Creative Lives — Craig Proud on co-founding Nottingham printmaking studio, Dizzy Ink
Craig Proud has always been fascinated by printmaking. While at college studying photography, he made prints for friends and fellow students, using the facilities and expertise of technicians to perfect the art of darkroom printing. Finding this a slow and limited technique, Craig soon progressed to Risograph printing – which now forms the basis of his co-founded printmaking studio, Dizzy Ink. Set up alongside fellow photography grad Ben Kay, shortly after the pair completed their studies, Dizzy Ink produces posters, books, zines and artist prints from their studio in Nottingham. Craig speaks to us about the importance of printmaking for Nottingham’s creative community, Dizzy Ink’s collaborative projects, and the graft it takes to set up your own studio.
Co-Director, Dizzy Ink
Nottingham Trent University (2015)
Inside the Dizzy Ink studio
How would you describe Dizzy Ink, and the roles within the studio?
Dizzy Ink is a specialist print studio consisting of myself and Ben Kay, focusing on alternative print production. Our bread and butter is Risograph, but we do all sorts using things like screen printing, letter press, thermography, hot foil, embossing, die cutting laser cutting and Mimeograph.
We’re super-fortunate to have really diverse projects. We’ve done a lot of teaching through workshops, lectures and specialist training then exhibitions, book production and artist prints. From individuals needing a few prints, right up to book and exhibition design!
We’ve just taken on a massive project, managing a beautiful building in possibly the best location in all of Nottingham. We’re one half of the team of directors of a new CIC [Community Interest Company] called The Carousel – a place for creatives to have studios, collaborate and programme events. There are also shared print facilities which is exciting!
What does a typical working day look like?
At the start of the week I get into the studio for 8am and by the end of the week I’m strolling in at 10!
How collaborative are your roles?
We work with lots of different people. We’re fortunate that print is at the centre of lots of different communities. To mention just a few of them: we work with Martin Rayment and Farida Makki for The Carousel; Hannah Whitlow and myself run Notts Zine Library and Notts Zine Fest; I’ve been a part of RAW Print and I collaborate with Matt Gill on the METAZINE series.
Ben has collaborated with Kai Nordland for a series of Beak Zines; he also runs a project called Made In A Day. But this doesn’t even cover all the incredible artists we work with as well. If I find an artist I admire, I reach out and offer to turn their work into artist prints or a publication. It’s nice to have people you look up to creatively respond so positively to collaboration.
Made In A Day
What are the best and worst parts of the work?
The worst parts have been the amount of studio moves we’ve had – five different studios in three and a half years was pretty disgusting! We feel really good about where we’re at currently and the people we’re sharing with. Things always work out!
Co-founder Ben at Dizzy Ink's first studio
What has been your most exciting recent project?
So, with the new space, we’ve also been able to start some really great projects that we’ve had planned for ages. We’ve set up a Risograph print collective named Working Turns and we’ve got two of the latest Risograph printers that have double drums – we’ve moved on from our beloved RZ. It’s served us well over the past four years and is still a cracking machine.
We’ve invited a group of local illustrators and producers to take ownership of the equipment and put out lots of new work themselves. It’s already a great community of people and I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
Craig Proud (right) with co-founder Ben Kay, photographed by Rhys Herbert
What’s the story behind founding the studio? And how were those early years of getting the business off the ground?
We both studied photography at Nottingham Trent. We started working together at the very end of the degree. Ben had organised the first Made in A Day and invited me along. We basically had a group of us and wandered around Nottingham all making work; we edited and printed a publication in the day. We then ended up doing the course catalogue together.
“We saw the potential of the city and wanted to be included in some the incredible things happening here.”
After uni we were a mere two of around five people from our course who stayed in Nottingham. We saw the potential of the city and wanted to be included in some the incredible things happening here!
Dizzy Ink printing workshop
What do you like about working in Nottingham, both creatively and work-wise?
It’s vibrant, close-knit and supportive! Everybody knows each other and there’s a free flowing community consistently putting on wild events that get better every year. We’ve ended up getting to know a lot of people simply by providing print work to those people, whether it’s doing the posters or live screen printing on the day.
From talking to people who grew up in the city, there wasn’t much to keep people here for a long time; now there’s such a strong DIY scene, and more people are staying after uni and contributing to it, making it even better. Notts isn’t one to shout about itself too much, either – it simply gets on with it.
