Wagon the Tale of the Artist
Aidan Saunders is from a village in South Wales by the seaside and studied illustration in London at Camberwell College of Arts. He is an illustrator and printmaker and the founder of Print Wagon. He recently slowed down his tour of England long enough to answer a few questions about his quest.
When and why did you start the Print Wagon? I started April 23rd, 2014, in Hastings, exhibiting in illustrator ‘Peter Quinnells’ studio. The tour was designed to be two weeks long and I targeted print galleries I admired and places I thought would give me maximum exposure. The tour still hasn’t stopped.
The Print Wagon was born because I did a two year course called FDA with a chance of bridging on to a ‘top up’ BA degree. I was uncertain if I made the cut for the 3rd year so out of fear I developed a scheme on how was best to try and advertise my work in the creative industry, an attempt to get commissions and tell the illustration world I was out there. I got on to 3rd year and decided to just work on my Print Wagon. The project turned out to be a Frankenstein’s monster as I started getting noticed for Print Wagon and not for illustrating. Which I think is for the best on reflection. I just want to be part of the creative industry.
How often do you take it out? During my initial tour I exhibited day in day out for two weeks, slowly making my way around the UK. Now I have slowed down, mainly focusing on events and visiting universities.
Where do you go with it? On the tour I visited ‘No Guts No Glory’ in Exeter; ‘Colours May Vary’ in Leeds; ‘Papersmiths’ in Bristol; I parked in university car parks and set up; I’ve set up on the side of a busy street next to a busier road. I’d set up anywhere. My most recent pop up exhibits were with ‘The London Illustration fair’ and ‘the affordable art fair.’ Lately I’ve been going to universities as a visiting practitioner, which is weird as I’ve only just left uni myself last July.
What has been the popular response? The response has been amazing. I was humbled by it. I just wanted to do something that stood me out from the crowd and gave me a fighting chance. Now I’m friends with some creatives I’ve respected since starting uni, I’ve been mentioned in ‘The Times’ and in ‘Design Week,’ which to be honest hasn’t really sunk in, I’m always busy thinking on what to do next or how I can get to the next level.
That aside I think the response of children is the best. I ink lino and print it from the press right in front of them, show them the process step by step, but still the look of amazement when they see the print—it’s amazing.
Do you sell your wares? I do sell them. Prints from the press are £5 and my preprinted editioned screenprints/Linocuts range from £15-£50. I really believe in affordable art, and me going to the street and selling work and even doing impromptu workshops reaches an audience a lot of creatives neglect.
Do you put on a show? I am kind of a show—I have my bow tie, my snake oil salesman suit and I do workshops and show people how it’s all done. I also love talking to people and trying to share my passion. I’m always happy to print for people even if they don’t buy.
What is the future of your wagon? I’m currently working on a new range of prints. This year I plan to attempt to get my brand more recognition and to do that I think I just need to keep going, look at what worked with the tour and build on it. I want to try and be part of the British creative festival scene, I want to do more events like ‘the London illustration fair’ and try and be a part of great festivals like NOBROW’s ‘ELCAF’ and ‘Thought bubble.’ Also I’m really enjoying using my Print Wagon as an educational tool and wouldn’t mind going to schools and universities to teach print processes and how great ‘making’ is. I use digital but I feel students live off it way too much.
I think the beauty of building a brand is that you can stamp it on a wide range of activities. I just want to make and try to make a living making. That’s the dream. And there may be a Euro tour.
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About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →