We sent intrepid explorer Benjamin Newman off to Canton to get to the heart of the arts oasis of the Printhaus.
Just off Llandaff Road in Canton, in a pretty non-descript part of Cardiff, lies a green splash of colour. It’s hidden away from the aged, red-brick of Canton, and it’s known as the Printhaus.
In many ways, the “just out of sight” nature of the Printhaus extends to the Cardiff art scene as a whole; the entire scene is buried a little under the surface, it just requires a little effort to find it. In fact, it’s located a “stone’s throw” away from the Cardiff art epicentre of Chapter, so it’s geographically pretty linked up with other Cardiff art spaces. As you walk into the entrance and see Cardiff artist Phil Morgan’s art painted on the walls you know this a place where local art is the goal and passion.
The Printhaus is essentially an arts collective offering a variety of services mostly focused on screen printing, but they also assist in general arts services. More than anything, they are there to bridge the alarmingly wide gap between art education and art industry; it is places like the Printhaus that facilitate people’s interest in art or help streamline their ideas further. They offer their impressive line of equipment for hire, including:
- Textile carousal
- Flatbed printer
- Etching Press
- Fabric Table
- Table top clamps
- Exposure Unit
- Mac G4 + Mac Duo Intel Computers
A variety of screen printing courses are on offer, too, for really decent prices. To see the the Printhaus as simply a service centre for art would be short-sighted. What I discovered from spending some time there and conversing with the managing team of Jude, Tom and Nigel was that, at its foundation, the Printhaus is a space where art is cultivated and celebrated. During our 30-minute conversation we talked a lot about the fact that art requires some form of nurturing in urban spaces: we touched on topics like government funding, digital media, the impact of the art scene on Cardiff and the importance of tangible art in a world where art is becoming more and more digitised.
Whilst I originally intended to interview Jude, Tom and Nigel, it quickly turned into a fluid conversation. In a way, this showed how welcoming the trio were to anyone interested in art, really. They instantly made the Printhaus into a warm and friendly place, miles away from the stereotype that art spaces were elitist or unfriendly.
My original question was about whether the Printhaus received enough support from Cardiff, whether enough was being done to promote Cardiff’s art scene. Funding was mentioned pretty quickly. Funding, then, seemed to be an issue for the Printhaus, but that’s not to say the local council are disinterested in the Cardiff art scene. Despite only having one visit from the council, the Printhaus are part of the Family Arts Network, funded alongside funded organisations like Chapter, Theatr Iolo, National Museum of Wales etc.
The funding of £2500 was granted as a research development project to improve the Family Arts Network in Cardiff. However, the council, from what I gathered from the conversation, seem very focused on economics and are trying to model Cardiff after Swansea’s art structure – but the homogenisation of Welsh art is something that should be avoided. Trying to simply model Cardiff’s art scene after Swansea’s is disrespectful to the unique cultural fabric of each city. The council, though, are definitely on the right track in wanting to create a solid network between art centres in Cardiff. In a post-Brexit Britain, where isolationism and individualism are verging on pandemic, the need to network with the public, other centres and the city itself is more important than ever. The Printhaus are definitely trying to keep this alive, whether it be through educational classes or printing an infinite number of tote bags to impress Cardiff freshers.
The council sees art as a stepping stone into supporting the growth of small business, but urban art centres offer so much more than just business stimulation; they offer education, too. The Printhaus have worked with numerous youth groups, but Jude, Tom and Nigel seemed really passionate about their work with youth offenders. They provide screen printing activities and workshops for youth offenders and the results, from my perspective, are staggering. Screen printing is an excellent method to get into art as you create something tangible with high-quality – it gives artistic confidence. It’s not just an enjoyable activity for youth offenders, but it gives them a sense of achievement. The screen print is a tangible reminder that they can create something; reminders such as this is sometimes all it takes to set someone on the right path again. By creating something tangible and engaging their minds creatively, youth offenders can avoid falling into repetition; art can be a confidence-builder and sometimes confidence is all our most vulnerable need. Education is quickly moving into digitised art and media, but things like screen printing can remind students of the benefits of tangible, more traditional art forms. The sessions with youth and youth offenders is symptomatic of Printhaus’s role in the local community – it is not a place to simply make art, but a place that inspires your individuality and confidence.
Jude, too, mentioned that being in the Printhaus helped her finish her MA, in multi-disciplinary printmaking over in Bower Ashton (University West of England). Despite Tom and Nigel having little to no expertise in her degree discipline, they were able to help her at difficult points during her degree by providing a creative outlet and creating a space where she could freely bounce ideas off of them; the Printhaus, for her, was a place where she could refine other artistic pursuits. By being in an environment of varying disciplines, it allowed her to form a sort of artistic support network and this support, essentially, shows that art networks are still important in cities – they provide invaluable assistance for an artist of any discipline.
As I left the Printhaus I was impressed by how humble this little oasis in Canton was. It’s places like this who quietly keep the beating heart of Cardiff and Welsh culture alive. Check out The Printhaus’ website and pop down if you ever have the chance. You’ll get a taste of the real Cardiff, away from the rugby and alcoholic hedonism.
Dusty Knuckle Pizza have recently relocated to the Printhaus – so stop in there for a slice! There are also frequent open studios and their Snapped Up arts market are held there throughout the year, giving makers a chance to sell direct to the public. Printhaus even recently held its first wedding!
Benjamin Newman is an English Literature graduate situated in the Valleys. Passionate about art, music, literature, perfect cups of tea and pretending he’s a journalist.