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Peter Ford: Beginnings & Endings

Peter Ford’s studios are part of his home. His main studio with his printing presses is on the ground floor; it is a bit dark and the room is full of paraphernalia. His second studio on the top floor is made up of two rooms; it is flooded with light pouring in through large sash windows. Peter uses this space mostly as an office and art store. In the corner of the main room there is an inconsequential cupboard, which I don’t take much notice of until Peter opens it. It is stacked from top to bottom with his uniquely handmade paper. Peter has been making his own paper from recycled high grade acid free cloth paper pulp since 1994, pioneering paper casting, paper painting and relief printing onto his handmade paper as part of his print practice. He says:

“Since 1994… I have been discovering the potential of paper pulp as a medium, sometimes in combination with printing but also as a medium for art in its own right.”

Peter mentions casually as he looks inside the cupboard that he’s no longer making paper. He says he has enough stock to last him the rest of his life now. Peter turned 87 this year. I take a moment, realising he’s just quantified his life by his handmade paper. This is so characteristic of Peter; everything he creates reflects so intimately who he is and what he’s thinking about. It is what makes his work so interesting. We’re all fascinated with the same splendours and mysteries of our world and how artists respond to those is what makes their work so interesting. It also doesn’t escape me that we’re all trying to find answers to the same questions.

Peter’s formal education lies in teacher training, preparing him for a professional life of teaching English and art. He says in his essay, Lifelong Learning – Routes to Art Education in Guanlan Forum 2020:

“I did not have a conventional British art school training. After two years of compulsory military service I turned down the opportunity of full time art school attendance in my home town and chose instead to study at a teachers’ training college in London. My wish to live in London was the main motive… The course itself lasted two years and it was probably not so different from what I would have experienced at an art school. We had easy access to communal studio space for drawing, painting and ceramics… Looking back… I can see how formative and useful it was for me. My curiosity about techniques and processes was nourished. There was no obligation to develop a narrow single focus as the course was intended to help us become better art teachers rather than artists.”

After fifteen years teaching professionally, Peter realised he was more interested in being an artist than teaching it, and in 1976 left teaching to pursue a professional creative practice. Nearly fifty years later he is still practising and, he assures me, has no plans to retire. Artists seldom retire; I don’t know many who have chosen to hang up their tools. In my experience art seems to be a compulsion – you can’t just stop. World renowned artist Louise Bourgeois was sculpting and holding her Sunday salons for young artists right up until her death in 2010 at aged 98. How can one not admire that?

Peter has enjoyed success during his long and illustrious art career. He was elected an honorary member of the innovative Printmaker’s Council alongside the likes of David Hockney, Anne Desmet and Stanley Jones. He’s a fellow of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers and was made an academician of the RWA in 2001, following which he was elected vice president in 2007 and served until 2013. He is also a member of the International Association of Papermakers and Artists (IAPMA) and has attended congresses in various world locations such as South Korea, Tasmania and Canada. He has been invited repeatedly to exhibit in China alongside numerous residencies and workshops and his work is held in prestigious public art collections across the world. He has a highly successful and traceable career, which by all accounts makes his work highly collectible.

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peter ford looking at his cupboard full of handmade paper
peter ford rwa re in his studio showing found object from which he prints
printmaker peter ford in his bristol studio

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