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Staff profile: Justin Sanders

Justin Sanders is our Senior Technician at Margaret Street's Print Room. Since joining Birmingham City University in 2009, he has established a fully operational printmaking studio that is integral to the School of Art student experience and beyond. We caught up with him to find out more about printmaking in the digital age, what he's working on at the moment and his advice for future and current students.

Why do you think Printmaking maintains its attraction in the digital age?

I think it's the hands-on practise of traditional technologies, like printmaking, that attracts students and staff alike. Students love learning craft-skills, some of which haven't changed for years but still hold an appeal. If you've never made a screen-print, etching or lithography before, you'll know it's just as exciting, if not more so, than working with digital technologies.

From the grinding and graining of a litho stone, drawing on it, working out etches, processing, right the way through to proofing and printing - there's a magical quality to it all! Just like when lifting the paper off an etching plate, or doing your first pull of a screen print.

Printmaking is really diverse, so whether you're a fine art, graphics, textiles, photography, jewellery or architecture student, print has something for you.

Is there a particular technique you enjoy teaching?

I'm a little greedy to be honest and I enjoy teaching all the techniques, so it's difficult to pin one down, but if had to, I love lithography because it's like alchemy and also etching as it can go from really simple to unbelievably complicated.

Tell us what are you working on at the moment?

Due to the current lockdown restrictions it's been more about what I can do, so I've really enjoyed doing lots of drawings, wood and metal engraving and mezzotints, as well as researching processes and techniques to continue to develop my knowledge.

What has been your most memorable moment at Margaret Street?

There's so many from over the years, but being nominated by one of our great students for the Extra Mile 'Behind the Scenes' award in 2020, and winning, was definitely the top accolade!

What piece of advice would you give to students?

Try everything, explore, never stop learning and don't worry about making mistakes - it's how we learn!

It's clear from the amount of students, from all disciplines passing through the Print Room, that this ground floor facility is attracting a lot of positive attention. On a typical day you can hear music from the popular radio stations competing to be heard above the power jet that cleans printing screens, pneumatic trolleys hoisting heavy lithographic stones to printing presses, several students inking up their etching plates and amongst this, Master Printmaker Justin Sanders orchestrates the activity. There is no question he doesn't attempt to answer, no technical problem he's averse to solving. He provides the know-how that ensures the Print Room remains an important part of the 'Margaret Street Experience'!

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