Interview with Professor Jo Stockham
Head of Printmaking at the Royal College of Art
Jo Stockham has been Professor and Head of the Printmaking programme since 2008. She began working at the Royal College of Art in 1993 as a visiting lecturer in Painting, Sculpture and Printmaking. Her background in teaching sculpture and architecture and running gallery-based workshops and talks contributes to her passion for the interrelatedness of making work and creating spaces for discussion.
ART.ZIP: Would you please give us a brief introduction about yourself and your programme?
JS: This is my fourth year of running the Printmaking programme. Before doing this, I was working across the school two days a week, and running a sculpture course at another college, because I was trained as a painter before I did an MA in Sculpture. When I was doing my MA, I was making a lot of prints, so I was doing both things alongside each other. Then I worked as an artist for many years, mainly doing commissions for site-specific installations, often using the history of site. I have always worked in a very mixed-media way.
I began to work full time because there are things in the programme that I want to change and develop. I was trying to build a bridge between digital skills and older traditions of making images, to curate a creative space where students can find the value of both of those things, mix them together and work in all sorts of ways to complicate the categorisations of things. Printmaking, historically, was a craft-based discipline, meaning people were more involved in how things are made rather than why they might be made; it hasn’t been such conceptual area in a way.
A lot of people who work with print do so because they are very interested in the ideas of multiple copies or interested in how print-making evolves. It links to all sorts of other disciplines, because there is so much printed information, students use maps, medical information, pages from newspapers, media and the Internet. For me, that’s all part of printmaking, because you know anything printed has history that is tied to reprographics, tied to the way ideas that circulated the world, so it makes for a very rich, very interesting discipline. If you mix the craft side of things with the conceptual side of things, you have a very rich blend to work with, as well as a rich culture. As you know, there are fantastic traditions of print in China that are different from the traditional in Japan, India, Germany, etc. This is one of the good parts of having international students, that they often bring with them very different approaches of making images. This is great, because this forces them to learn from each other, and so it is very nice thing to do, as a part of the programme here. While it’s wonderful to have conversations, often here people’s language skills are different; we communicate by showing people how to do something. Image is the way visual artists communicate, so if you’re curious about the way images work culturally throughout the world, this is a space where people can make things and teach each other. We look for students who have a genuine passion for making things, who really want to learn, are committed, and who are prepared to take risks to unlearn things.