Interview

An Interview with Maureen Booth of Pomegranate Editions

 

Q: Maureen, first of all, could you tell us why your workshop is called “Pomegranate Editions?”
A: That’s easy. Spanish for “pomegranate” is “granada,” and that’s where we’re located, in a village nine kilometres from the city of Granada

Q: Could you explain to us briefly how a printmaker goes about becoming a print workshop?
A: The truth is I didn’t start out as a printmaker. That came later. I started out as a painter, and I still consider myself a painter, though I no longer have much time to paint. I got into printmaking in the early 80’s when I had the opportunity to spend a couple of years studying at the printmaking workshop of the Rodriguez Acosta Foundation here in Granada. The foundation was endowed by a member of a local banking family who was a good painter, and run by his nephew who is also a painter and printmaker. The foundation workshop had a selection process, but it admitted all nationalities, so it was a real privilege for me to work alongside wonderful artists from Japan, the UK, Cuba and other places. It was also great to learn printmaking from a real Old World expert, the maestro Jose Garcia Lomas, who recently died, happily leaving behind him a vast tribe of printmakers spread out around the world.

Q: When did you set up your own studio?
A: After the Rodriguez Acosta Foundation workshop closed in the early 1980’s I had the opportunity to buy a complete printmaking setup: an etching press, tables, presses, drying racks, right down to a large selection of papers and inks. In the beginning it was a personal project. I did only my own work, with no intention of working for anybody else. Then I got my first commission to create an edition of etchings for company Christmas presents, which opened my eyes to the business of doing editions, my own and other people’s.

After that I’ve had a lot more etching commissions for gifts, and in recent years I’ve had quite a few jobs editioning other people’s prints. Doing editions by yourself is a hard slog, so I found a bright young assistant and trained him up. That is essential if you’re going to do editions. Depending on the number of plates in a project, two people working together are three times as fast as one person working alone. I don’t have many clients, but the same ones seem to come back again and again.

Q: That’s something your PWC colleagues would like to know more about. Why do you think your clients keep coming back “again and again?”
A: Well, I try to give them professionalism. What does that mean? It means working cleanly and conscientiously. It means meeting deadlines rigorously, and not overcharging. People tend to lose sight of the historical significance of serial art: it made original art affordable to the people!

I like to think that a good printer can bring a little something extra to a plate. I love to surprise my clients with brilliant prints. Also, the paper is a factor. I only use handmade paper for my own work, and I always recommend it to my customers. They love the results. I don’t understand why more workshops don’t use great papers. Fair enough, they’re more expensive, but you recover the extra money you spend on them because you can sell the prints for a better price. Great paper is a very simple and straightforward way to distinguish your own work and that of your clients.

Q: Speaking of clients, where do your clients come from? How do you find them? How do they find you?
A: There are various ways, but at bottom most of them seem to orbit around one common factor: the use of Internet. I confess I used to be an Internet skeptic. I couldn’t understand what my husband was so excited 10 years ago when he discovered the World Wide Web and started using it. But now I’m a believer, too. I love the Internet for its serendipity. It holds so many unlikely and happy surprises. The first job I got over the web was from an agent in Florida who represented a California pharmaceutical company which was organizing a convention in Seville for doctors from all over the United States. They wanted an edition of etchings on a Seville theme. We made the deal in one day, exchanging four emails. I did the edition for them and hand delivered it in Seville, met the client and we had lunch together in a great Moorish patio restaurant there. Later she stopped by my studio in Granada. That felicitous chain of events seemed to me then a near miracle, and it still does. I don’t see how it could have happened without Internet.

I’ve had my own website for quite a few years now, and I’m also on a lot of others such as World Printmakers, the Saatchi Gallery, Flickr, YouTube, and now Print Workshop Central. More recently Mike has created a couple of blogs for me, and they get quite a bit of traffic. They are Printmaking Courses in Spain and Artist’s Refuge Spain, which is about my artist’s cabin. Our business is, after all, the visual arts, so visibility is all important, I think.

Internet is also useful for buying supplies. You can find all sorts of specialized tools and materials, and they’re usually cheaper. They are so good that they are taking a heavy toll on traditional art supply stores around the world. World Printmakers has a useful section on specialist printmaking suppliers, both traditional and digital.

I also find Internet to be surprisingly useful at the local level. I made some business cards—it’s easy, print them on watercolour paper and cut them up with a skill knife—and I’m constantly handing them out to people who express interest in my work. Here, have a look at my website. And my exhibition invitations always include a “sneak preview” on my site. There are lots of people who can’t make it to the workshop, but sometimes an image on the website will capture them for a later visit. This has occurred more than once.

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