Gelatin Plate Printing … Cows

Animals, Mono printing, nature, Printing, Uncategorized

Cows. I like them. I think of the brown ones that swish their tails to bat away the flies. I think of the black and white ones that laze in the sun and twitch their ears, often decorated with yellow plastic tags: an animal equivalent earring.

I’ve made a cow print using the side of my hand, finger tips and palm and I’ve drawn these onto a Gelli-plate using cotton buds. The sketch illustrates what the cow looked like to start with …

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1900s printing

children, life, Printing, reading, Uncategorized, Victorian Era

Yesterday I had the privilege of seeing 1900 printing presses in action at a Victorian Street full of shops in Shropshire. All workers were dressed in costume of the period plus you had the opportunity to change current money into cash of the day at the local bank so you could spend ‘old’ coins in the shops used during the Victorian era.

We took a ride aboard a horse drawn carriage to explore the site so that we could decide in the time we were there what shops to visit. For instance, my OT wanted to see the foundry and blacksmith. For 50p ‘future money’, we had a very bumpy, but fun experience as the wooden wheels of the carriage slid occasionally on the gravel and the lack of shock absorbers was clearly evident!
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The printer supplies printed paper bags for all the shops from the bakery to the pharmacy, sweet shop and post office.
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The worker of the presses gave me demonstrations on the various machines he had around his workshop including a ‘chopper’ which in its time produced 1600 impressions an hour! Judging by his demo, this would have been dangerous work if you imagine twelve-year-old employees being let loose on the machines.
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He explained to a small group of children that they would have had to pass a reading test and showed some fun texts to test their ability of reading including trying to read the message on this print setting plate:
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Can you read what it says?

Another test was to see how good their grammar was:

which one is correct:

a) The yolks of the eggs is white

b) The yolks of the eggs are white

The adults watching were amused when none of the children picked up on the fact that yolks are yellow because they were looking for the grammar error (is/are).

Another test he gave them (which I’ve seen done before as a teacher) was a coloured chart of colour words.

The word would show as RED but the lettering would be in YELLOW. An example of this can be found listed as ‘words optical illusion’ at http://funeyetest.com/words-optical-illusion/

The visit to the 1900s printers and a lino studio set in a place called ‘Jackfield’ or ‘Jacquesfield’ (which I found amusing as my name is Jacques!) has urged me on to get a studio sorted out, but for now, I’m using a side yard – which is better than nothing.

Now back to sorting out my printing space to do some gelli-printing 🙂

Gelli Plate, Gelli Plate, wibble wobble, Gelli Plate!

Mono printing, nature, Printing, life, Uncategorized

At college we were provided with sheets of glass, black ink and a roller to create mono prints. The theme, Creation, was the brief and we explored these by drawing directly into the ink with ends of paintbrushes or our fingers. It was messy work, but fun.

Today, a Gelli plate arrived in the post. It’s thicker than I thought it would be and more versatile with acrylic paints. I found that the acrylic dried too rapidly on lino printing and sometimes the paper would stick where I didn’t want it to! I’ve invested in some block printing ink to continue with the lino when I’ve done some more cutting now that I have some more lino :-). In the meantime, I thought I’d share with you the cover I’ve created using the Gelli plate for my sketchbook and some postcards using leaves and grasses. What’s great about the plate is that there is no need to clean it each time and you can lay the card repeatedly onto the ink and gradually it becomes clean.

Also, in these photographs, you can see the result of my lino print for the ‘Wanderer in the Mists’ impression. I’m going to add another layer to this to present different distances on the top part of the picture where the man is standing.

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a present cut and past print

life, Printing, Uncategorized

As I’ve been sharing a bit about how I got into printing, I thought it might be a great opportunity to showcase a couple of prints I did in the late 1980s to get those juice buds flowing! This also gives me time to cut some lino, some paper, sort some ink and clear up the work station which has up to now been used as a storage for wood and a rather unwelcome cobweb forest above my head! I’m currently using the side yard of our house – a covered walk way with a few cupboards and shelving, plus worktops along one side of the space next to the wall.

I’ve managed to find a cutting board that my husband made while my daughter was studying A level Art five years ago. Wow! Was it really that long ago? As you can see, I’m already putting it to good use.

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The image I’ve sketched out and cut is from one of my favourite paintings by Friedrich, called The Wanderer above the Mists. I love the idea of silhouettes and how you can have a very dramatic background of colours such as a stained glass window with the sun coming through or a setting sun.

The reason I’m showing you the above work-in-progress is because it fits well with this example print I made in the 1980s:
This is the printing plate, cut from cardboard. Each section carefully scored and peeled away from the backing.
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Here is the result from using a card based printing plate:
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and in colour:

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It’s been refreshing sifting through my old printing portfolio, which I’ve kept in the loft for years. I’ve brought it out on several occasions to inspire my children with their own art projects and also to encourage my youngest who as yet finds it bemusing to have to keep a journal/portfolio to show ideas and progression for projects at school. I think I’m succeeding in helping her see the benefits and no ideas are wasted, even if you don’t use them straight away! 🙂

A dip into the past

Printing, life, Uncategorized

So where did all this printing knowledge and experience come from? How did I know what I was looking for at the auction when sourcing a printing press?

I studied extended printing for A level. I had to submit a portfolio of different printing techniques using various printing equipment and inks or paints while at college. This included intaglio, mono printing, lino cutting, card prints, etching in copper and prints taken from scratching into plastic. We made rubber stamps and wood blocks. The smell of the oil paints and getting my hands dirty with black ink didn’t bother me.