Dizzy Ink Three Months On show at QUAD Derby
Have you ever found it difficult to make a living from what you do?
Of course – we both worked at a pub for the first two years of Dizzy! Every penny went back into the studio. We wanted to be able to take on bigger jobs and knew we’d need better, more expensive equipment, so we sacrificed a lot to make it happen. We both didn’t really have any money to begin with but we’re both really good at seeking out pots of money, funding panels and business support schemes. It was hard, and there are times I look back at what we lived through and laugh...
Dizzy Ink at NEST Festival 2017
How important is self-promotion to your work, and how much energy would you say you put into this?
Instagram bugs the shit out of me. I love the people aspect to it but pandering to the algorithm is soul destroying. Some of my most incredible posts have received little attention compared to something I’ve not even thought about but is brightly coloured. It’s shaped the creative scene and I find that damaging to people’s practices. The things on Instagram don’t even represent a fraction of the work we put out of the studio, you have to come and see for yourself!
What tools and skills are essential to your work?
Risograph ME9350e and 18 Colours, MacBook Pro, a guillotine and our beautiful studio, The Carousel!
Are there ever opportunities for other creatives to work for you? If so, what do you look for in recruits and collaborators?
We’ve employed people over the years for busy periods or when people come out of uni and want a stepping stone onto something else – Jess Rose, Molly Waring, Jessica Gaten and Ben Wood have all been incredible and it’s amazing to see how well they’re all doing now! We will continue helping people as much as possible – education is vital.
Materials in the Dizzy Ink studio
How I Got Here
Do you remember what you wanted to be growing up?
I was completely obsessed with printing and handcrafting prints. I used to make a bit of money at college doing prints for people and thought of myself as a future printmaker. When I came to uni I latched onto the technicians that were colour darkroom printing and learnt everything I could from them. I used to spend hours making perfect colour darkroom prints but knew I wanted to make books, too.
Darkroom printing is too slow and darkroom paper is also single sided – that’s when I learnt about Risograph and began to understand that you could work in a similar manner and by metering channels you could cast prints in different ways, depending on colour.
Work for GF Smith
How have your studies been useful to your current work?
I’m from a tiny wee town up North so coming to uni was this overwhelming baptism of culture. We were definitely more than five years behind the rest of the country, and all of a sudden there’s people from all around the world, different food, events, music, art and opportunities.
What were your first jobs before Dizzy Ink?
I did a bit of work as a freelance picture desk editor for a few different magazines and The Guardian. It helped a lot but I knew that I wanted more control over the publications I was putting out.
Inside the Dizzy Ink studio
Was there a particular project, person or move that helped Dizzy Ink’s development in its early days?
I guess Ben was pretty important! Other than that, Matt Gill. He teaches at Nottingham Trent University and is obsessed with zines, magazines and print culture so he was getting us in to do some workshops and projects with his students, which was good money, super-interesting and gave us the chance to make loads of zines.
We also can’t talk about the start of Dizzy Ink without mentioning The Fine Art Catalogue – the hardest project we’ve ever done. It was two months of 100-hour weeks slogging away at this modest publication and it almost killed us. It was a great book, though, and technically it launched our studio.
The Fine Art Catalogue, 2015
What would you like to do next as individuals and as a studio?
Continue building The Carousel as a seriously incredible space for people to feel comfortable making and creating. It’s such a major space for the city and it’s Dizzy Ink’s home for at least the next five years.
We’ve also got Notts Zine Library and Zine Fest. We want to continue building these and have more people contribute to the events and programme. We’re writing some funding bids to help shape this into something really special.
Zines by Dizzy Ink
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to do the same kind of work?
Get outside and go talk to a studio you admire. They’re probably super-busy so take them a cup of coffee and then they technically owe you ten minutes of chat! Ask them directly if you can help with something that week and then turn into a big sponge, soaking up all the knowledge.
“It’s going to be difficult, but if it’s something you really believe in you’ll make it a priority.”
Do you have any additional tips on starting your own studio?
Graft. It’s going to be difficult, but if it’s something you really believe in you’ll make it a priority. Having another person is good as well. Ben and I work well together and that can be really hard to find. Don’t let the hard work put you off – you might find friends along the way!
Top image by Rhys Herbert.