On a nifty little one-block downtown street, a new gallery opened its doors yesterday. Washington Printmakers, at 1832 Jefferson Place NW (463-8847), is a nonprofit gallery organized by a group of 20 printmakers who after 10 years of showing together finally decided, in the words of printmaker and gallery director Carol Pomponio, that "we really need our own gallery."

And that's exactly what they got.

The artists had often met in members' homes to exchange marketing ideas and techniques, functioning as an unofficial "support group." Soon after the Washington Women's Arts Center opened in 1975, they joined, calling themselves the Printmakers of the Washington Women's Arts Center. That group still exists, and many members of Washington Printmakers still maintain membership in the original group.

Pomponio says they received an overwhelming response to their announcement of a new group forming for the purpose of opening an exhibition space. Ultimately the group's founders had to set up a jury process to limit membership in Washington Printmakers to 28 individuals.

There are 27 members now -- a versatile bunch engaged in everything from etching to lithography, serigraphy to woodcutting -- and plans for printmaking demonstrations, maybe even a class or two.

The modest two-room space is divided into an exhibition area for members and a formal gallery for visiting printmakers, whom the gallery hopes to show on a regular basis. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.