Interview with Sara Gates: Featured Artist and Collaborator

We are so excited to be featuring the work of Sara Gates, whose limited edition collaboration on the ARTbutt Jane Briefs can be seen here.  Sara is an artist, collaborative printmaker, and business owner who works in Brooklyn and lives in Rockaway Beach. She is the mastermind behind Gallery Diorama and in 2006 she founded Kingsland Printing, an artistic-minded, high-end, collaborative screen printing studio which she still owns and operates today--and also where the Jane Briefs were printed!

Fun fact: Sara and I were studiomates at Rockaway Artists Alliance in the summer of 2019 when we first hatched this idea. She was volunteering as an instructor at the print studio there and we spent many an idyllic summer day biking out to Fort Tilden, working in the studio, then frolicking together into the ocean afterwards. And I DO mean ✨frolicking✨...if you grab a pair of these panties don’t be surprised if you feel a bit of that whimsical energy too!

Read on to learn more about Sara and her creative process below:

How did you initially discover printmaking, what drew you to it?

I actually didn't discover printmaking until after I finished my BFA. I was singularly focused on painting for those 4 years, and I had little interest in pursuing printmaking or any other mediums. So it wasn't until after I finished my undergrad and moved across the country to San Francisco that I took my first screen printing class at CCA with Thomas Wojak. I'm still not quite sure how I got into that class that had a waitlist, at a school I was not currently enrolled in, but I'm glad I did because it basically changed my life and my art practice. I spent every night in the print studio that semester and have been making prints ever since! Painting is still my first love, but I found a freedom in printmaking and making multiples that wasn't there for me before in any other art practice. Screen printing didn't take itself too seriously, or maybe I just didn't take it so seriously. I felt I could make anything and everything with this process.

What other mediums have informed your creative practice?

Painting first and foremost, but as I was getting into printmaking I also started making large scale installation work, I was obsessed with creating whole environments, something immersive that you were part of, and not just looking at on a wall. That was the thing that initially drew me to textile printing. The prints are living and moving, they are out interacting in the world. The last few years I have been experimenting with clay. Which has given me a new way to create pieces that interact in the world. I love the function of a ceramic piece. Beyond that my yoga practice has given me a structure and framework for viewing myself in the world that informs everything I create.

What is your process in creating images for your prints? And can you tell us a little bit more about your design featured on the ARTbutt briefs?

I usually start with a process that produces a random pattern. I used to dye alot of fabric and work from those, but currently I'm working with different colored clay bodies to create patterns and marbling effects. I love the difference in each piece, even if your hands create the same pattern each time the results are different each time. It's basically the opposite of screenprinting. These random patterns are then photographed and manipulated in photoshop to create my prints--this stage of the process inserts a sense of control back into them. I can organize, repeat, rotate and reinterpret to get the look I want. It's all about chaos and control and the constant struggle between those two forces.

You also own Kingsland Printing, a full service screenprinting studio in Brooklyn. What have been some of the biggest highlights and challenges of running a successful creative business while maintaining your own personal artistic practice?

Running a business can easily become your whole life. It's always been a struggle to keep my art practice but it's something that's necessary for me to keep sane. This last year due to Covid was tough. I spent the previous year building out a new dedicated fine art printing studio below my current studio. I doubled the size of my studio space, bought new equipment, planned classes and events and shows and then...the world shut down. It was pretty devastating at first but everything happens for a reason. I was forced to slow down, to look at my business in a new way. I like to think of it as my biggest installation to date. Things are much better now, leaner, i'm more intentional with the work I take and my day-to-day is so much more enjoyable than it has been in years.

I wouldn't change anything though, I have been able to meet and work with so many talented artists, designers, and creatives of all types.

What are you working on now?

Screen printing on clay.
Pondering the nature of a trophy.
Running a miniature gallery.
Thinking about starting a “real” size gallery.
Printing new art editions with Roy Miranda, Ian Fagan, Trish Andersen, and Linda Francis.

Best advice you ever got?

"The harder you work the luckier you will get." -My Dad.

"Your disorganization will be your downfall in life." -A professor I had a Pratt.
I think about this often, because I am not an organized person and this really struck 
a nerve with me. I did see this professor at a bar a few years ago wearing a top hat and carrying around a saxophone in the throws of a mid life crisis, so maybe I wont think about it too much anymore.