• Luana Spadafora

Ash Devenney and Holly Denshire Key, Founders of Print Safari

Ash (left) and Holly (right) with fur babies Buddy and Penny.

Long-time pals and artists Ash and Holly have always lived and dreamed in bright colours and patterns. After years of studying and interning, they finally decided to launch their own creative studio Print Safari, hosting fun printmaking workshops and courses in the historical Abbotsford Convent.

1. Tell us about Print Safari and how your journey began.

In 2016 we were both interning at a print studio and we first met one fateful afternoon at an after-work drinks. We soon became friends and started looking for a studio of our own. Tim, Holly’s brother, gave us a heads up that a space would become available in a nearby warehouse, the same warehouse that he still runs today called Tall Sticks - a bespoke recycled timber furniture business.

The space was located on the first floor and flooded with natural light so, with our good friends Lisa and Belinda, we started to create our own studio. Initially we were each working on our own individual practices but then in 2017 we decided to collaborate on a market stall and never looked back!

Our first ever workshop was a lino printing gift wrap workshop for family and friends, held in our old Brunswick studio. Looking back it seems like such a long time ago! This preliminary run-through gave us useful feedback and a chance to teach together before launching a ‘for-realz’ workshop to the public. We learnt what did and didn’t work and how much we could fit into a three-hour format.

We loved being a part of the space alonside amazing artists and makers. We took part in the Brunswick Studio Walk for two consecutive years and after being in the studio for 18 months our friend Indie, from Monolog, invited us to check out another space in Abbotsford Convent.

The Sacred Heart Building Restoration Project at the Convent had been underway for four years and was nearly complete with spaces available for lease. We first inspected the space three months before completion. I (Holly) remember walking through a rabbit warren of construction in 40° heat, up stairwells, down corridors and through a doorway into a gigantic room with high ceilings and green and pink paint peeling off the walls. On the back wall were two small rooms, one of which we now share with Indie and Emily (from Surface 1°22 Design Studio). The space was perfect for us and in April 2018 we moved in.

2. Walk us through one of your workshops.

We’re very lucky to share a space with Ink and Spindle at Abbotsford Convent who have created a stunning environment for our workshops.

Our workshops kick-off with an outdoors exercise drawing inspiration from the abundant gardens and wildlife at the Convent. Throughout winter we keep cosy inside and draw from a still life or props around the studio.

We offer a range of print-based workshops including screen printing and block printing for small groups, parties, bridal showers and other celebrations. Our bridal showers are our most popular workshops: participants get to create something for themselves and a collaborative piece for the bride-to-be all while sipping champagne and grazing on a delicious platter.

We take students through the design process, creating either stencils or blocks, and show them how to print their designs onto fabric or paper. These are fun and energetic classes where students can forget their worries and focus on something exciting and new. No creative skills or prior knowledge of print are required in our workshops and we absolutely love welcoming people who are new to print!

3. What are some of the craziest print designs you've seen?

Ash - When I think of bold, intricate patterns I always seem to go for the paisley pattern. The floral motif originated in Iran and went on to be popular in India, used on on shawls before being imitated locally. The name comes from the popular production in a Scottish town called Paisley - where I’m from. It became the thread manufacturing epicentre of the world in the 19th century. My dad actually worked in the Anchor Mill around 1979 for some time dyeing thread so the pattern has some sentimental value to me. Of course paisley ended up being much cheaper to print than to weave which added to its popularity and there are some stunning block printed cottons from this era.

Holly - The craziest prints I’ve seen are found in nature. The Mandarin Fish is one that springs to mind. This fish has electric blue and orange stripes with turquoise gills and red and yellow frills on its fins. As a kid I was obsessed with being a marine biologist, probably due to watching re-runs of Sabrina Down Under and believing that marine biologists solved underwater secrets, rode jet skis and had magical powers. Growing up I also had Siamese Fighting Fish with brightly patterned blue and red spots.

4. This may be impossible to answer... What are your favourite colours? (You can only pick one each!)

Ash - Ooh this is a tough one as we do enjoy using lots of bold colours in our work. If I had to choose one I would say green. I think it’s probably a nod to my Celtic heritage.

Holly - Considering I wear head-to-toe blue most of the time my favourite colour might come as a surprise. Bird of paradise (B.O.P.) red is a combination of fluro red and hot pink found right at the top point of the “neck” of the flower. This can vary from plant to plant but my favourite is the super hot red colour seen on the red Paradisaeidae plant.

5. What's next for Print Safari?

We’re currently working on our first clothing line which will be available at this year’s Big Design Market Melbourne. Think loose fitting, breathable fabrics, simple lines, tonal prints and of course pockets!

6. What advice can you offer to other creative start-ups and entrepreneurs?

Surround yourself with people who inspire you! Finding people who are like-minded and motivated can be tricky. If you’re just starting out we can’t recommend enough how invaluable internships are. Volunteering your time is the best way to get your foot in the door and meet people! We both did internships while studying and post-study as well. Without interning we may have never crossed paths. Ash actually interned with Ink and Spindle six years ago and now we all share a studio together!

Our second piece of advice is to get help! We work in a studio with a team of talented makers so we’re constantly asking our peers questions. Being in a partnership means we always have each other as sounding boards but it’s good to get a third or fourth opinion so you can hear alternative ideas. This doesn’t mean you need to take on everyone’s thoughts but it’s a great way to discover new knowledge.

As featured on Onya Magazine.

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©2019 by Luana Spadafora