10:25am Wednesday 13th October 2010
By Chris Holland
Now is not the time, some might think, for starting a new business, but Bradford picture-framer Andy Rushworth is doing just that.
Next month he plans to open the green front door to Scratch, Bradford’s first fine art etching and print studio and, Andy believes, the first in the country to use non-toxic, water-based inks.
“I could be wrong; but I don’t think there’s anyone else that does it using exclusively non-toxic inks,” he said.
He and his business partner Simon Smith, who has his own computer programming business, are putting £15,000 into Scratch, located in three rooms in South Square, Thornton, just a couple of green doors down from the picture framing business that Andy started in 2005, investing £10,000 redundancy money from Bradford College.
He spent ten years there as an exhibitions technician. For Rushworth’s Fine Art Framing, he bought specialist guillotines, underpinning machines and a small stock of frames. His first year earned him a profit of £13,000 on a turnover of about £30,000. Turnover has more than doubled since then.
Andy, 42, said: “It’s been superb. The museums are coming to me. I do all the framing for Cartwright Hall and the Industrial Museum. I have framed Hockneys, Lowrys, Damien Hirsts. I do the framing for Doug Binder at Dean Clough, Halifax, and Michael Stewart (the Thornton-based writer and artist).
“I set out specifically to be a fine art picture framer. There is a massive difference between what I do and what Joe Public does.
“I have to use conservation materials because if you don’t, in time the acid within non-conservation materials bleeds out and attacks the art work. So you have to use UV glass, acid free paper and tapes – specialist materials. It is more expensive, but it’s worked out fantastically for me.”
Hence the decision to expand and set up Scratch, in spite of the gloomy economic climate.
“I am frightened, but if I didn’t do this now, the chances of finding a location in an ideal place like this would be very slim. So I had no choice but to do it.
“I do believe there is sufficient demand for Scratch to be a success. You set up a membership scheme for other graduate intalgio printers. They’ll pay an annual fee, say £120, and then hire the studio by the day.
“Once they are inducted and have gone through safety training, they can be left alone to get on with their work. I will oversee everything, but I won’t be printing off etchings myself,” he added.
Scratch consists of an etching room, a large print room and a kitchen. The business end of the enterprise is in the process of being equipped with two etching presses – one large, one small – hot plates, rollers, spray guns, new water-based inks and guillotines for cutting copper, zinc, aluminium, mild steel and perspex plates.
When I visited South Square in mid-September there was still a lot to do, but Andy was confident that the print-makers who had already expressed interest in joining Scratch would have the opportunity to start work.
“My nearest competitor is in Mirfield. There might be another one in Leeds. But there’s nothing in Hebden Bridge, Todmorden, Halifax or Bradford,” Andy said.
Printed etchings will be on sale at Scratch. He hopes that this time next year South Square Gallery, next door, will host an exhibition of work.
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