Interview with Daniel Bugg

Daniel Bugg at the Penfold Press

Hi Dan, tell me about the Penfold Press, what is it? How does it work?

I suppose the best way to describe it would be as a small scale print publisher. I run the Penfold Press by myself, working with artists, printing the editions themselves and then marketing them. These prints are co-funded by the artist and myself and then exhibited and sold across the country. All the work I've made reflects my interests, and the body of work I've produced is more of a curated collection. 

I print everything by hand, I guess I'm a bit of a one-man-band commissioning work, printing it and then exhibiting it. I predominantly make screen prints but depending on the artist, I will use different techniques. For example, I also make relief prints, usually from lino, using a beautiful old Columbian Press I picked up a few years ago. 

How did you start the Penfold Press, and where did that name come from?

I graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2000 and moved back to Yorkshire with the idea of setting up a small studio. I wanted to make printmaking accessible to artists who had no real background in the subject but who nevertheless had a genuine interest in all things print. During this period, I began collaborating on a series of linocuts, printed patterns, and screen prints with a small group of artists. The energy and sense of fun we got from working in the studio helped the Penfold Press grow, and I think it was reflected in the work we made. After that, I invited others to make prints, while I got a feel for publishing as well as printing the work.

The name Penfold Press came about after I misread a sign on an old Pinfold in my village. A 'Pinfold' is a gated enclosure where stray or lost farm animals can be housed until their owners come to reclaim them. Instead of animals, my Pinfold/ Penfold offers a home to wandering artists.

What do you class as an original print? 

I think the main thing would be that an original print isn't a reproduction of an existing image. Who physically prints the edition doesn't matter to me. It can be the artist or, in my case, a technician. As long as it is made under the artist's supervision. I would always consider this an original print by the artist as I worked to their instructions. 

Most of the prints are made up of individually printed layers, each made by the artist and then printed by me one on top of the other. Each layer adds further detail and colour to the image. The print is only complete once all these layers are printed. Once the edition is finished and signed, it will never be reprinted.

Who are your influences?

I'm always drawn to the work of Michael Rothenstein, particularly his woodblock prints. I love the experimentation his approach encourages. In Particular his use of surface texture, there's such a rich 'inkiness' to the prints you can almost smell the print room when you look at them. Perhaps, more than any one artist, I think I've been most influenced by those who have experimented in different disciplines, blurring the lines between fine art, illustration, and design. I know that this is something that a lot of the artists that I work with also love. I hope this spirit of adventure can be seen in the prints. 

Do you think collaboration is necessary for printmakers and the development of their practice?

I'm not sure it's essential, as I know of many independent printmakers who work successfully. Still, for me, it's something that I couldn't do without. I'd miss the constant to and fro of collaboration and the energy you get when working with someone who shares the same goals. When I worked with Clive Hicks-Jenkins, he called it 'a sense of shared endeavour,' I think that sums it up. Collaboration opens pathways that I would never usually travel and encourages me to continually evaluate what I'm doing.

What are the benefits of a great collaboration? 

When I started I made a conscious decision to put collaboration at the heart of everything I did. I think one of the great strengths of the Penfold Press is the sense that we are all in it together, artists and printmaker working as one to help develop and realise an idea. Emily Sutton’s Alphabet series encapsulates this approach perfectly as Emily has been such a wonderful collaborator. We’ve worked on the series for over ten years now and both have total trust in each other. Over the years we’ve worked out a way that works for us, I hope I’ve developed an idea of what Emily is trying to achieve and she knows what to expect from me. 

I'm proud of the work I've made over the years and of being able to offer artists a way of further progressing their ideas through print. The studio itself isn't a huge commercial space. Instead, it's a place where artists, family, and friends come together. It's this feeling of togetherness and of shared endeavour that I love.

Do problems ever arise when working with artists?

It's common to have problems with the image as it develops but not with the artists themselves. My approach to printmaking is to try to keep it as organic as I can, so the majority of the prints I make in the studio are developed over days of proofing. Because of this, it's quite usual for the image to take a wrong turn and in a way that's half the fun. Clive Hicks-Jenkins loved the idea that the print could develop in many ways once it reached the studio and that problem solving would necessitate that it might alter. In some ways, this mirrors the way Clive would work in his own studio. The technique might be unfamiliar, but the process of making an image isn't. There's no set order to how we work, it's more a case of printing a series of marks and then responding to them. That way, problems become part of the process and often help point the way towards a final image.