Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Unit X Post 7

I am pleased that I have been single minded about my product outcome for this unit and not been tempted to diversify into other areas which could have led me off course.  I wanted to focus on working with this hand process and not reproduce it digitally.  I like the fact that there will perhaps be a very small market for hand printed wallpaper and this encourages me to continue working with a traditional print process.   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.

Before the degree show I will be creating a website and business cards, the talk Alex gave about online portfolios was extremely insightful and showed how valuable the internet can be when it comes to promoting oneself.  I have decided to use Wix to create a website.  I want to make it easy to navigate, with a simple layout and clear text and images, I will continue to work on and improve the website after the course. 

I have loved working with the 175 years old Columbian printing press this year. 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.  Although it has been a great friend to me this year and I will surely miss it, I do not think it is ideal for printing wallpaper as it was originally designed for printing newspapers with letterpress.  My first challenge after we leave will be to find a suitable press. 

Marthe Armitage who I have previously looked at uses an old lithographic proofing press; a large roller picks up the ink from her 21 inch wide lino cut and transfers it to the paper.  From a video I have seen it looks to be very effective, but I still like the idea of the wood making physical contact with the paper.  If I am not able to find a suitable press, I will consider having one made.  I would be collaborating with my cousin on this project, he has built his own house from scratch and he has offered to design a wallpaper printing press with me.  He has suggested using a hydraulic system for this.  I look forward to being involved with this and being able to continue working with hand-carved woodblocks and exploring different design possibilities.

I have really enjoyed all parts of this unit and I am very happy with the way I have been working.  I am sad that my time at MMU is over, I have loved the experience and I have felt very privileged to have been on the course.  I hope I can progress and continue to work as an artist in the outside world.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Unit X Post 6

Printing Lengths
Printing first length on the Columbian press
Second length drying - busy at the bottom, more minimal at the top
Third length on the bed of the press - printing over blocked off circles
I thought about making a wallpaper book to show samples for the degree show, but I decided that I wouldn’t be able to show the different layouts I have tried in such a small space.  For the degree show I am aiming to have 3 floor to ceiling samples with around 8-10 variations on these prints to accompany them.  Some will incorporate more or less elements than others, some busy and others less so.  

blocks with ink/no ink
I have found it extremely challenging to join the blocks up perfectly every time.  It is a really delicate process placing the block on the paper, there is only one chance to get it right, because of this every print is slightly different in the way it joins and the thickness of the ink sometimes varies.  I tend to be a perfectionist by nature and I am learning to embrace the imperfections that come with this hand process, I have been gradually realising that the quirks and imperfections that happen along the way are all part of it and only add to the handmade feel.

Tools used to hammer, scratch and mark the wood to build areas of texture
working on side of cupboard

Working on this carving alongside printing my other blocks has been satisfying; I have really enjoyed it because it has been more like working on a painting or drawing, building areas of texture.  It has felt more immediate and there has been the opportunity to be more flexible, I was less worried about keeping it as precise as my other carvings.  I will be using a burnishing technique to take a print from this carving, the same process I saw Merlyn Chesterman demonstrating at Art in Action in Oxfordshire.  She vigorously rubs the paper onto the print to pick up the ink with the back of a wooden spoon or her Japanese bamboo burnisher.

Merlyn Chesterman burnishing her large lime woodcut

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Unit X Post 5

Carvings before varnishing

Having finished the carving, I now have to concentrate on colour and layouts.  It is not easy mixing colours with the thick oil based ink as they take a long time to blend.  I sent off for some new ink from Intaglio printmakers in London and I spent a couple of days mixing and testing colours.  I originally had in mind a blueish colour palette, however looking at the prints I found a coral colour that I was happy with.  I also experimented with bright red, gold silver etc.  I decided to eliminate the blue all together in favour of a greeny turquoise.  I am a bit out of my comfort zone with these brighter shades; however I wanted to try and use colours that are not typically associated with traditional block printing.

I have found it can take up to half an hour to remix a particular shade of colour and get the right consistency of ink.  This feels quite frustrating; it is very different to painting and can often feel very limiting.  It is hard to be creative when it takes so long and can sometimes be quite disheartening.  This is probably the only negative side of printing and takes a lot of patience.

Colour testing

I started painting the wallpaper with Annie Sloan chalk paint which gives the paper more of a texture.  Changing the colour behind the print completely alters the mood of the design.  I saw the very old wallpapers in the Victoria and Albert museum archives and admired the chalky textures they had.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint for backgrounds
I started experimenting with different layouts and combinations of the blocks on the wallpaper, It seemed there could be endless different ways of combining colours and design layouts, however I realise I will only have a couple of weeks to experiment before I need to decide on the final designs.  Time in the print room seems to go very fast and I often wish it was open later than 4.30.

Samples on wallpaper