Jonathan Cowie takes a dip with artist Ian Battersby of the National Park Print Shop.
The air temperature is -5 degrees when I meet artist and print studio owner Ian Battersby on the shore of Windermere. “I started swimming outdoors in 2018, but last year was my first winter. This, however, is another level of cold-water swimming,” he laughs. “I am not sure I really want to get in!”
Ian and his partner Pete moved to the Lake District four years ago, having spent many years in Leeds and then latterly London. “In many ways the pandemic just confirmed that we had made the right move giving up city life,” he says. “It has been a big change, but we love having this huge playground of mountains and lakes on our doorstep.”
It hasn’t been just a change of location for the couple. In his previous life Ian was a high-powered lawyer, working in London’s Canary Wharf. As we enter the 6-degree water I ask about his evolution from lawyer to artist and maker.
“As a teenager I loved drawing and I really reconnected with that when we moved to the Lake District,” says Ian. “I was at a stage in my life where I wanted to try something different. I wanted to do something that celebrates the good things in life – the great outdoors, adventure, food and travel. The National Park Print Shop began as an online store showcasing the work of local indie artists and makers, including my own illustrations. We specialise in quirky and affordable prints. The artworks are mostly outdoors-themed and created using a technique called Risograph printing. It allows me to print with colours that really pop.”
The formula worked so well that three months ago Ian opened a bricks-and-mortar shop in Windermere village to complement his online store. After our swim we retire to the tasteful shop and studio to warm up with hot chocolate. In the welcoming gallery space, brightly coloured contemporary prints vie for your attention with fun pins, patches and stickers. As we warm our hands on our mugs, Ian tells me the ethos behind his business.
“It’s important to me to support local and northern artists,” he says. “As a small business it is hard to compete with the likes of Amazon, but if you shop with us you are not only supporting local and small businesses, but also putting something back into the community.”
On Black Friday every year the National Park Print Shop has a different kind of special offer to Amazon and other major retailers. “I call it Black Bin Bag Friday,” says Ian. “For every sale online and in the shop I pledge to pick 1lb of litter. Small businesses can’t afford to offer the same discounts as big retailers, but we can compete by giving back to our local communities.”
Looking round the shop I am struck by the positivity of the prints on the walls – from landscapes to wild swimming illustrations, the artworks embody Ian’s love of the outdoors combined with a fun and quirky outlook on life. “Life is a great adventure,” he says. “To quote Jack Kerouac: ‘In the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.’”'Rest & Reflection' page.