A RECORD-BREAKING number of printmakers applied to exhibit work at this year’s Printfest, which returns to Ulverston’s Coronation Hall this spring.

The selected artists hail from all corners of the UK from Perth to Penzance to Penrith.

“Competitive selection is tough for a show that is building a reputation for being the most warm & welcoming around,” said Printfest chair Sally Bamber.

“We usually get around 75 applications so whittling a record 93 of them down to 42 selected artists was not easy. But we’re really proud of the quality and diversity of this year’s line-up.” 

They include this year’s Printmaker of the Year Hilary Paynter, one of the UK’s most prolific and celebrated wood engravers. Her minutely-intricate work can be found everywhere from the walls of the V&A to Metro Central Station in Newcastle as well as in greetings card racks, where her engravings of characterful sheep and dogs have been perennial best-sellers.

She helped select this year’s artists and travelled-up from her south west home near Bath to get inspiration from the Cumbrian coastline for a specially-commissioned work to be unveiled at Printfest.

“I feel the fells are famous enough so I wanted to explore the coast,” said Paynter who has amassed a fan-following for her many landscape engravings, including a collection illustrating Simon Armitage poems inspired by the Pennines.

“My main inspirations have been landscapes but rugged ones - rocks and cliffs rather than pleasant meadows. I think the danger appeals, getting near the top of a cliff edge, almost wanting to jump over. I also love animals because they are just so fabulous to engrave.”

Last year Printfest welcomed more than 2,000 visitors, the artists received awards from arts-related organisations near and far and sold a record number of handmade prints totalling around £75,000.

As well as the main exhibition at The Coro, venues across Ulverston are promoting more artists, there are more workshops from Cumbria Printmakers than before and art on show from the numerous Cumbrian school children who are taking part in print-making sessions ahead of the festival.

“Printfest is seen as one of the increasingly key, artist-led printmaking festivals in the North,” said Sally Bamber.

“It’s really pleasing to see artists from across the country wanting to be here.

“The most northerly artist joining us is Jane Walker in Scotland north of Perth who last exhibited with us in 2015. The most southerly Hazel McNab from Penzance who’s showing for the first time. We also have very local artists too like Richard Foster so people will spot places they love within the pictures.

“All the artists that did not get in, while naturally being disappointed, were charming and positive, many will be coming as visitors, which says a lot about the supportive atmosphere of Printfest and the print-making community.

“Artists love to come here because we always have so many people interested in meeting the printmakers and keen to chat all things print.”

Printfest 2023 opens at The Coro from April 27 and runs until April 30. For more information visit https://printfest.uk/