Author Archives: Isabel Smithson

Inside the Technician’s Toolbox – Part 3: Izzy Smithson

Overview of Izzy's Toolbox. A pot of paintbrushes. A pot of pencils. 2 pencil cases with various pens. A watercolour pallet. A packet of oil pastels. A metal ruler, scalpel and loose pencils. PVA in a bottle. Photographs, coloured paper scraps in a pile.
Izzy’s tool kit

Printmaking Support Technican Izzy Smithson shares her sketching and bookbinding toolbox with us.

Izzy has adapted this toolbox as a travel case as she no longer has access to her permanent studio. This therefore creates a focus on the core items that are the buildings blocks of her practice. She can move this toolbox between work and home, creating work wherever the circumstances take her.

We asked Izzy:

What is the one must-have basic essential (most used) tool in your toolbox?

Swann-Morton Scalpel, Muji Gel Ink Ballpoint Pen, Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil.

I use these in every drawing, sketch and collage I do, which then transforms into other processes.

A scalpel, muji gel ink pen and drawing pencil on a blue background.
Swann-Morton Scalpel, Muji Gel Ink Ballpoint Pen, Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil.

What is your favourite tool?

Pencils! My favourite pencils at the moment: Muji Blue Pencil, Polycolor Koh-I-Noor Red & Purple, Faber-Castell Polychromos Dark Indigo, Black Chinagraph Marker, Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil.

a mixture of coloured pencils, with a chinagraph marker and drawing pencil.
Muji Blue Pencil, Polycolor Koh-I-Noor Red & Purple, Faber-Castell Polychromos Dark Indigo, Black Chinagraph Marker, Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil.

What is the weirdest/quirkiest/most specialist tool you have?

My Brother printer (A3 printer, scanner…. Best purchase post-graduation) and my collection of images that I keep, chop up, use as a reference and go back to for collage.

How to Start an Art Collection

A collection of prints displayed on a table.

In response to our Print Curiosities series, you might be asking yourself ‘how can I start my own art collection?’. Starting to create a collection of artworks can be a daunting and expensive idea for many. I am a recent graduate and don’t have the funds to purchase prints from some of my favourite artists, but there are ways to start creating a collection without this pressure. So….. here are some small and easy tips of how to get involved in starting your own print collection.

Tip no. 1: Swap with friends, peers and colleagues.

Being able to swap prints, books, photographs, paintings and sculpture with friends will help to grow your collection without spending money. Whilst on my MA, I swapped a project of artist books with some of my classmates, therefore starting a small artist book collection! These books not only are beautiful, but they can be a connection to this time in your life and a great way of supporting each other.

Fellow technicians swap Christmas cards in the festive period. They aren’t huge elaborate prints, but they are still beautiful, detailed and individual pieces of art that can be framed, placed on book shelves or mantelpieces.

Front cover of two blue books.

Tip no. 2: Join a print exchange, organised by an external body.

I took part in the 20:20 print exchange in 2019, organised by Hot Bed Press, with some fellow students at the RCA. The 20:20 print exchange invites artists from print studios across the country to submit original prints. I made a joint application with some of my fellow RCA students, as we had to form a print studio to submit our work. The print has to be 20 x 20cm and in an edition of 20. This was then sent off to Hot Bed Press. In return, we were each given a box of 20 prints from other participants in the print exchange. I got prints ranging from screen prints, etchings and risograph prints. Here are some of my favourites. There is a small fee with this, but you get a lot of prints in return. This is a local print exchange in the UK, but there are many around the world.

You can find out more about Hot Bed Presses Print Exchange on their website.

Tip no. 3: Look on the instagram hashtag #artistsupportpledge.

#artistsupport pledge was created during the lockdown of summer 2020 to help support artists and makers in selling work, as a lot of people in this sector have been struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The idea is that an artist can post an image of works on Instagram to sell for less than £200. Each time an artist reaches £1000 worth of sales, they pledge to spend £200 on another artist/makers’ work. This is a great way of finding artwork through the hashtag, discovering new artists and supporting them with your purchase. You can find amazing prints for relatively inexpensive prices… a complete steal, so check it out!

