Community steamroller event

Discussing the big community steamroller event they have planned for this coming weekend – Sunday 15 November – are the cofounders of Stone & Quoin Studio at 6 Manton St Hindmarsh in South Australia: Simone Tippett (Union St Printmakers) and Damien Warman (stick to galley press).

7 November, 2020
In Exhibitions,
Printmaking, Q&A

From top:

Photography by Craig Arnold, she:creative and Simone Tippett

Q: What were some of the foundation ideas behind this project?

Simone: Stone & Quoin Studio, and the 6 Manton Arts Hub where we are located, are quite new – as is 6 Manton Gallery and Pony & Cole café at the front of our building. We wanted to bring all aspects of our amazing community together to get to know each other, and to nurture a thriving and close-knit creative life in our area. Our local council – the City of Charles Sturt – was keen for a placemaking event to put the suburb of Hindmarsh on the map, celebrating its history. Hindmarsh is one of the oldest suburbs in Adelaide, and is now ripe for development. We thought that if we could celebrate the history of Hindmarsh, help people to know more, that we might be able to preserve what we love about it, as it is develops. Also, we are printmakers, and love a party… We’ve ALL fantasised about making giant prints with a shiny orange road roller over the years!

DamienAnd pragmatically, our carpark shares a big wall, ideal for pasteups and really big prints… it is the perfect place to showcase the community’s creativity.

Q: How does it take place and how are people involved?

SimoneWe’ve run two so far – Sunday 28 April and Sunday 17 November 2019. Both were themed, usually with much hilarious disregard for the themes. For example, the very first theme was ‘Hindmarsh’, to placemake our local suburb. And the first lino block to come in was a carving of Dino the Dinosaur… The previously-unknown dinosaurs of Hindmarsh are now part of studio legend 🙂

Damien supervises the road roller printing on the day in the carpark (he has invented a fabulous registration jig to print cleanly with the road roller) and I supervise the tea towel printing in the gallery. Mostly it is me who does the pre-event organising and administration, in consultation with Damien and the other businesses at our premises. Putting on an event like this relies upon the generosity and flexibility of everyone who is located there. The café forgoes its carpark and puts on extra staff to cater for visitor/volunteer coffees, the design business located in the gallery lets us use their office and gallery space, and all the artists in our print studio pitch in to help out. It is pretty full on. And we couldn’t run it without the generosity of my Union St Printmakers students – the hours they put in, helping me in the weeks leading up to the event, are just wonderful.

The two events we ran last year brought together over 70 artists aged 7 to 79 years, many of whom carved multiple blocks for both events. Each event involved many hundreds of volunteer hours, and up to 20 volunteers over the course of each day. It’s huge. Because space is limited – and for safety reasons – public attendance is booked in 1 hour blocks using Eventbrite.

Damien: Yes, the generosity of our volunteers from throughout SA’s printmaking community (students and staff at the various tertiary institutions, established independent printmakers, emerging artists, etc) has staggered us. But also our sponsors, especially Coates for the roller and Forbo for marmoleum… logistically their support has been essential, and it’s been great to chat with them about how their very practical and beautiful tools and products can be repurposed by loons for art.

Q: Can you describe the atmosphere at previous steamroller events you’ve been involved with?

Simone: Actually neither of us have ever been involved with a steamroller event before. I’d spent an hour watching one at the San Francisco Centre for the Book a few years back – but mostly got distracted by the letterpress and book aspects of SFCB, never for a minute thinking I’d be responsible for organising such an event myself. And Damien watched heaps of YouTube footage. The head of printmaking at a local university shared his experience which was really helpful. And then we just jumped right in and did it, making it up as we went along.

It is wonderful to see people come to understand what an original print actually is – that it doesn’t just pop out from a computer. And the atmosphere of our events are so much fun… Friends catching up, buying prints and little kids holding their Dad’s hands, mouths open in astonishment, too good!

Damien: And we have really enjoyed the response from first-time printmakers and block-carvers, and families and small children, seeing something they associate with crushing being turned to creation.

Q: What have been some of the highlight outcomes in the past?

Simone: The two events we ran last year brought together artists, creatives and members of our local community, many of whom had never made a print before. We had absolute beginners, little kids and old people sending in blocks to be printed alongside established artists. The joy that brought was amazing. And the actual day of each event were wonderful. So many people pitched in to make them a success. The paste up of prints on our mural wall is a beautiful backdrop to the shiny orange roller, and live printing tea towels in the gallery is exciting. A lot of people didn’t know about original prints, let alone the community spirit of our local printmaking mob, so it was terrific fun and a colourful spectacle.

We also got to exhibit the first event (video and photographic documentation, inked relief blocks and hand-printed tea towels) at a prestigious contemporary Adelaide art gallery, with accompanying printmaking/artist talks at the gallery.

And so far, we’ve produced over 40 different tea towels as a result of the two events run to date – which means over 320 lino blocks carved for the fun of it. Amazing. Sale of these tea towels generates just enough money to fund the next event.

My favourite tea towel is from the ‘Summer’ event; a tea towel of mozzies and blowflies. Hilarious.

DamienI loved the cognitive dissonance and detourning of making tea towels – those most quotidian of objects, with a long history of being printed and sold as souvenirs and mementos – into gallery pieces. This tied nicely with the bemusement from some well-established artists who contributed blocks without every quite taking in, until almost the very moment of being run over, that we were printing them possibly destructively with untuned heavy industrial plant. But most of all, the reflected pleasure from first-timers seeing their work realised as great big wonky banners.

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For information about this year’s event, the facebook event www.facebook.com/events/2057382214397830 and the Eventbrite www.eventbrite.com.au/e/community-steamroller-print-event-tickets-126390219549.

For photographs of previous events… https://www.unionstprintmakers.com/steamroller

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