Since its inception the Norwich Print Fair has become one of the best loved independent shows selling contemporary, original, hand-made prints in the region — and it offers a chance to see artists in action. SIMON PARKIN reports.

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For two weeks every September, Norwich Print Fair fills St Margaret’s Church with a diverse range of artworks produced by some of the region’s best artists.

Since its inception in 1995, the annual event has become one of the best loved independent shows selling contemporary, original and hand-made prints.

This year celebrating its 17th anniversary, the fair’s popularity has grown immensely. From the eight artists who took part in the first exhibition, printmakers now number over 40, with approximately 30 exhibiting each year.

Attendance has also steadily increased with visitors and art buyers coming from not just Norwich, but increasingly from across East Anglia.

Norwich Print Fair has proved such a success in fact that it has spun off into several related exhibitions.

In 1998 the Fair held its first exhibition outside East Anglia at The University Club in Oxford. In 2005 it hosted its first taster exhibition at the Forum in Norwich, and since then has had several successful shows entitled ‘Print Fair Elements’ which aim to showcase some of our most popular printmakers. And in 2010, organisers held their first ever show in London, at the prestigious Bankside Gallery.

The annual exhibition is free and is now held at the deconsecrated St Margaret’s Church, on St Benedict’s Street, which has been refurbished as an exhibition space.

This year it takes place between September 10-22 and features the artwork of some 30 of Norfolk and Suffolk’s most exciting printmakers, including a wide variety of hand-made print disciplines.Among those taking part includes Laura White who developed a passion for etching while studying Fine Art at the Norwich University College of the Arts and has since tried to integrate this with traditional printing processes. Nicola Slattery, who teaches a variety of short art courses in Norfolk, will be displaying her figurative prints inspired by fiction or myth that have an air of magic realism; while Zoe Anthistle’s colourful prints and linocuts that feature the region’s landscape and flora.

Also exhibiting will be Martin Mitchell who set up the Norwich Print Workshop in 1990 and five years later the first Norwich Print Fair.

While there are prints to suit all pockets or to just browse, the fair as part of its mission to increase interest in printmaking also offers an opportunity to find out more the artists and their techniques.

On September 15 and 22 the exhibition hosts ‘open portfolio days’ in which the artist’s bring along extra work and sketchbooks giving visitors the opportunity to meet the artists who are happy to talk about their inspiration and techniques. September 16 also offers a unique chance to see the printmakers in action, with a selection of artists demonstrating their techniques live in the gallery. Also back again is the popular Mini Print Raffle — for the chance to win specially commissioned work. Tickets £1 with the draw on September 22.

■ Norwich Print Fair runs at St Margaret’s Church in St Benedict’s Street from September 10-22, Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-4pm, free admission.

■ Printmakers in Action, with artists demonstrating their techniques live, takes place on September 16, 11am-4pm.

www.norwichprintfair.co.uk

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