You can find out more information and browse works on their website and instagram.

Screen shot of the hashtag artist support pledge, with images in a grid of artwork for sale.

Easy Single Sheet Zine Making at Home

A group of zines on a table, all hand drawn with colourful pencils.

This is a super easy way of working from home, only using a single sheet of paper, a scalpel and your favourite drawing tools. I started by creating these small, cheap zine based ‘sketchbooks’ as a way for me to get creative and start drawing without feeling pressure, during the previous lockdown in March.

I found these really useful for getting my hands moving again, whether it be drawing, collaging, potato printing etc. They can act as springboards into new ideas, finding drawings you want to develop further, or even just a way of loosening up drawing. I have created a guide of how to make this easy zines including folding, cutting and assembling instructions. Give it a go and hopefully it will help to kick start any projects!

Two sheets of paper. One printer paper, roughly 90gsm and the other Fabriano Accademia, roughly 200gsm.

You can use any paper you have for this zine, you only need 1 sheet! The two above are a printer paper (shiny, low quality, roughly 90gsm) and a piece of Fabriano Accademia (matte, high quality, 200gsm). Use ANY paper so think about what you have to hand, don’t go out of your way to buy specific paper. Here are some examples: printer paper, artist papers, recycled papers, left over collage photograph paper, junk mail, newspaper, old drawings, old prints, paper samples etc etc!

You can follow this step-by-step instruction or scroll to the end of this blog post where there is a video of this process.


A piece of paper with folds marks drawn and labelled A, B, C and D.

Above is an image of the fold lines you will need to create. You will be folding your paper into 8 equal sections. Start by folding your paper in half widthways (Fold A in the diagram). You can use a bone folder, but I have been using a pen to get the edges crisp.

Then fold the outer edges on the short side into the middle folded line, creating two parallel folds (Fold B & C in the diagram).

Piece of paper with folds width ways half way and then either side half of that.

Fold your paper in half lengthways (Fold D in the diagram). You should now have all the fold marks shown on the grid in the diagram. The folds should divide the page into 8 equal sections.


Paper with all folds on. A cut line has been drawn from the first width fold to the third width fold.

Above is a diagram of where you will need to cut. Unfold your paper, so that it is flat. Cut along the middle length line (Fold D in the diagram), starting at the first width fold line (Fold C in the diagram) and finishing at the third width fold line (Fold B in the diagram).

If you fold your paper along the length line and stand it up like a tent. You should be able to see the cut through the top.

Image of paper with a cut through the middle.


Start folding your paper along the half length fold so that it stands like a tent. Hold both sides of the tent shape and push the ends towards each other. You should see the incision open into a diamond shape. Keep pushing until they make contact and create a cross shape.

Make the cross shape into the shape of a letter K, so that two sides are in line with each other. To do this, pinch the middle of the cross and push two facing sides away from each other so that they create a straight line. These will be your front and back cover. Keep pushing them until they meet the other sides and squeeze them all together.

Place the zine flat and that is your front cover. Now, time to draw.

The folded zine.

Here is a video of one of the zines I created.

Stencil Screen Printing From Home

Stencil screen print of egg packaging.

This blog post will show you another screen printing hack for anyone missing the studios. This method of printing is using a paper stencil as a barrier. This process is similar to the way you would work in the studio, but much more lo-fi.

Instead of using emulsion to act as a barrier for your ink, you will be using cut/torn newsprint (any thin paper) to do this. This process is great for experimenting with layers, textures and shapes!

You can create very detailed stencils or stencils that are a lot more abstract. This way of printing will allow you to create an edition, but only of a small size. The “barrier” paper will degrade over time.

Display of all the tools you will need. Screen, papers, scissors, inks, tapes, squeegee, card, j cloth.

