I went to revisit Cow’s lane market yesterday before a meet up in Dunne and Crescenzi’s in South Frederick street with some friends from college in Galway many Moons ago. We call ourselves the Galway girls..duh!
I love Cow’s lane market. It’s on Saturday mornings at the Christchurch end of Temple bar- I won’t attempt to give directions because I have no sense of direction- what I do is get off the bus near the Halfpenny bridge and make my way to Temple bar and turn right after going through Merchants arch and somehow make my way to Essex St and keep going and make a few wrong turnings and eventually I find it or maybe it finds me. On the way it is hard to resist a detour around the Temple Bar food market in Meeting House Square which is packed with people and the most tempting foods and aromas. In this instance I was saving myself for later.
I had a particular mission this time in Cow’s Lane- to replace some of my dwindling earring collection from my friend Jacinta’s stall. Her stall is at the top of Cows Lane and she sells beautiful earrings for €5 a pair. I keep losing one earring –somehow one often disappears on a night out – probably from my habit of flinging my hands dramatically about and pulling my hair back (subconscious desire to look arty??- nah I think I was born like that, probably flinging my way out of the womb). Hard to choose just two pairs but Jacinta tells me that if I bring her my single ones she’ll made another to match if she still has the beads, an offer not to be dismissed since its always the favourite ones that go missing.
I met up again and had a chat to Adam King whom I got to know some years ago when we were side by side at a market at the top of Powerscourt town house. I’m way too much of a coward to do an open market- the cold! the rain! the wind!- honestly it would be one endurance test too far for me no matter what I might sell. At the time I was selling my prints and craftwork and my table was overloaded with lots of colour and stuff whereas beside me Adam had a very minimalist, very neat arrangement of handmade boxes, each one displaying one pair of earrings or pendant. I was fascinated by his story of how he taught himself metalworking from the internet and books, bought the equipment and just set himself up. And was making a go of it into the bargain. I enjoyed my time as a would-be craft seller since I enjoy chatting to people and the writer and artist in me enjoys observing them. You would see people scanning the room and then making a beeline for Adam’s stall- passing mine with a glazed look in their eyes – and stopping to admire his jewellery. (Needless to say I decided trying to sell my work at a market was not the way to go!) So it was lovely to catch up and see that he is still making a go of it.
I have a particular interest in looking at the stalls of prints, since I am always curious to see what sells. The problem for traditional printmakers nowadays is that many artists sell what they call ‘prints’- photographic reproductions of a painting or drawing or other artwork in large or infinite editions- but the majority of the public do not know the difference between the handmade fine art print and these machine made reproductions of artworks. A handmade fine art print is not a copy of another piece of work- it is an image developed on a plate or matrix- aluminium or copper or stone or plastic or card depending on the technique- and then each plated is inked by hand and rolled through a traditional etching press to print it onto specialised paper, also often handmade. In the studio to which I belong- The Leinster Printmaking studio- we use mostly Fabriano- an Italian handmade paper. When the plates are proofed and the artist is happy with the image an edition of this work is printed. The artist decides on the number in the edition ( I usually limit my edition to thirty or less). It is labour intensive since each image is hand inked and printed but the image is less expensive than a painting since it is not exclusive, but not as cheap as a machine made copy since it is handmade on beautiful paper.
Now with the progress in technology it is possible to make ‘Giclée’ prints- prints which are designed on a computer and then printed off without ever getting your hands dirty- and instantly. No having to start again when the plate slips and goes out of register or a thumbprint smudges the image or the paper is too damp and sticks to the plate or too dry and the image doesn’t transfer well..etc etc. There’s also the aforementioned photographic prints which are just a copy of another artwork and multiple copies can be printed off in no time at all.
I stopped at a stall selling fantasy/ fairytale images and chatted to the artist. She told me she trained as a traditional printmaker but needed to make a living so she has abandoned the long technical process of traditional printmaking and now makes colourful images in pen and ink and then reproduces them photographically on archival paper. This makes them less expensive and so she can make some kind of a living selling them there and through her website. I have been thinking about it since. Over the past year or so I have begun to do more commercial art work and am very slowly building up a portfolio of images of landmarks, monuments, historical buildings etc. I do the drawing first in pen and ink, then use photopolymer film to etch it on to an aluminium plate. I make a second plate using a section of an old map and use this as a background for the image. This works well but it takes a lot of time to make the image work and the film is temperamental and unreliable and there are a lot of things which can and do go wrong before the image finally works. At the moment I am working directly on to the plate in drypoint. I hadn’t tried this before because the image has to be drawn in reverse. If this works it would be a much more direct process.
Now I am thinking about exploring making cheaper photographic reproductions as well as a handmade edition. Maybe its the way to go- if you can’t beat ’em join them as they say. And if it helps to pay the mortgage…
There’s the Gutter bookshop in Cow’s Lane as well and lots of other stalls with hats and pottery and clothes and food, and quirky shops and places to eat so it’s a great place to visit on a sunny Saturday morning. By the time I had chatted my way around the market I was late again and so I had to get out my compass in a hurry to try to find South Frederick Street and the delights of Italian fare ….