The pandemic changed things for everyone. Academic institutions had their limits tested as they struggled to adapt to a new reality. Burn out rates amongst teachers and students soared. But for five entrepreneuring women, it was a time to come together and establish themselves as artists.
By Sandra Mako Sanchez
Bakita, Merel, Liselotte, Mirthe, and Renée (left to right, above), recent graduates from the Minerva Academy of Art at the Hanzehogeschool, have formed a creative collective and set up their own silk-screen printing studio in northeast Groningen. Rolling up their sleeves, and determined not to let a pandemic stop them, these ladies assembled and installed equipment into a space rented from an anti-squatting company. This included building a sink area, finding a high-pressure cleaner, installing UV-lights; setting up clamps, and gathering screens, squeegees, film; emulsion, cleaning supplies, and plenty of paint. They even did their own plumbing to prevent chemicals from entering the waste water system.
The idea for Purple Carrot, the official name of the creative collective, was formed as the then-students tried to navigate the rocky road of academic life in Covid times.
“It was hard to find inspiration. Normally, the way I get inspiration is from the things around me and then there weren’t so many different things around me anymore,” Merel confessed.
Merel sports two t-shirts she had designed and created using silk-screen printing.
As internships fell apart and classrooms closed their doors, they found their oasis in Paradijs Studio. Here, they were able to work on their projects for Minerva together, exchanging ideas and learning from one another. Wanting to be responsible and safe, they created sign-up sheets and limited the amount of people that could come in at once.
With graduation on the horizon, the women looked beyond their final projects towards their careers. While Minerva had provided the tools and resources to explore the creative world, they now needed something else to find their footing in the professional one.
“For illustrators you are not likely to be hired by a company because it is all freelance based.” Liselotte says, noting how art tends to be devalued through a competitive market. “At this point there is a commercial style of illustration,” says Bakita, adding that “what we do we can’t really go to any studio”.
Indeed, the Minerva academy allowed these girls to find their unique artistic voices rather than pushing them to create content that sells.
This authenticity rings true in their work. Even as they build up their studio together, they hope to continue to develop individual styles and explore a variety of materials. Certainly one of the things that made silk-screen printing their medium of choice was the variety of applications this method provides- from printing t-shirts to making zines.
Their genuineness seems to be what attracted the patrons who funded their silk-screen printing studio. The women turned to voordekunst.nl, a crowdfunding website for artists of all types. Although they had been initially anxious to ask for money, their efforts paid off well in the end. By promising screen-printed stickers, beer coasters, sweaters; posters, and custom pieces, they managed to raise 5165 euros. This far exceeded their initial goal of 1200 euros. Patrons included fellow artists from Minerva as well as a local gallery owner. The collective believe that the circumstances of the pandemic made people more generous, as they understood the difficulties facing any enterprise trying to set up shop nowadays.
With their eye on an opening ceremony in September, and plans to offer printing workshops, The Purple Carrot collective is ready to apply the same adventurous and exploratory sentiment of their study years to their work years.
Most of the designs to be printed are rendered digitally. Renée shows a custom design created for a patron. The theme of their patron designs is paradise as an ode to the name of their studio and the street it is located on, Paradijsvogelstraat.
The design is then printed on film, such as that held by Liselotte (left), before being transferred onto a screen with emulsion, such as that held by Merel (right), through the effect of directed ultraviolet light (seen here underneath the table where the screens are laid). Once the right amount of time has passed, the emulsion is washed off and the design is ready to use.
By using clamps to hold the screen over a material to be printed on (e.g t-shirt, poster paper, glass), paint can be applied over the screen and a squeegee may then be used to slide it across and on to the material. Thanks to patrons, the ladies were able to afford a carousel clamp (below, left), which allows them to use multiple screens on the same material, one after the other.
As Bakita demonstrates (below, right), afterwards a high-powered pressure cleaner and degreaser is used to remove the design.
Renée Ensing @illustraatlegger
Merel Wendt @wendteltrap
Bakita Pietrowicz @littlecapsicum
Liselotte Bergstra @lise.elize
Mirthe van Wermeskerken @mirthe.vw