What you will need:

  • Squeegee
  • Screen
  • Water based ink
  • Paper (Normal to print onto)
  • Paper (Thinner for your barrier)
  • Parcel tape
  • Ink pots
  • Sponge/J-Cloth for cleaning your screen.
  • Spatula/ ID card for spreading ink onto your screen.
  • Spoon/knife for mixing inks in your pot.

Optional extras:

Our list of suppliers has information on where you can buy some of these materials from.

Step 1: Tape out your screen to create a window just smaller than your paper. Remember that anywhere you can see your screen mesh ink will print!

I have used parcel tape, but you can use white tape or anything similar. I have got clamps to hold my screen in place when printing, but if you don’t have these you could ask a flatmate to hold it down, or use big bags of rice.

Screen attached to wood with clamps, with tape creating a 'window'

Step 2: Position your paper under your screen, so that it lines up with the window you created with parcel tape. Once it is in place use tape to mark where the corner of your paper should be. I have used masking tape to mark where my corners land.

Paper in line underneath a screen, with tape to mark the edges.

Step 3: Create your stencil! Using thin paper, cut or tear your paper to create stencils. I have used newsprint which is 90gsm. At this point you can be experimental. You can cut a very detailed stencil using a scalpel/scissors or tear the paper for more abstract shapes with textured edges.

Step 4: Get your inks ready. If you have ready mixed inks that’s great, but you can easily use any brand of acrylic paint with screen printing medium. Remember to mix your paint with at least 50% of the Screen printing medium.

I have used the ends of plastic bottles as my ink storage, but you can use anything you find in your home.

Step 5: Position your stencil on top of your printing paper. Place the paper in the registration marks and place your stencil on top exactly where you want the design.

Step 6: Prop your screen on a roll of tape to allow you to flood the screen before printing.

roll of masking tape propping up screen.

Step 7: Floor your screen. Run a large amount of ink along the near side of your screen. You will then use your squeegee to push the ink to the back of the screen, covering the open area.

Step 8: You’re ready to print. Take out the roll of tape and place the screen down. With your squeegee, push down and pull it towards you.

1 or 2 pulls should be enough. If you are pulling twice don’t lift your screen up to look at your print in between, as you may move the paper underneath the screen. The first print might not be the best quality, but it will soon fill in.

screen with ink printed and squeegee pulled towards printer.

Step 9: Lift up your screen and reveal your masterpiece. Put your print on the drying rack, flood your screen and keep printing, by repeating from Step 5 onwards.

Remember to keep moving when printing as you don’t want the ink to dry in the mesh. If you need to pause then just clean your screen before.

screen lifted with print underneath.

Step 10: Once you have completed all the prints you want from this stencil, use your ID card or spatula to scoop up your ink and save it for another time. Peel off your stencil from the underside of your screen and use your j-cloth or sponge with water to give your screen a thorough wash.

You can repeat from Step 3 if you want to add another layer to your print. This could add more detail, a new colour or a background. Take time to line up your second stencil on top of your first colour before printing.

You can keep adding layers to your print and be experimental with how you work.

One completed, this print can be worked into, using pencils, inks, oil pastels or pens and can be cut up and used for collage.

finished two layer print of eggs, banana and orange.

Congratulations Florence Hawkins!!

As many of you probably know, our Screen Print technician Florence Hawkins flew the nest mid-November. After 7 years at LCC, Flo was ready for new challenges and has moved onto a very exciting role at CSM as a Print & Dye Specialist Technician. Flo’s practice focusses on printed textiles and natural dyes, where she researches and creates colours from biowaste and foraged plant extracts. We were all sad to see Flo go, but knew that this job was made for her! In the new workshop Flo has quickly felt ‘at home’ and is inspired by the environment and new courses she teaches, from BA and MA Textile, Fashion, Biodesign and Material Futures. She is excited to see more projects focused on sustainable material practice and hopefully turn the roof terrace at CSM into a dye garden!

