Warren Editions is a professional printmaking studio in the heart of Cape Town’s Fringe District. The studio is famous for their collaborations with local and international artists publishing fine art prints. They also have the biggest press in the Southern Hemisphere right in their third floor studio. Owner and master printer Zhané Warren shared their story with us.
What is your background?
I studied Fine Art at Stellenbosch University, and in 2006 achieved a Masters Degree in Technology of Fine Art from the University of Johannesburg. Awarded a Scholarship, I attended the Karel de Grote Hogeskool at the University of Antwerp, and remained in Belgium for five years working alongside renowned artists and printmakers. I practiced as a visual and performance artist until 2007. I have staged numerous performances and exhibitions, in South Africa and abroad. At the end of 2007 I returned to South Africa as a recognized master printer so as to open Warren Editions, a professional printmaking studio in Cape Town.
When, how and why did you become interested in printmaking?
In my first year at university we were set the tasks of completing prints in the monotype and woodcut techniques. I was hooked on printmaking from the get-go, having never done any printmaking before, the experience made enough of an impression on me to abandon my dream of becoming a painter. Making a print was far more engaging for me because the making of a print is labor intensive, involves particular methodologies, a set of skills and creative solutions.
Why did you open a collaborative fine art printmaking studio?
I have a valuable ability and connection with printmaking and a desire to excel in a given field. The notion of doing ‘something’ well is tied up with the job of a master printer. And, I have a vision of ‘showing-off’ the vast attributes of printmaking – one, I believe its ability to adapt to the wims and desires of all artists that employ it; this inevitably steering the artist in a trajectory not achieved in any other way. To acquire creative solutions in the process of translating images, by other artists, into printmaking media is challenging whilst being fulfilling for me. These reasons and that I am a risk taker is why I founded Warren Editions.
How did you find the space that now hosts your studio, and what about this specific spot caught your attention?
The previous studio I occupied in 2008 & 2009 was in shambles; the new owners weren’t paying the rates nor the water and electricity. For me the turning point came when the municipality had ordered for the water to be turned off; this act would of course jeopardize our workflow. I knew I had to find a new studio and fast. I was desperate. Gumtree came to the rescue.
This space was available immediately but an empty shell. The building then, needed a haul over and a lot of TLC. I however, saw a lot of potential and could visualize Warren Editions growing in this new space while Table Mountain towers over us. It was no doubt that the ample light, openness of the space, relative humidity and view would lend itself to a gorgeous printmaking studio.
And, so after renovations, the move of our big etching press (2m x 1m) and materials we soon made the 3rd floor at 62 Roeland Street our new home.
What is your favourite feature of the studio, and why?
The large loft style windows along the one side of the studio provide a beautiful natural light; this is paired with a great view of Table Mountain. The studio’s layout gives a sense of openness that makes working a pleasure.
Another favourite is the she-monster, our newest addition to Warren Editions custom made printing presses. The press bed is 3 x 1,5 m and is the biggest press in the Southern hemisphere.
Take us through some of the traditional printmaking processes you use at Warren Editions.Why do you prefer these traditional methods?
At Warren Editions our expertise is etching; this entails etching onto brass with Ferric Chloride using the soft ground etching, hard ground etching and aquatint techniques. The intaglio repertoire also includes photopolymer. Rivaling the specialisation of etching is the printmaking technique monotype (not to be confused with monoprint). Monotypes are executed in the oil-based and water-based mediums.
From the beginning of 2013 the studio has taken on challenging projects executed in relief, starting at 80 x 150 cm. Now with the new press that arrived in November 2013 and measuring 3 x 1,5 meters (the studio now has 4 presses), the prints produced has increased in scale to 2,5 m long. These prints are multi-plate linoleum and/or woodcarvings printed onto paper or onto laminated cotton cloth (which is processed in-house).
Last but not least water-based silkscreen concludes the ensemble of techniques practiced at Warren Editions.
How do you go about choosing the artists you collaborate with and the works you produce?
