Thursday, 24 October 2013

Post 4

Planning a print
Carving in progress
First Repeat Pattern Print
The Columbian Press

I wanted to investigate the possibilities of using some kind of printing press as I have been using other ways of burnishing the print, such as rubbing the paper on the wood with the back of a wooden spoon, and simply using my hand, I saw printmaker Merlyn Chesterman (below) using this method at Art in Action in Oxford.  

I located the fine art printing room where I was introduced to the extremely impressive Columbian press which is over 175 years old.  I was given and induction to the printing room and how to use the equipment.  My first carving was unfortunately too thick to fit in the press which was a bit of a let-down but I used another block to learn how to use it and how to pad the press out to get enough pressure.  The physical action of using the press feels a long way from sitting at a sewing machine or designing at a desk, I like the physical activity needed to produce a print.  
What I learned from using the press:

1   To carve deeper lines and use less detail as fine lines seem to get blocked with ink after about 8-10 prints and images start to look less sharp and more blobby.
2   mix colours more carefully and don’t use a new colour on an already inked block without cleaning it.
3   plan designs before printing, maybe with small sketch
4   cut away background of carving or will leave an impression of the wood even without ink
 use the right amount of pressure, always print in the middle of the press for even prints, don’t forget to reposition paper or it will look very patchy, although I think this effect could be used in small amounts to add to the handmade look.  

Visit to Special Collections
I examined a number of printed papers from the Schmoller Collection, most of which were decorative papers used for covering books, lining draws and edging shelves.  I was inspired by the different patterns, colours and playful designs.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Post 3

I found it difficult to think of original imagery to use in my prints, I was very keen to find something different and unique, I really could have continued to deliberate over this for the rest of the term, however in order to physically make a start I pushed myself to choose a subject.   A trip to Manchester University Museum gave me the inspiration I needed.
As a starting point for the minor project I am looking at the complex structure of insects as there is potential for interesting shapes and detailed texture to carve.  I feel more involved with technical considerations at this stage in the project.  I intend to expand on and experiment with the types of imagery I use during the major project and be more selective with my choice of subject, as it has been pointed out to me that insects on a wall are not to everyone’s taste, however I was hoping not to make conventional wallpaper, so for now I am happy with the imagery.

I have carved a set of three individual insects which I can use to form a number of different print designs.  I have experimented with some different layouts on strips of wallpaper.  I think they are more effective when they are crowded together rather than in isolation.  I am pleased with how my carving technique is improving. 
Following on from this week I feel that I am up for the challenge of carving a larger repeat pattern.  I have decided to design a collage of insects overlapping and interlocking, the individual insects won’t stand out as clearly so it will appear more like a mass of detailed pattern with balanced areas of dark and light.  

Marthe Armitage
I have found it quite difficult to find other people working in a similar way, although this gives me confidence that what I am doing is somewhat unusual and inspires me to pursue it.  One of my main inspirations is Marthe Armitage who block prints wallpaper using her hand cut lino blocks.  I first came across her work on the ‘Fabric of Britain’ series on wallpaper on the BBC.  She looked very involved in her work and she had obviously found something that she really enjoyed doing, which she had also made into a successful business.

Her large lino cuts are mostly 21 inches, covering the width of the wallpaper; this is something I could possibly aim to do in the future. There are a lot of technical aspects I need to consider, but I enjoy that kind of challenge and want to take time to find the most effective way of printing with wood.  At this point I do not know exactly what type of printing machine I will need.  I admire Armitage’s determination to work for herself and see the process through from beginning to end.  I aspire to have a similar outlook and really try to make a success of working for myself in the future.

From looking at Armitage’s work I realised that wallpaper does not need to cover a whole room, a feature wall on its own can be very effective and eye catching, like the one below which Marthe Armitage printed for High Road House Hotel in London.
Wallpaper printed by Marthe Armitage
House and Garden, November 2013

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Post 2

Mark making
My first prints:  Hammering different objects into wood to create marks
After my first attempt at carving I found that I was very restricted by not having the right tools so I decided to invest in some finer tools which have made a huge difference and given me a greater choice of marks that I can make.

Through looking at other people’s work and wood carving guide books I realised that there are endless types of marks and textures that can be created in the wood and was eager to experiment with these.
I have found that one of the best woods for carving is seasoned lime wood, as it is both soft and dense, so much easier to carve compared to other types of wood that I tried.  After contacting numerous wood suppliers, I managed after a lot of searching to locate a specialist timber merchant from whom I was able to buy a small amount of lime wood.
I did not want to limit myself to one subject immediately and I wanted to express something of myself in a design, so during my first week I worked on an image in which I tried to show contrasting imagery of countryside and city.  I travel regularly between the two and I am always struck by the huge contrast.  I want to at some point challenge myself by carving a larger repeat pattern block, but as I did not yet have the confidence I decided to contain the image within another shape ie. a circle. The circle reminds me of the view seen through a pair of binoculars. 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Post 1

Starting Third Year

During the summer holidays I visited several exhibitions, galleries and museums and I became increasingly interested in hand block printing.  The hands on process really appeals to me and the challenge of learning this new technique.  The detailed woodcut prints by Albrecht Durer in the Whitworth are extremely impressive; it is hard to believe that he could achieve such detail.  I saw Merlyn Chesterman demonstrating how she made her large lime wood prints at art in Action in Oxfordshire, and later I saw the same print at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition along with several other block print artists; this gave me the confidence to believe I had found something I could feel passionate about doing.   I visited New Designers in London and realised how much digital work was on show and this made me even more determined to pursue a hand process.   As I have previously focused more on embroidery my knowledge of printing is limited so I started to look at different prints both traditional and modern.  The idea of doing something original in print is very daunting because everything seems to have been done already. I want to be open-minded at this stage and not restrict myself. 

My aim at this stage is to design and make a portfolio of bespoke hand block printed wallpaper samples.  I want to develop the techniques I began to explore during the summer holidays and I want to pursue my passion for being hands on with my work rather than using digital processes.  My aim is for an interior context and my target market is people looking to own pieces that are individual and unique; something they could not find in a local high street shop.  My audience is someone who desires to own something different that has been hand-made and they can be proud to display.

I will be exploring a variety of ways to construct a printed piece using carved wood blocks.  I will experiment with size and proportion and a number of different design layouts.  I will research older methods of wood block printing and carving as well as more modern techniques. Finding the best tools and wood to use, the correct printing inks, and suitable papers will be important.  

my photos of inspiration from summer holidays
Albrect Durer in the Whitworth
& John Bryce at the Royal Accademy Summer Exhibition
Mokhlesur Rahman large prints on silk scarves at Venice Biennale
& Japanese wood block prints at Ashmolean Museum Oxford
Merlyn Chesterman at Art in Action, Waterperry, Oxfordshire
Hand Block printed French wallpaper c.1760 & c.1790
Whitworth Gallery