This blog post is a sneak preview of our new series ‘Inside the Technicians Toolbox’, where Flo has shared some of her favourite tools and studio must haves. Keep an eye out for our new series in the coming weeks to see the toolboxes of other technicians.

What is the one must-have basic essential (most used) tool in your toolbox?  

Sharp fabric scissors.

What is your favourite tool?

A range of different natural fabrics which will take natural dyeing in different tones.

What is the weirdest/quirkiest/most specialist tool you have?

My collection of tried botanical, kitchen waste and plant materials that come in different sizes, shapes, and shades of colours. They evolve with time.

Farewell Ling Chiu!

We would like to say a fond farewell to our amazing Technical Coordinator, Ling Chiu, who is leaving the Printmaking, Book Arts and Letterpress team at LCC to begin an exciting two-year residency at Thames-side Print Studios in London, and a month-long residency at AGALAB in Holland. We’ve been chatting to Ling to find out about her time here at UAL and her future plans.

Ling joined UAL in 2014, as a temporary printmaking technician at Wimbledon College of Art. She was already working as a technician at Thames-side Print Studio, and as a Curatorial Assistant at UCL Art Museum, and thought “why not try something new?”. Like many artists, she was juggling a creative practice with a mixed bag of freelance education and part-time work.

“Wimbledon’s printmaking workshop was magic – tiny but bold and ambitious. I worked with one other technician to run it, and we covered screenprinting, etching, relief printing and large format digital printing! It was exciting to work with a mix of fine art, costume and theatre students, and the technical team was very closely knit. We had competitive bake offs, Friday breakfast fry-ups, and ran lunchtime origami sessions for staff and students.”

Three years later, she moved to LCC as the full-time Printmaking Technical Coordinator. Formerly the London College of Printing, Ling was joining a College and team with deep and wide print knowledge. She wanted to balance that legacy with innovation, inclusive practice, and promoting printmaking in a College without fine art or printmaking courses.

“If I had to look back and pick one thing I’m most proud of, it would be developing the Printmaking traineeship with the team. We started with a single Arts Temps trainee and a ten-day paid programme! Now we’re known for providing good, paid, opportunities for students to train as technical staff, and get experience supporting day-to-day running, or some of our Outreach teaching. We’ve worked with DPS students, students from across UAL, alumni, and I’m especially proud to promote women in printmaking, and women in technical roles.”

Did you know? Ling is something of a Health and Safety nerd. She actually has a NEBOSH qualification in Occupational Health and Safety, which she completed while she was at LCC, alongside as PG Cert and PG Dip in Academic Practice.

“I think people have the wrong idea of Health and Safety – H&S is super-inclusive, and super-enabling. People think Health and Safety is all about paperwork and stopping people from doing what they want, when actually, it’s about how we can do exciting things, but make it safe for everyone to participate – who doesn’t want that?”

Ling is now embarking on a two-year residency at Thames-side Print Studios, where she also has her own studio. She plans to develop her own visual practice, while writing about, thinking about, and delivering printmaking that is inclusive, sustainable, safe, and beautiful. She will return to AGALAB in Holland later this year for a month-long lithography residency, working with vegetable cleaning agents (VCAs), and researching water use and workflows in printmaking processes.

“There is a place for printmaking 10, 50, 100 years from now, but it is incumbent upon us to be responsible makers; to not live in a bubble. We must use what can be grown when we can, and be precious with anything mined, distilled or shipped. We need to include more people, which means acknowledging where there are barriers: these lovely presses and processes were not designed for my body, my person, my ability, and they may not be designed for yours either… but I am going to do it anyway, and help you do it, too. This is how printmaking not only survives, but thrives.”

Ling will be greatly missed by both students and staff in the workshops, as her enthusiasm and expertise is top notch! She kept us all happy and motivated, with an excellent balance of humour, candidness, knowledge, kindness, respect and of course enough sweet treats!

