Sarah Christie pulls a sheaf of screenprinted artworks from a drawer, spreads them out across a large table and pauses for a moment.
“It’s amazing how much versatility you can get with the technique,” she says.
It’d be hard not to agree. From elaborately-drawn gig posters to patterns of geometric shapes and familiar city landscapes, the artists have each realised their own vision, but all remain united by their chosen method.
For Sarah, who co-runs the Sheffield Print Club on the edge of the city centre, giving people the capability to easily explore their creativity - and potentially make works they can sell - is one of the society’s main goals.
“Even though the equipment can look quite technical, it’s a really straightforward thing to learn,” she says.
The club is tucked away in a workshop off Lenton Street in Highfield, sharing a yard with a firm of joiners. Heavy printing frames, pots of acrylic in a multitude of colours and members’ work, still damp with fresh paint, fill the large unit which covers two floors.
Set up three years ago by Jane Elliott and fellow printer Laurence Harborne, the venture was taken over by a new management committee - Sarah, graphic designer David Gasi and architect Jon Orlek - last September.
Previously Sarah had been running the Edge of the Universe Printing Press on Sidney Street, initially with friend Roy Clutterbuck, then with David, organising pop-up classes and other activities. As their studio lease ended, Jane and Laurence were looking to move on.
“It was just perfect timing as it was exactly what we wanted to do.”
So Sarah, David and Jon bought the unit’s existing equipment, and set about developing the club, which now has 35 active members.
“What Jane and Laurence did was amazing, but we had the time and enthusiasm to help this space and really go for it.”
Consequently it has been a ‘pretty full-on year’. New courses have been trialled, and printers now have access to benefits such as a listing on the club’s website.
“We want it to have more of a community feel rather than somewhere you just come in, print, pay your money and leave.
“We’ve got a couple of businesses here now, people are printing their own T-shirts and tote bags and things like that, which is really cool.
“I think everyone who runs a business from here did a one-day, ‘introduction to’ workshop. From that you can learn all the basics you need to make and print your own designs.”
The membership list includes some familiar faces, including James Green who competed in Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist of the Year in 2013.
“I guess he’s probably the biggest name that prints here. Because all the kit is so big, and expensive, that even for someone who’s quite successful it makes more sense.”
Sarah demonstrates how to screenprint, spreading blue paint over a prepared sheet of acetate attached to a frame. The resulting image - a picture of a contestant from TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race - is then transferred onto a thick piece of paper.
She was taught the craft by Jon at his kitchen table. Her background isn’t in art and design - originally from York, she studied English and creative writing at the University of East Anglia - and was involved in creating homemade magazines with Roy, which led them on to printing.
“There are different types of screenprinting - relief printing, and stencil printing. And there are different ways you can create the stencils. Some you can do with kids, just by cutting out paper,” says Sarah, aged 28, who juggles her role with a job at children’s literacy charity Grimm & Co, in Rotherham.
“You can screenprint on to anything at all - signs, mugs. I have loads of clothes I’ve made myself.”
The club maintains close ties with Sheffield Hallam University. For instance, they have loaned a letterpress machine and a device that allows members to experiment with holographic printing.
On Saturday, August 12, the first print fair is taking place at the Lenton Street workshop from 11am to 4pm. Work will be available to buy, demonstrations are happening and there will be a bake sale and barbecue in aid of Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity.
Sarah says the event proves the city’s print scene is ‘flourishing’.
“It definitely is a viable thing to do.”
Visit www.sheffieldprintclub.org for details.