I will not apologize for the painful pun above (I’m pretty proud of its majesty). I hope that it will not sour your opinion of the subject of this post, Aidan Saunders, an itinerent artist and printer on a mission to bring printmaking to the Wales.
I interviewed him first in 2015, when he was driving a van with a mobile press across Great Britain, then again in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. As Aidan reminded me in a recent email: “I was doing Folk Beasts, a project which aimed to help people suffering with isolation during lockdown, sending art activity packs directly to vulnerable people.”
After lockdown lifted, he parked his Print Wagon and opened a shop selling his art prints and designs from Hay-on-Wye (a town in the county of Brecknockshire in Wales), which he named Prints of Hay. “Part of my rent deal is that I do two workshops a month, so I have started Hay Castle print club. For £5 ($6), people come to the castle in Hay where they have a Colombian printing press and we provide ink, lino and paper.”
Aidan discovered that only 10% of creative funds in the UK make it to Wales, so he has been keen to “propagate creativity and make spaces available for people to experiment with different art practices.”
He has also worked on Printhaus, Cardiff’s first print festival, celebrating the craft with artist talks, free workshops and, more importantly, outreach “into poor communities in Cardiff, making artwork and exhibiting it in the space as a way to try and engage with the community and make the festival not just a luxury for the middle class.” Nonetheless, it recently captured the interest of King Charles (the former Prince of Wales).
“I am no royalist,” says Saunders, “but I did a lino on that press with the King.”
King Charles III (left), Aidan Saunders (right).