Choosing artists entails some or all of the following:
I really appreciate their work
Their work inspires me to want to make prints (or even art in general)
I can visualise prints resolved in their style and imagery
Will their prints produced at the studio fit into the vision I have for Warren Editions
and contribute meaningfully to contemporary printmaking and art
The profile of the artist
Many of the successful prints that have been created at Warren Editions manifest the achievements and success of the studio. They contain within them the particular strategies I have as a printmaker, the adaptability of the studio and means of insight required to produce quality fine art prints. These prints have also helped to shape the image of Warren Editions. Choosing what to produce is often an organic, intuitive process. The artists would usually explore thematic concerns and imagery found in their other works, but the parameters set by printmaking changes the approach and methodology usually followed by the artist. The process entails certain elements to come together for producing a print such as
How particular techniques are employed
Will the image translate into a print, i.e. does it make sense to pursue
Will the eventual print heighten the profile of the artist and reinforce the existence
of contemporary printmaking
Tell us about some of the highlights since starting Warren Editions?
Apart from working with very talented artists and having produced memorable artworks the following are occurrences that positively impacted Warren Editions:
The very successful internship program that I started in 2008
Traditionally copper is used as the preferred metal for etching, I however chose to work with brass when I started the studio. Brass, in my experience is a far better metal to use for this technique.
Michaelis School of Fine Art and high schools have followed suit and brass is now a common feature in their printmaking studios
Launching our much acclaimed Edition S in 2009. An Edition S is released every year and has grown to be very popular
Relocating the studio in 2009 to The Fringe
Launching the much-admired Picture Books in 2011
Partnering with The Spier Arts Trust at the end of 2012. This affords artists the opportunity to collaborate with Warren Editions in producing large scale prints
Launching Warren Editions Projects in March 2013. The space showcases
the projects and prints created and published by Warren Editions
Changing the CI of Warren Editions in 2013
The studio’s participation in the Cape Town Art Fair 2014 awarded us the chance to reach a wider audience
Acquiring the largest press in the Southern hemisphere, weighing in at 1,2 tons and measuring 3 x 1,5 m
Last but not least, after many years of research and 1 year of preparation the studio custom built a steel-facing unit. Providing a means of protecting the surface of an etched plate and to ensure consistent editions.
Please introduce the rest of the team at Warren Editions.
Jan Philip Raath interned at the studio in March and April 2012 and stayed on to do a three year apprenticeship to become a Master Printer. He primarily works, where his passion lies, in the Intaglio department.
Morné Visagie interned in January and February, as well as for the month of July, in 2011. Thereafter he was involved parttime but in July 2013 he joined Warren Editions fulltime as the Project Co-Ordinator for the Spier Arts Trust Commission.
Janet Mbirimi began working as the studio hand in April 2011.
Roxy Kaczmarek began working part time after completing her internship at the beginning of 2013. She now works as Studio Manager. Every two months we have new (local and international) interns that come to work and learn alongside us.
What does the average day at Warren Editions include?
We begin the day with a delicious Deluxe coffee. Philip will most likely be working in the intaglio section editioning plates, whilst Morné editions relief works. Interns assist where needed. Essentially tasks are repetitive and the methodology stays the same but our approach changes according to the various artists we work with keeping each day exciting and interesting. There is a constant stream of projects, we meet regularly with artists to discuss plans, and unpack artworks for clients to view and purchase. We all enjoy sitting around the same table eating delicious home cooked lunches together.
Anything we can look forward to from Warren Editions?
Our collaboration with Jody Paulson is well underway; the studio has created over 30 colours – printed on our very own W.E.CC 300gsm substrate. This large substrate is finely crafted especially for the relief and monotype techniques at Warren Editions. Our project with Jody challenges traditional print expectations.
Followers of Georgina Gratrix’s work can look forward to new massive monotypes from her. The images are colourful, flirty, audacious and daring. These are due to be released in July with a solo show at Warren Editions Projects.
A project with Christian Nerf has been in progress since December 2013. Christian’s conceptual underpinning to his work has turned the etching technique on its head – literally. Working with him has allowed the studio to approach etching in a much more sculptural manner and realise within print the physicality of etching. Warren Editions Projects will showcase the work done with him in a solo exhibition in September.
Currently, Katherine Bull is collaborating with Warren Editions in a performance/print event, Treading Soft Ground – literally a demonstration of the sensitivities of the soft ground etching technique. In the project space the prints from the plates made in the performances can be viewed. Also, the experimental prints that will be made from these plates, by overlapping and layering, will be added to the prints already on show. The second part of this performance will take place on 22 May at 6pm.
Visit the studio at 62 Roeland Street, Cape Town, on the Third Floor.