Print’s Not Dead: Inaugural fair draws together local talent

The inaugural Blackpool Print Fair saw a huge breadth of local talent selling affordable art. We popped along to chat to the artists about their work.

On Saturday 28th October 2023 the Blackpool Creative Markets hosted this fine event at the Winter Gardens. I caught the service 61 bus to find out what it was all about. On entering from Church Street and through the Floral Hall, I found the stalls set up and the crowds beginning to build.

St Anne’s based illustrator Darren Elwell was there selling his prints inspired by comics and pop culture (photo: Claire Griffiths)

Blackpool Creative Market is a pop up event that aims to showcase the very best independent artistic talent working on the Fylde Coast, who present their work to the public on stalls selling their unique and handmade products. The first Creative Market was held in October 2021 and has now become a staple of Blackpool’s cultural calendar.

Hosted by the Heritage Action Zone (HAZ), this was the first Creative Market dedicated entirely to print, in recognition of the incredible volume and quality of print artists living and working locally.

There was a considerable range of artistic styles on display, from anime influence, through lino cut to fine screen printing. Needless to say I was looking for Christmas cards and items for family presents, as well as supporting these artists and independent traders. I was pleased to see chums from the HIVEArts group, together with others including Joe Travis who has set up an urban sketching group, which I intend to attend.

Joseph Travis’s stall selling prints of his watercolour sketches (Photo: Claire Griffiths)

Having done a round with my wallet to buy my cards and presents, I went round again to with artists and visitors to find out what people thought of the event, its future and the Blackpool arts scene in general.

Artist Norma Foulds (photo: Claire Griffiths)

“I am someone who has always made and drawn things,” artist Norma Foulds said. “Part of the work I have here was a response to the menopause. I wasn’t allowed HRT so I used herbal remedies. The work is a combination of drawings of plants that I used as remedies and also lists of the plants that are used in remedies.

“I also do collages. I got fed up of hoarding things and started using them for collages, because I had so much stuff. It’s interesting to get different patterns and textures, and even techniques, into one piece of work. Hopefully doing this event, different people will get to see my work.’

Once more I bought some very nice cards illustrated with plants, finely drawn.

Alysia Mitchell, aka Lissy Illustrates

“I took art at A-level but didn’t pursue it as a career,” explained Alysia Mitchell from her stall. “I received my iPad as a Christmas present and started doing this from January this year. I’ve always drawn and sewn and made things. This is my first print fair so I’m hoping I’ll sell some things. It’s busier than I anticipated. I’m impressed.”

I bought a couple of very nice cards, which will be going to dear people.

Emily Peet Illustration

“I’ve always been been into art and drawing since I was young and pursued it throughout school all the way to A-levels and then I studied illustration at university, so it’s always been a passion of mine,” Emily Peet told me. “I really enjoy bringing to life things I’m inspired by, including popular culture. I used to work mainly in monotone colours and I think there was a personal shift in my life and I started using colour. Hopefully in the future I can carry on and do this full time, expanding my creative portfolio and do commissions and projects.”

I purchased some very nice cards and a print I think my sister might like.

Joseph Travis Artist

“I started print making accidentally as I was trying to make a repeatable ceramic and started doing different things with woodblock printing,” Joe Travis told me. “I don’t know about the future – I want to carve some woodblocks myself, I’ve been using a laser cutter previously so it’s faster. I do like working with my hands I guess. I used to be a potter. I just enjoy trying to create something for people.”

Joe told me more about his interest in urban sketching.

“A lot of my prints are based on what I’ve been painting locally, although the wood blocks are based more abstractly on the seaside and that feeling of being on the beach. I spend a lot of time on the beach, because in Fleetwood one’s surrounded by water.’

I bought an excellent print of the Robert’s Oyster House, which I might be keeping for myself.

Tina Dempsey on her stall (photo: Claire Griffiths)

Local artist Tina Dempsey explained how she worked in secondary schools for quite a long time before deciding to do a degree and pursue her art.