After college, I was accepted onto a course to study art further. I had to submit some pre-course materials set to a brief in order to demonstrate my drawing skills. One of these tasks was an abstract self-portrait.

I moved on from this to work for a company, which involved a bus ride to work or my dad dropping me off on route to his firm. Occasionally, he would forget to pick me up on the way home and I would be frantically waving at him as he drove past!

The company sent me on a course in London and I studied printing science and made electrostatic plates for the lithographic printing presses. I was only 18 and going to London back then was one big adventure.

On return from London, I was promoted to work on a Rotaprint machine which prints up to A3. This was in contrast to the first press I was trained on: a. 1250 multilithographic press which could manage A4 or smaller. I was glad of the change, despite earning the nickname Queen of the Tyvek. For those who aren’t familiar with Tyvek – it is a waterproof paper which is notoriously difficult to print on because it slides. The paper is made up of cotton woven into it so it doesn’t tear. I mastered this quite successfully, hence the nickname. However, while I was learning this my boss draw a cartoon of me (I also liked wearing baggy trousers back then and desert boots). It was great having an artistic boss, but at 18 I wasn’t quite sure how to take the cartoon. I’m glad I kept it because it still makes me laugh now.

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So, that was how I got into the printing industry …

A serendipity day which led to this:

Printing, press, auction, Uncategorized

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By a series of coincidences or serendipity or even synchronicity, I found myself driving down a road I hadn’t been down before. It was the arresting sight of a beautiful waterfall in Rickford that caught my attention along with a sign to Mendip Picture Framers and Restorers.

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I saw the sign first, then the waterfall and decided to park up. Fortunately, I already had my camera charged as I was heading for the beach to take photographs of sand sculptures!

There was a short walk alongside the stream to the picture restorers and an antique store called The Old Curioddity Shop. The picture framer had placed some offcuts of mounting board in the entrance ‘free to takers’ and there was a set of stairs to the right of the door leading up to the antiques. I wasn’t sure quite what I would find – perhaps a little momento of my solo trip?

I trawled through the bric-a-brac and military collections; plates; glass walking sticks; vases and some odd looking tables. There were three rooms filled to capacity with something to suit all tastes, yet I didn’t find anything that I felt worthy of parting my cash for. I struck up a conversation with the owner, saying how nice it was to just amble along and browse without my husband itching to move on. He doesn’t favour changing course, which means I’ve missed popping into potters at work; art gallery exhibitions and so on when we’ve been away on holiday. He very rarely stops if I want to take a photograph either, usually because we have to be somewhere such as the train station by a certain time!

The conversation shifted onto the subject of my illustrations. I shared some from my sketchbook, saying that I was looking for a printing press – something I’ve wanted for years but thought out of my price bracket. Unreachable. He admired my drawings, liking them to the great illustrator, Edward Ardizzone and he asked if I had been inspired by the guy (I later found out he’d illustrated Stig of the Dump and Don Quixote – books that I was very familiar with). I investigated this illustrator on my return home and as mentioned above, he is famous for the aforementioned books. I studied Stig of the Dump while at school many years ago and when I was seventeen I fell in love with one of the etchings I found in Don Quixote of a man with his arms around a donkey. I was so drawn to the emotions in that man’s face, tears running down his cheeks, that I fetched my Rotring pen and sketched the picture. Years later, this summer to be precise, that book came out of the attic again. My eldest child was studying the story in Spanish and my father had a copy of the book from 1870s. The pages are in perfect condition although the cover is a bit worn along the spine.

While discussing Edward Ardizzone, and feeling flattered by this compliment, the antique owner began a search for me and found several printing presses which had sold in the past two years to give me an idea of the price. He then proceeded to look for current auctions selling printing presses. He found ONE. It was in my price range. The auction rooms were currently open to viewings and the auction was due to take place two days later. I looked at the address of the auction and to my amazement and delight, realised it was closer to home that the antique room I was standing in.

The man gave me a calendar with the map to the site and I made the decision to go and view Lot 119 on Friday and register as a buyer at the same time.

The short drive to the auction rooms consisted of my twelve year old and eldest daughters navigating using a map on my iPad. As we entered the parking bay we spotted a bistro restaurant, a craft shop and of course, the Auction Rooms. Inside was fairly quiet for viewing the Lots and there was a hatch to the side where I spotted someone I knew from a few years back. An ex-work colleague ex-art teacher was behind the counter. She grinned; I grinned back. We exchanged news and babbled about recent events and she smiled even more when she saw my grown up daughter, one of her ex-pupils!

It was fantastic to have someone I knew and trusted to demonstrate the press and explain the bidding process. After filling in various forms, I was handed a bidding card with a number on it which I was to wave at the auctioneer if I wanted to submit my bid.

Saturday was warm and sunny. The auction rooms were busy and people continued to arrive after bidding began just after 10. We spoke to a few people about the process and everyone seemed in a jolly mood. There were some serious buyers, possibly antique dealers who gave only the slightest dip with their head and if you blinked you would have missed it. As my Lot number appeared on the screen displayed next to the auctioneer, I could feel my pulse increase and the bidding began.

I reached my limit on what I’d intended to bid and it was between me and a man at the back of the room. My son urged me to up my bid once more and he promised to pay the difference. If he hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have come home with a printing press. We paid just £15 over what I said I’d go up to and my son kept his word. So thank you to him 🙂