Wednesday 21 August 2019

Interiors: Prints charming to personalise your rented space

Writing's on the wall when it comes to personalising your rented home

The printorium Harry Potter collection.
The printorium Harry Potter collection.
Dublin’s Nocturnal Statues by Digital Beast.
The Night Link by Donough O'Malley.
The Half Moon Swimming Club by Fuchsia MacAree
April and the Bear stocks unique prints
Vintage prints
Kim Willoughby with a piece from Damn Fine Print's studio.

Eleanor Flegg

It can be difficult to make a rented space seem personal. You're often working with generic furniture, cut price flooring, and someone else's choice of wall colour. Some landlords are happy to for long-term tenants to redecorate. Others turn into the Incredible Hulk if they see a pot of paint coming in the door. In that case, you're pretty much stuck with the décor. So how do you personalise a temporary space without risking your deposit?

A nice piece of art takes the bleakness out of a blank wall. For me, the current trend for limited edition art prints ticks a lot of boxes. For a start they're inexpensive. Prices begin around €20 and there's a lot of choice around the €50 mark. They're cool and contemporary, with lots of variety. Plus you're supporting emerging Irish artists, and sometimes also local print studios and shops. What's not to like?

In 2012 Kim Willoughby and her friends set up Damn Fine Print, a community-based screen printing studio in Dublin. Recently, they've moved to North Brunswick Street in Stoneybatter. Here, they can offer studio space, print services and courses for anyone that wants to learn screen printing. They also have a gallery and shop. "All the prints that we sell are made here in our studio and all the work is by Irish-based artists. There are so many talented young people who are doing day jobs to pay the bills - this helps them get their work out there."

Here's how it works. The team at Damn Fine Print pick a theme - a recent one was "Dublin by twilight" - and put out a call to artists. Then, the best designs are printed in limited edition. "No matter how popular it is, we won't print more than 200 of each one," says Willoughby firmly. Some of their early prints have already become collectible.

The prints are witty and local without being twee, and an unframed A2 print costs €45. They include a print by Digital Beast of "Dublin's Nocturnal Statues". It shows Phil Lynott, Molly Malone and Oscar Wilde on a night out with Mr Screen lighting the way. Donough O'Malley has created a print based on the Night Bus, and Fuchsia MacAree's print is of Half Moon Swimming Club. Turn off the light and the heads of the swimmers glow in the dark. "All of this series have a luminous layer so that some aspect of them will glow in the dark," Willoughby explains. There are also prints by well known artists, like Steve Simpson. His print, "We are all in the Gutter" is based on a quote from Oscar Wilde and measures 700 x 500 mm, which is a standard size for frames from places like Ikea.

The Jam Art Factory in Crown Alley and Patrick Street, Dublin, was set up at the height of the recession by brothers John and Mark Hayburn who wanted to show the work of Irish-based printmakers working in print types ranging from digital illustrations to lithographs and lino cuts. Some of the prints are limited edition (expect to pay a little more for these) and others will be reprinted so long as there's a demand for them. Shane Gavin's "Great Wave over Poolbeg Chimneys" is a version of the mega-famous Japanese print of the Great Wave at Kanagawa. But, instead of Mount Fuji, the tsunami towers over the striped chimneys on our own south wall. It's a digital print, which allows for a variation in sizes. An A5 (148 x 210 mm) print costs €15 and the same image in A3 (297 x 420 mm) costs €30. Pat Byrne's antique book page prints (€20 each) are printed directly onto the pages of old books. The prints aren't limited edition but, since each is printed on a different page, every one is unique.

It's not Irish, but fans of the Harry Potter may like the Printorium Harry Potter Collection. This is a series of limited edition prints by the UK-based MinaLima, the collective identity of Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, who worked together on graphic design for the Harry Potter films. Prices for art prints based on the Marauder's Map and The Daily Prophet newspaper start around €70.

"Prints a great tool for creating an interior," says Siobhán Lam of April and the Bear. "And they're fantastic for renters who are stuck with white walls. A splash of colour can make a big difference." Once you get your print home, she says that it may take a while to find the right place for it. "You need to take a bit of time to integrate it. If it doesn't work on one wall, move it to another. People think that prints need to go in a standard black frame, one print in the middle of each wall, or three in a row. I prefer to put several of different sizes at different heights, or even prop them on a shelf along with three-dimensional pieces. And I like to move them around. Sometimes you get tired of a room and need to freshen it up. It can be as simple as moving a print from one wall to another."

Lam currently has a range of art prints from around €20 and a new magnetic frame (€25) that's suitable for prints in non-standard sizes. A simple strip of ply clips onto the top of a print, which is held in place by magnets, while a similar strip clips onto the lower edge of. All of these are available at the April and the Bear pop-up shop at Castle & Drury, Castlemarket Lane, Dublin, from November 26.

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