The Hard Ground Printmakers workshop was established in 1989, with Jonathan Comerford as director. The original concept of the workshop was to empower printmakers and to enable them to create high quality, sellable works.
The workshop was able to form with money from private donors, and was originally situated in the Gardens, Cape Town. Subsequently it moved to Woodstock, Cape Town. The workshop boasts the largest printing press ever built in Africa, being 2 metres by 1.25 metres. The way the workshop functions is that an artist can become a member of the workshop for a nominal fee, and they then can use the facilities. The workshop is a self-funding business, and its aim is to support and continue the upgrading of the art industry in South Africa. The workshop provides the facilities and materials needed. It then manufactures and markets the artworks, exposing and promoting them. The workshop is an alternative to attending an institution such as university or technikon for young artists going into the printmaking field of art.
The name Hard Ground Printmakers has two meanings. The first is about the hard, barren ground that constitutes a portion of the South African socio-political art landscape. Comerford was aware that it would be difficult to plant a concept such as a workshop in a country like South Africa. It would be hard to make the workshop grow and flourish, and to break through the restrictions placed on the arts, and especially the art of independent South African artists, through the workshop. The second is a primary technique used in etching. It is a waxy resinous substance used to cover the surface of the etching plate. The artist then etches through it. It is an acid resistant medium, which also ties into the theme of the workshop. It is resistant to problems that might occur, and the workshop has already successfully dealt with the resistance that met its inception.