It all started when I was running a letterpress workshop at Ditchling Museum in 2015. Lucy, the learning and participation coordinator, asked me what my dream project would be. I told her I dreamed of printing giant lino cuts with a steam roller... little did I know at that point that it would go on to become the Big Steam Print.
...and a year later I would be driving a vintage steamroller over a lino cut of David Cameron's face.
Yes, yes and YES!
This was, of course, before he made the catastrophic decision to go ahead with the Brexit referendum. The universe was definitely trying to channel something through my lino gouge! If only someone with any actual power had been able to stop him.
I did what I could. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha...to infinity...or maybe not :(
I made the lino cut with the help of my friend Dana Brass; we call it Eton Mess.
A favourite moment of my day at the London Transport Museum event was when the crowd cheered loudly as we revealed whose face we'd just driven the steam roller over, and I was particularly pleased when a Tory voter in the crowd complained that we shouldn't be making political statements. Everything's political mate, move along the bus... prosperity for you, austerity for us..? I don't think so.
I did pause when I saw how lovely most of the other artist's linocuts were... should I have made something beautiful? Nah! Hahahahahahahahahahahaha... to infinity 2.0
I feel I should introduce you to the steam roller and the guys that made it all possible, Olly and Chris.
No, Chris isn't a tiny cardboard cut out, here he is...
Nathaniel, the Director of Ditchling at the time, was a huge steam fair fan and he found the steam roller guys. It weighs 12.5 tonnes and runs on coal, tonnes and tonnes of coal. Chris and Olly run mostly on bacon sandwiches and sausage rolls.
I have to mention that this steam roller printing lark is not something we invented, it's been happening in America for 50+ years, although they mostly use small road rollers. In the UK, Nick Morely (aka Linocut Boy) used a steam roller to make large prints at the Pushing Print Festival in Margate in 2013, what a shame I missed it completely.
Here he is, at the Big Steam Print event at The Level in Brighton, printing his amazing whale linocut...
We also printed at Ditchling Fair, and Amberley Museum... our first test run before the bigger events. The whole thing was paid for by kind donations from all over the world via the #artfund website. We raised £12500! Videos were made, social media shares went crazy and I had to be interviewed on local TV. If you'd like to read my interview with the art fund click here: doughnut and dungaree fans will not be disappointed.
We took the steam roller on the road to four different venues in the South East and wowed the crowds with prints made by famous artists, not so famous artists, students and a very resilient pack of Brownies in sub zero temperatures at Amberley. The dog ate my sandwiches that day, if I remember rightly.
How much paper would we need? We had no idea... an awful lot. Here's the roll we ended up with... Ride it, Lucy!
100m of Colorplan paper was kindly donated by G.F. Smith Papers.
Ditchling asked for my wish list of participants for the events - I invited a few friends and gave them a list of all my printing heroes.... and you know what they say about that ;)
Here's a gallery of photos all things Big Steam Print:
The whole thing was topped off with an exhibition at The Phoenix gallery in Brighton.
After the exhibition all unsold prints were auctioned off to raise money for Ditchling Museum. I believe Mr Cameron's face went off to Scotland. The guy who bought it is probably still throwing darts at it, if he's not already burnt it on a big Brexit bonfire. Haahahahahahahahahaha...to infinity 3.0... or maybe not :(
It was a huge amount of work, and none of it would have been possible without the help of an army of volunteers, the artists and the public for funding it and turning up in droves. Huge thanks to Nathaniel, Lucy and the Ditchling team for bringing my dream to life, and Dana for recording the whole thing.
I still can't believe it happened.
Time for a nap.
*All photographs: copyright Dana Brass