Pass through the doors of Bellingham’s Runaway Press and surrender to the ambrosia of linseed oil and pigments, warm beeswax and salt. On the walls, both finished prints and works in progress hang neatly. Margot Myers, founder of Runaway Press, can generally be found bustling around the studio. She balances her own art practice with managing her small business, applying for funding opportunities and teaching. Yet she always finds time to introduce visitors to her space.
Founded by Myers in 2015, Runaway Press is currently Bellingham’s only space open to the community that is dedicated to printmaking classes and studio time. An art form that encompasses many disciplines, printmaking is commonly expressed through intaglio etching, woodcutting and screen printing. The common thread that connects them is that marks are made on an intermediate medium, a matrix like copper or wood, and then those marks are printed in layers onto paper.
As an active local artist, Margot was disappointed to find that there wasn’t a space for printmakers to gather and work collaboratively in her community. Margot explains, “There are artist residencies with presses whose daily or weekly rates are pretty expensive for emerging artists. Western Washington University has presses, but they are only available if you are a matriculated student.”
Myers considers herself lucky to have bought a print press early on in her career. “I’m glad I was able to find a press when I did,” she says. “Without a press, many printers lose focus and move on to other things.”
Having seen how a lack of support and space hinders emerging artists, Margot saw how her ideas for a community space could meet a real need. “I reach out to people who want to be artists and give them the space to do that. As someone who has worked out of their garage for 10 years, I know what a barrier not having community space for printmaking can be. It’s lonesome. We often find our own presses and then work alone.”
Aware of how education and experience are necessary to making quality prints, Myers also offers classes from her studio. “Printmaking is technically based and requires specialized tools and a press.” She explains, “It can be harder for those with an interest in this medium to go out and experiment with it compared to the accessibility of painting or drawing. Having access to a press can change that.”
Currently an adjunct instructor at Western Washington University in foundational art classes, Margot has also taught at New Mexico State University and at Doña Ana Community College in New Mexico. Myers has a warm demeanor that shines through in her teaching style as supportive and patient, while she offers quality feedback and encourages her student’s vision. The intimate class sizes offered at Runaway Press allow students plenty of one on one support and the opportunity to be experimental with the materials at hand. “I want to help elevate the quality of the artistic experience in Bellingham,” she says. “As the Press grows, I would love to see a whole spectrum of people participate. I engage with peers, who come to produce or develop professional work. I also want people who are new to printmaking to feel welcome coming and learning new techniques.”
Margot hosts classes in a variety of print disciplines – some build upon each other in a series while others are single demonstrations. One recent workshop was entitled, Naked Screen Printing, in which she demonstrated techniques for screen printing without the need for specialized equipment. Margot also invites guest artists from around the country, including Frol Boundin, Lisa Turner and Chris Hartshorne, to come and teach specialized classes in their own disciplines. She ultimately hopes to help make printmaking more approachable and accessible to those who want to learn. “My goal is to continue my engagement with the community as I fine tune my unique offerings.”
Currently, Runaway Press offers a wide variety of services as Margot teases out what might be most useful for our art community. Aside from structured classes, she also opens her studio to drop-ins who need a press for the day and for monthly members to come and use the space more regularly. For Press members, she offers guidance to those who may need support while working with a particular technique or exposure to new concepts in printmaking. For artists who are non-printmakers, Runaway Press can help translate their paintings or drawings into prints and edition them. A painter might find a series of prints can make their work more accessible on the market than a large painting might be.
Whether you are new to the arts or a professional looking to refine a new technique, Runaway Press makes a seemingly intimidating art form more approachable. With Margot Myers’ guidance and the warm atmosphere of a collective space, printmaking can find new footing in our art community. Visit Runaway Press at 205 Grand Ave in Bellingham to see what the artists are up to and check out the press’s website to register for current classes and events.