The Engraving Room at City & Guilds of London Art School was established in the late 19th century. Today, it offers a facility for printmaking open to every student in the School, as well as former students and other practicing artists by prior appointment. It is permanently staffed and open five days per week. Evening classes are held on Tuesdays.
Professor Norman Ackroyd CBE RA ARCA was instrumental in re-establishing the Engraving Room as a thriving centre for teaching and practice after being invited in 1995 to consider its potential for the future by the late Michael Kenny RA, then the School’s Principal.
We focus on the teaching of traditional intaglio processes – including hard and soft ground, sugar lift, aquatint and colour etching. Teaching is delivered by practising artists to whose work etching is central. Every student is offered an introduction to the intaglio process as a core part of the curriculum for the Foundation and Fine Art courses. We want all of our students to achieve the understanding and confidence to make the process their own through a hands on experience. By teaching the full range of methods, we provide an historical context of the intaglio process and offer the same experience in terms of techniques, problems and solutions as Rembrandt, Goya and Picasso.
As ‘green’ printmaking is being introduced to more and more Print Rooms due to Health & Safety concerns to the detriment of traditional etching, we risk seeing the link to the great masters of etching being broken and their secrets and processes forgotten. We believe that by teaching traditional etching in a Health & Safety conscious manner, and by emphasising good practice, the exposure to potentially harmful chemicals can be kept to a minimum. Our aim is to provide continuity and to keep the bridge to the Old Masters open. As more and more colleges and art schools abandon traditional etching, this position is becoming increasingly unique.
While our core strength is the intaglio process. Monotype printing is catered for on our off-set lithographic press. We also have a small silkscreen printing facility with a vacuum printing bed and a photo-stencil exposure unit, which is particularly popular with Foundation design students.
In recent years, an increasing number of students have taken up etching. This has become evident in the Foundation, Degree and MA final shows. Former students often return to the room as they recognise the benefits of a resource they can access on a part-time basis. This also establishes a continuity which is of great value to current students.
With our history and potential we have a facility - supported by a strong practice and ethos – that plays a valuable role in preserving a great legacy which could otherwise be in danger of being lost. Our aim is to be one of, if not the, centre of excellence for the ‘intaglio’ process in Central London.
Teaching in the Print Room is provided by two part-time tutors and a Printmaking Research Fellow. Jason Hicklin is the lead tutor and Head of Printmaking. Jason was taught by Prof. Norman Ackroyd RA in the etching workshop at the Central School of Art which no longer in existence. This was the model for re-establishing the Room as a central service area for the School. Jason Hicklin graduated from the Central School as a post-graduate in 1992 and was elected a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers in 1993. Christopher Roantree is the second tutor. He graduated with an MA in printmaking from the Royal College of Art in 2003. He was the printmaking Research Fellow before becoming a tutor.
The Print Making Research Fellow is a part-time post initiated in 1998. It exists to provide a transition from post graduate study to the establishing of an artist's own practice. The Fellow works two days per week alongside a tutor, gaining experience of teaching and perfecting practical skills. On other week days the Fellow is free to use the Print Room to develop his or her own work, providing a useful insight for the School’s students.
The current Fellow is Laura Clarke, an MA graduate in Printmaking from the Royal College of Art. She exhibits widely in London and the UK. Her predecessor was Katie Jones. Previous Fellows have gone on to work as artists' assistants and print tutors (Niamh Clancy), another to work as a tutor in printmaking (Bella Easton at St Paul’s Boys School) and one has opened his own print facility in Bethnal Green (Ian Steadman).