A passion for printmaking: interview with John Coe of Pressing Matters Magazine

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I first fell in love with printmaking when I pulled my first linocut in high school. Since then, I've tried to soak up as much knowledge and inspiration as I can, which is why I was so excited to hear about Pressing Matters magazine. It's a beautiful publication dedicated to the love of printmaking in all its forms. I interviewed the founder, John Coe, about what inspired him to create it and how it has affected his creative practice.


What excites you about printmaking?

I love the fact that printmaking is all about creative endeavour - the experimenting, the proofing, trying things again, seeing how inks respond to paper and techniques bring different atmospheres to images and ideas. I am always amazed at what people are doing with their tools, be it using letterpress inking and embossing to create sculptural pieces, or just a simple linocut that’s referencing Japanese manga-style influences. I love the broad range of creativity and try to embrace that in the magazine.


What do you think is the role of print in this digital world?

The role of print is to connect people with an idea, possibly a slower more permanent/ongoing idea than the digital for gives us. People love to pick up the magazine, smell the ink and experience it as well as read the content.

Lots of people love to take pictures of them having a cup of tea spending time (finding the time) to read the magazine and slow down.

A lot of the content in the mag is in the digital domain already, so its more about the curation of the mag as a whole, the idea of a community and stories by identifiable people - hopefully our readers see a little of themselves and their own work in the mag and its take on things and in the fast moving digital world its easier for the work to be scrolled past and content to be skim-read.

Saying that, Instagram has been key to getting the word out to people and we find our own sense of community and readership through our engagement with people on that platform - also it’s a great way to connect with artists we may like to feature and you get a real sense of those that already are interested in showing their process by looking at their feed and so on.

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I read that your journey to making magazines started with zines. What value do you see in making zines as a creative practice?

I love zines - I think they capture an idea very succinctly, sometimes the layout can be scratchy/copy-pasted and other times very minimal. I love the variation of papers people use, often the size makes you get creative, etc. I worked on zines for my band back in the day and that was a way of talking about things we liked and gave the music scene we were in a bit of context. I also collaborated on a zine when I first moved to Bristol and that was a great way to get to know a group of like minded people and stretch out creatively without a client or worrying too much about what we were doing. I see it as a way of working on something quickly, full of energy - I’d be keen to do more work like it in amongst the magazine and client work I do…


What advice do you have for people who are nervous about starting a big project like this?

Well I have many years experience as a graphic designer first and foremost and over 10 year experience creating independent magazines, some where I founded them, others where I have been part of a team helping make something come together and art direct a certain title.

For larger projects like the magazine, its key to choose something that feels natural to you, something that you look forward to creating and that doesn’t feel too much like work. I love curating the mag as much as designing it and then promoting it, so its good to make sure there’s plenty in there to keep you inspired and excited about your project.


How does getting insight into other people’s process inform your own creative work?

Ha ha, sometime it can be overwhelming as I see so much, lots of it great work that I’m slightly in awe of.

Often though when I meet the people or at least talk to them, it helps to hear that their process is often a big old journey that we are seeing the end results of, the highlights if you like.

The amount of people that use overheard words, found images or even mistakes as a jumping off point for a print is interesting - I probably overthink a lot of things when it comes to making prints, so that’s something I am working on, seeing ideas through and trying to explore all the techniques in the process.

With regards to informing the mag design, I do my research and try to get across the personality or atmosphere of a person’s work and practice in my layouts, whilst still retaining a joined-up look for the magazine as a whole. I try to take their insights and reflect it through the words, images and layout.


What do you hope that people take away from this magazine?

I hope that they will be inspired by the stories and insights of other makers, that it will serve as a kind of reference to what’s going on, that other people are selling work, but also have some struggles along the way. That there are fancy studios and people making prints on their kitchen tables… that you can print with most things and that pursuing ideas and trying things out is both fun and frustrating, but that the key thing is that you give it a go and then see what happens.

I’d like to think that the magazines speaks to all kinds of creative folk and that they enjoy reading it as much as I do making it!

Issue 5 of Pressing Matters is out now! You can purchase paper and digital copies of the magazine here, and follow their Instagram here.