“I was doing workshops, but really lockdown was a pivotal change,” she said. “That concentrated period of time on the coast gave me the time and space to really look in detail, which is where this work comes from. The collage and the photo books, all from that period and walking really. Now it’s about wanting to share this stuff.

“The books are an accessible and affordable way of sharing my practice; I really like the idea that lots of people will have something I’ve made. Also, I think a big thing about my work is that it engages people with the coast and encourages them to look at it in different ways. Blackpool’s coast has a very clear reputation hasn’t it? This work should show a different side.”

Tina and Joe were among the many artists clearly inspired by Blackpool. With his Garden by the Sea prints, photographer Richard Oughton didn’t have to look further than his own back yard for inspiration. Sarah Cox, aka Coxyart, presented her Blackpool illustrations including one of the locally-famous Notarianni’s ice cream parlour. Katie Wade, aka Wading Bird Art, shares lino cuts of local scenes, and Tim Bridges from Secret Industries touted his politically-charged and proudly northern slogans on tote bags, t shirts and wall art.

Coxyart’s vibrant illustrations. Photo: Claire Griffiths
Foxhat – comic artist and illustrator

One of the impressive things about the event was the range of styles represented. From Tina’s books of found objects from the coast I wandered over to see to Emily Moore, aka Foxhat illustration’s comics.

“I love comics, my mum writes these and I do the illustrations for them. I’ve loved cartoons since I was a child, never really grew out of it and got into anime when I was a teenager. I went to university and did cartoon and comic arts as a degree, one of the third intake of the course. The course continued and has expanded.

Emily held a stall at previous Creative Markets and was invited back by organisers.

“This is bigger than the last market I did and has a better layout. It’s done well for me and it’s nice to get in front of a new audience and to see new faces.”

Wading Bird Art (photo: Claire Griffiths)

A few stalls down, Katie Wade was presenting her work under the guise of Wading Bird Are.

“I have a degree in fine art and have been doing art all my life – I did the degree straight from school,” she said. “Then I went travelling and a lot of my prints are inspired by my travels, from photographs that I took, one from every city that I visited. At other events I have lots of woodwork pieces – I work as a set designer and prop builder for TV and theatre and I can use of our off-cuts to make pieces, which otherwise would be incinerated. I sit and draw and I can’t stop.”

I availed myself of a pen, notebook and tea towel set, which I think my mother-in-law might like. It certainly looks useful.

I was pleased to see Robin Ross again. I previously reviewed his Robin Ross’ work and bought one of his prints.

Robin Ross chats to customers at the Print Fair (photo: Claire Griffiths)

Another great addition to the market was Suzanne Pinder’s stall. Suzanne designed the Print Fair poster by combining lino printing and antique letterpress techniques and on the day she hosted mini drop-in workshops in which you could make your own prints and cards using these same techniques, all completely free of charge.

Suzanne Pinder demonstrates heritage print making techniques (photo: Claire Griffiths)

“What I love about Print is that it’s so democratic. An original painting is only available to very few people. A print can be reproduced and available to all at a lower cost but is still an original artwork,” Suzanne said.

“I think it’s a great idea for Blackpool to have its own print fair. The nearest ones are Manchester and the Lakes, or in the south. We have an entirely different flavour and I see that as a positive. Bawdy and colourful!

“It’s something completely different for the area and it’s saying hey, we’re here, have a look at us in a different light.”

After all the excitement I was starving and so popped down to Tea Amantes for a decent lunch, including a home baked scone. With a reasonably full tummy, I gathered up my purchases and caught the service 6 home.

I sincerely hope that this fine event is repeated next year.

Blackpool Creative Market will host a Christmas Fair at the Winter Gardens on 2nd December. For information on hosting a stall click here.


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    I have worked in the housing and transport professions for several local authorities, specialising in policy, strategy preparation and bid writing. Having always had an interest in film, the visual arts in general, theatre, music and lterature, I thought it would be good to combine the writing experience with these interests to contribute to altBlackpool. In addition to writing, my hobbies include watercolour and pastel painting, photography, woodwork, cycling and vegetable gardening.

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