A Normal Day at Sonsoles Print Studio by Ann-Marie Rayney

I do not think there is ever such a thing as a normal day at Sonsoles, and this is what I love so much about it. It can all depend on the tasks for the day. Perhaps you will be printing an edition, or preparing for a print job. There may be ink pots to fill, a stock take to complete. A member may need an extra pair of hands, or there may be an insane amount of emails to deal with. Possibly there will be six screens lined up for you to strip. I always used to think that this was the worst task, but actually there is something extremely calming in the process of watching the yellow mesh reappear behind the force of the power washer. I am sure there is something of a metaphor for life within it, but I won’t use this time to get overtly philosophical.
The bell rings as you open the door. Lights on, computer on, radio on, apron on, power washer on. A quick sweep of the drying racks, piling up work and keeping it safe in the planchest drawers. Sometimes finished, sometimes with only one or two layers completed that won’t make sense to me until the final pull. There could be cards, fine art editions, experiments, exquisite halftones or detailed lines. Subtle gradients that can stop me in my tracks. Textiles, prints on foil blankets, on glass. I want to say I have seen it all but there is usually another technical surprise coming with the next new member.While I am piling prints or sweeping the floor, our open access members start to arrive. They coat, expose or retrieve prepared screens. They investigate their materials or sit and work on stencils and figure out logistics. There is the build up to printing; the screen is fixed to the bed, paper piled on the side, inks placed on the shelf below with the palette knife ready in the pot. Buckets with water and sponges sit beneath. Registration marks are prepped and acetates stuck down. It is like a well rehearsed dance piece, expertly choreographed. And then, printing. The studio comes alive with the sounds of vacuums and squeegees. Some days I won’t be needed, other days I can be seen to jog up and down the length of the studio multiple times to help solve printing related dilemmas.

The day rushes by in a hive of activity. Some members finish printing and others take over on the bed, some stay for the whole day. Multiple cups of tea are drunk and packets of biscuits never last very long. New faces come and introduce themselves and enquire about courses, membership or print jobs. I induct new members into the studio, familiarising them with all the particularities that any studio can have. On very exciting days I use a paper clip to clear all the vacuum holes in the print tables. Those are the days that definitely pass the slowest.

You can hear as the end of the day draws closer; vacuums are turned off, members retreat to clean screens, hairdryers are used to will prints to dry. The wash out booth starts to resemble the tropics, as the humidity builds from incessant power washer use and the mop can finally fulfil its destiny. Prints are piled up, payments are made and the last biscuits are eaten. I turn the heaters off, the power washer off, the radio off, the computer off, hang my apron up and then turn the lights off. The studio is silent again.

As I have said before, there is no such thing as a normal day, but this is a pretty good overview of things from the viewpoint of being a technician at Sonsoles. I joined as a member back in 2012 when the floor was still clean, and have worked there for over four years. The (now) ink splattered floor is testament to the amazing things I have seen produced in the studio. Work ranging from the most intricate cards to the biggest and wonderfully abstract mono-prints, produced by members who are new to printing through to fully fledged artists.

The studio is home to so many different practices and ways of thinking. It is a place where you will never stop learning. More than that, it is a community of its own right nestled in the heart of an industrial unit in Peckham. Amongst the screen rips, the random ink splashes that inevitably ruin my clothes, the aching stomach muscles following A0 printing sessions, I can safely say I have met some of the best people I could hope to know here, and feel privileged to work with a team of incredible women that continually push to improve the studio for everyone that passes through its doors.

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