In a world that’s guilty of enjoying the delights of quick fix digital media, illustrator, designer and printmaker Jo Stafford, picks up her squeegee and explains why it’s good to get back to basics.
Few industries have evolved as quickly or as fundamentally as printing. Its impact can be seen everywhere – in art, software, science, industry, propaganda and even war. With demand now at its highest, digital’s takeover was inevitable, but with over 500 years in the making, it’s clear print isn’t going down without a fight.
One person keeping the art alive is designer and printmaker Jo Stafford.
After graduating from Norwich School of Art and Design in 2007, Jo headed to a studio in London on work experience, where she first discovered her passion for print. “I was always fascinated by old vintage adverts that used screen printing,” says Jo. “While I was in London, lots of processes really stood out for me. I learnt more about graphic processes and styles, as well as using more traditional methods of printing and it just clicked.”
Back in Norwich, Jo was keen to put her knowledge into practice and set up her first print studio, Print to the People, along with fellow artist and printmaker Vicki Johnson. Dissatisfied with the hurriedness of more modern printing techniques, Jo uses linocuts, monoprints, etchings, collagraphs, letterpress prints and screen prints to create her pieces.
“For me, printing is about texture and surface, which is something you don’t get with digital printing,” says Jo. “Everything is so quick these days – you can knock something up in Photoshop in minutes. By using more traditional techniques, you can create something a lot more meaningful – more real.”
Print technician by day, Jo’s main job is to help students achieve weird and wonderful effects by printing with unusual materials such as snakeskin and chocolate. She also volunteers at the John Jarrold Print Museum and runs classes and events at her own studio in the evening and at weekends, printing tees, posters, flyers, bags and labels with anything from bold text to intricate illustrations and everything in between.
“By running the studio, we’re adding to the creative community of Norwich. It’s nice to have that communal space where people can come and see how things are made and how things used to be made.”
As well as running the studio, Jo and Vicki organise the Norwich Art Carboot.
“We wanted to give people an opportunity to sell their work. We started doing smaller events and it just grew and grew. Now it’s not just local artists, we have people coming from places like London and Kent which is amazing.”
In running so many projects, creating her own artwork is usually last on the list but with her inspiration stemming from a range of sources, Jo takes every opportunity to experiment with new styles, colours and techniques.
“I collect all sorts of things – postcards, leaflets, labels or just something random from a bar or art gallery. My inspiration comes from all around, including other cities, countries and cultures,” says Jo.
In a bid to create something truly unique for Takeaway Art, Jo worked on a snowy mountain scene screen printed and laser cut onto wood. Drawing inspiration from her own travels and listening to Tom Vek’s music, Jo created a series of images which, due to the many steps involved that require manual alignment, are indeed unique.
Interview and article by Susie Kelly