Five Questions With The Print Society

Written by Karen Johnston
on 04 May, 2019
Photoshoot of The Print Society’s cushions in the studio.

We are super excited to share the sustainable story of Sydney’s The Print Society via founder Karen Johnston. When someone says that ethical production “just makes sense” our hearts sing (and our wallets come out!) Be sure to check out this gorgeous stall at Finders Keepers Sydney! 

We first interviewed your label in 2012 here. Tell us how you’ve evolved as a label since then?

Wow!  It’s so interesting to look back and see our designs from our first year in business, both in terms of how things have changed and how they haven’t.  The patterns used in our textiles have always had a very geometric focus, but I can see that the prints have evolved in texture.  Whilst I am a bit of a stickler for a straight line, the brush strokes are more organic and the lines have softened a lot.  However, the key change for The Print Society has been the introduction of ceramics.  I really wanted to see if I could translate our design concepts into another medium.  From a design perspective, I focus very much on pattern, colour and shape, and for the first range of ceramic vases I chose to really look at the shape aspect of the forms.  This will be the first time we’ll be showing these at Finders Keepers!

Hand printed paper prints using recycled cotton sari paper.

Why is it important for you to run a business with a focus on ethical production? 

To me, ethical production just makes sense.  I left behind a corporate career because I just wasn’t loving it and wanted to go back to my creative background.  It kills me to think that others may be being exploited in anyway during the production of the materials used in our studio, so I’ve managed to source almost everything locally as Australian standards are typically better than those overseas.  Looking after the environment is key within the studio space.  For us it not only makes sense on an environmental front, but also financially.  Water and waste management in particular are a big focus, trying to minimise both is the key.  So we do a lot of recycling of clay, dry washing screens, and using grey water.

Reversible hand printed pillowcases by The Print Society.

What would be one piece of advice you would give a first time seller at The Finders Keepers?  

Can I give two?  Firstly, don’t be afraid to talk to people!  Both customers and fellow stall holders.  Be open with your time and your experience, there is so much to learn from others.  And don’t be scared to explain your making process, it adds so much value to your pieces.  
Secondly, from a practical perspective, put together a kit (box, bag, tool holder) of all the little things you might need on the day.  Pens, bulldog clips, blue tack, safety pins, screw driver, notepad, scissors, you name it.  Trust me, you will absolutely use it!

A cluster of vases and planters from the Shape Play range.

We love to hear what our stallholders have planned for FK, any hints on exclusives or new releases? 

This is the first time we’ll be showing our ‘Shape Play’ ceramics at Finders Keepers!  So excited!  These are slab built and hand rolled to expose the edges, and are available as vases and planters.  You’ll see that some of the shapes tie in with our printed textiles.  New in the textile space is our table linen (napkins and runners) that work in really well with the ceramics too.

Horizon table runner and pink Scallop Wrap Vase
Hand printed round cushions from The Print Society

We love that designing for the future as oppose to one season is part of The Print Society ethos, how else do you incorporate ‘keeping’ into your business and/or everyday life?

 I think we humans have been conditioned to thinking that when we need something, we have to go out and buy it.  I like to look around and see what’s available before running out (usually to Bunnings!) to buy supplies. Instead of recycling plastic milk containers, I cut the tops off and use the bottoms when I’m testing ink or glaze colours – this saves me buying containers.  I then turn the tops upside down and use them to propagate plants in our garden.  I guess I clump ‘keeping’ and ‘reusing’ into the same basket.  Another example is newspaper, which I’m always collecting from our neighbours and keeping.  Newspaper makes a great mini drop sheet, and because the ink we use is non-toxic, it can all get shredded up into the compost bin at the end of the day.

Change your look with just one flip – Reversible hand printed cushions from The Print Society

Leave a comment