I did this tree silhouette this evening as the wind is howling outside. Hope it cheers everyone up.
Ok, when I learned all about the printing trade in my early teens, a gelliplate didn’t exist. We used glass panes, perspex, polystyrene, wood and metal, foam and cardboard plus the traditional carved up potato! So, I’m delighted to share this experience with you of my first ever gelliprint portrait 🙂
I prepared the gelliplate with a brayer and watercolours. Can anyone guess what object I used to provide a textured feature of the face?
Another bit of creativity today was making up a flat-pack paper storage unit for my print studio. The room isn’t large enough for a plan chest, but I do need somewhere to store my prints and paper or card flat. This was perfect
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.
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.
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 🙂