencil. Then the really fun part! Using whatever combination of colours you choose, and Nicole had tonnes of them, you squeeze the paint out into fairly generously-sized splodges along the edge of the mesh screen where the stencil starts, making sure each splodge is touching the next. Then, using a squeegee, you spread the paint along the length of the frame keeping the pressure evenly balanced, going back and forth once or twice to ensure the paint has spread evenly over your stencil. Finally, lift the mesh screen and stencil carefully away, and hopefully, voilà! Hang up to dry, and once dried, iron for 5 minutes.

Screen-printing in action

Here’s Kylie (left) and I in full screen-printing swing! You can see where I haven’t used enough paint to start off with because it’s been totally used up two thirds of the way down the mesh, oops. The beer you can see was helping our creative juices flow…

Although Nicole gave us a quick-fire lesson in stencil creation, we’d been advised to create our stencils prior to the workshop so that we’d have more time practising the actual screen-printing technique and playing with colour combinations on the day. I made three copies of two different stencils on A3 paper. Three copies of each, because the first copy can become VERY soggy, so you need a few back-ups ready for the final go. My first stencil design was just a collection of random (abstract!) shapes that ‘appeared’ on my paper because I just let loose with the craft knife to see what would happen. But the second, I wanted to do with travel of course! So I wrote ‘cheers’ in 6 different languages! Portuguese, Hungarian, German, Polish, Serbian and Danish.

Screen-print tote bag cheers

Here is my final screen-print of the ‘cheers in 6 different languages’ tote bag!

Screen-print reverse out

Clever-clogs Kylie managed to reverse out her screen-print! I think hers is much more impressive. (Photo courtesy of Kylie Arthur).

What do you think of our designs?