Edinburgh Printmakers CEO Sarah Price spoke to The Fountain about the organisation’s vision of a new creative industries hub as part of an £11million capital development project at Castle Mill Works in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh.

As the project enters its final fundraising drive to secure the remaining £1million needed to transform the iconic site, Edinburgh’s creative industries received welcome news of the aim to include a dedicated business incubator in the redevelopment plans. Sarah spoke to us about their commitment towards inclusion, their encouragement in innovation and the warm reception they’ve received to this proposal.

TF: Edinburgh Printmakers has a long-standing history in the city’s creative scene. Can you explain what you do?

This year is Edinburgh Printmaker’s fiftieth anniversary. We established in 1967. We are a print-making studio first and foremost and we use the studio as an access facility to produce artwork, which enables innovation in artists’ processes. Increasingly over recent years many artists have moved into a multi-disciplinary approach using digital technologies in combination with print-making. We also have artists that work with print that also work with textiles, or paper, ceramics or sculpture for example. Our exhibitions programme, which is celebrated around the world, is really innovative in that way in that we aim to progress perfection in print-making really, the way in which we use print in this multi-disciplinary arena of processes.

TF: What is the ethos behind the Printmakers? How does it value its relationship with Scottish practitioners?

Well we have always seen ourselves as providers of facility for artists. We value excellence in the medium, so supporting with high-quality equipment and expert, and very knowledgeable staff. Knowledge and skills training is a big part of what we do. We give artists and anyone who is interested in print-making the knowledge and the skills to be able to utilise the studio and make work and be creative with the space. It is really important to us that the environment is a really welcoming and accessible one. So increasingly we put a lot of emphasis on our approach to equality, inclusion and access in a number of different ways. Visibility is an important way of having a high profile. We obviously have special rates for people with low incomes or we have special courses for people with specific needs. We can really tailor our services so that we can be accessible.

We also have workshop projects with all kinds of different community groups. They might be taking part in a gallery talk with an artist or a project with an artist or a group of artists. It is a regular thing for us to start off with a community group or an area of interest from a group and to turn that into a body of work with an artist, to develop their work. We have a really engaging process within our programming. It’s an inclusive, ambitious and often international programme.

In addition to that we are a creative enterprise, we represent artists internationally, and in our shop we sell artwork and we work with artists, Scottish, national and international artists to publish new work in print. A big part of our role is in producing new artwork also, we invest considerable time in producing new artwork.

TF: What highlighted the requirement or wish for this fantastic sounding incubator? Was there a specific event or conversation?

Oh the development of the creative industries incubator? Well that is really a development of our services, which has evolved really over the last ten years. We recognised that our customer base for the print studio was diversifying across other artistic disciplines so we had artists of other disciplines coming in and using the studio, having an interest in how printmaking could work alongside other processes, alongside ceramics or textile printing. We have a lot of interest in textile printing particularly but we just didn’t have the space for the presses.

Alongside the need also to evolve in terms of the digital side of things, like 3D print-making, we started to think about how we could compliment our studio. We found at Castle Mill Works there was more space so we started to think about how we could use that space. We started to look at which processes would compliment each other and started to think about which artists would benefit from our expertise in print-making. The idea really was formed out of the interest in what happens in this form of creative collaboration where you have different practitioners that are to a specific area like ceramics and you mix it up with print-making. We wanted to create an environment which was a hot-bed where this creative cross-fertilisation happened. We thought about how great it would be to have all of these creative studios to be up and running independently but not be run by Edinburgh Printmakers. That was the first thing we looked at.

We also thought about sustainability and we thought that we could offer our ideas and knowledge to these independent start-up businesses. We offer an umbrella-marketing system to each of the tenants in the space. We will also look at funding and bringing our collective power to bring the CSR, core business planning and development, providing mentors for these start-up. What we are planning to do is to run a series every year of business mentoring to run a series of business development seminars and to support practitioners to develop their own courses and opportunities for income. Our range of offers to the tenants will obviously be bespoke to their needs, as we have a very open mind in terms of how we support every business within the hub, really.

And as part of our commitment to employability we will be offering for students to come and gain experience within the Edinburgh Printmakers hub or the creative industries hub, which is a unique opportunity for anyone wanting to work in the creative fields. It opens up for young people on the verge of making choices on what courses to take, the chance to see what an independent freelance creative career looks like.

TF: What has the reception been like to the proposal? From both the City of Edinburgh and the creative practitioners?

Yes, we have had a lot of positivity from everybody. We’ve had a lot of public support on the social media. We’ve lots of people interested in the facility and very positive responses and offers of partnership working from stakeholders. It’s really positive that it’s a really welcomed interjection into the infrastructure of the creative industry in Edinburgh.

TF: What compelled you to kick off with a crowdfunding campaign such as this? What is the target for this? I see you have reached over £2,000 already.

Well, we have a mixed-funding approach. We are using all different kinds of approaches. We are going down the route of funds from grants through the local authorities, we have also applied to trusts and foundations, which has been successful, and on top of that we were looking at how we really engage communities interest in our locality so that they feel that they have a degree of ownership with the project. One of the ways we are doing that is through online crowd-source funding but also by making direct appeals to our supporters, by speaking publicly to different groups, by presenting to those groups. We are going through lots of different channels really. We are speaking to businesses about different ways in which they could support the project, with skills or time that they could donate, volunteering their expertise. Obviously also opportunities for sponsorship and sponsoring aspects of the project. Everything from a pound to a million pounds is very welcome.

TF: What is your vision for the incubator – how do you see this forming and taking shape once you have hit your target?

Well we hope to start building work in May of this year and to be moving in January 2019. We hope to be opening the building in April 2019 so I am really excited about opening the doors and being able to open a well-crafted exhibition space to see print-making in such a beautiful environment, to have gone through a process of development of our programming, to have the time to really focus on the development of our artistic programme.

I have been involved in the interior design of the shop and that is really exciting. They have created a really fantastic bespoke environment for the shop for print and contemporary craft. It will be a fantastic high-quality space for people to enjoy and buy art. It’s about incorporating these wonderful artistic products into the ebb and flow of people’s bustling working life.

Anyone can help Edinburgh Printmakers reach the £11m target by texting CMWS001 to 70970 to give £5 or by visiting their website.