We are super excited for the future that Ling has created, we wish her all the very best on her new adventure and look forward to following her progress on her Instagram.

Featured Graduate: Izzy Smithson

Izzy in her studio at Royal College of Art, 2020.
Izzy in her studio at Royal College of Art, 2020.

This week’s Featured Graduate is Izzy Smithson. You may be thinking, hold on, I’ve seen her in the workshop this year! Izzy graduated from the BA Illustration and Visual Media in 2017, and has been working with us ever since. As a Printmaking Support Technician, she supports students across Printmaking and Screenprinting. She is frequently on duty during our popular Saturday Club sessions, and can often be found elbow-deep in ink, alongside many of our dedicated students.

Her work traverses the boundaries of installation, illustration and printmaking, layering autobiographical, found imagery, and gestural mark making on alternative, and often industrial, surfaces.

Tell us about yourself.  How did you get started in printmaking?

I have always been interested in printmaking but have never really had the time or resources to try it until studying my BA. It was at this point where I was brought up to the printmaking workshops by my tutor at the beginning of my third year. Previously I had been in the studios, but not fully dedicated to this way of working. Since the first day of being introduced, I spent every day for the rest of my third year in the printmaking workshops and have been learning and experimenting ever since.

I am an artist and printmaker from London and love to experiment with every print process and have recently been pushing to combine these with installation. I enjoy how printmaking has multiple layers and processes that can be experimented and challenged.

Photo of folded, screen printed publication 'Home', 2020.
Home, 2020 (Screen printed publication).

Who are your biggest influences?

Lubaina Himid & Amy Sillman & Mike Kelly (Educational complex) are my current influences when it comes to my recent work. Through looking at their contextual ideas and experimental ways of making work, I have taken a lot of inspiration from their materiality and focus on narratives.

My grandparents are also some of my biggest influences. Whilst visiting them as children, we would always be occupied by creating art and crafts. They would teach my brothers and I how to draw, paint and collage alongside watching them create their own paintings. Recently I have been creating a project that is based solely around the personal journey to where my grandparents’ house was. I am always interested in the interaction between humans and environments but have been able to use this experience to explore ownership of space, collective memory and journeys of loss.

Where do you make work now?

In 2018, I started my Print MA at the Royal College of Art, where I have been able to access facilities in the printmaking workshops and have a personal studio space to create a lot of work in.

In the current situation, due to COVID-19, I have been working from an office room in my boyfriend’s dads house, trying to create with what I have around me and what can be ordered in. My workspace consists of lots of stuff, as a lot of my work starts off by drawing, collaging and layering with my personal archives and this then progresses into printmaking, installation or whatever fits best.

Photo of Izzy's current set up at home, 2020.
Izzy’s current set up at home, 2020.

Looking back on your time at LCC, what advice would you to yourself, if you could travel back in time?

My time at LCC was influenced heavily by the technicians and friends I made around me. I gained a lot of knowledge and experience from having the technicians around me all the time, enabling me to constantly learn and be experimental. Take advantage of the vast facilities and the knowledge that they all hold, they will always be supportive and try to make your ideas come to life.

If I could go back I would say to not be precious about my work, continually experiment and push myself out of comfort zones. I always make mistakes and make work that doesn’t “work”, but I use this as key learning and motivational points.

Installation photo of 'In Uncertain Water We Are Treading', 2019.
In Uncertain Water We Are Treading, 2019.

How did you get started as a technician?  What’s it like?

I started to train to be a technician in the summer of 2017, just after graduating from LCC. I was given the opportunity to do a traineeship in the printmaking and screen printing workshops, where I gained a huge amount of experience. This then led onto helping to run workshops as part of London Design Festival at LCC, including a live drawing micro-residency. I was being asked back for multiple days to help with workshops and daily running of the studios, before gaining a regular day working as a Printmaking Support Technician, which I have continued whilst studying.

I assist with monthly public workshops at Science Museum with ScreenGrab and volunteered in 2018, for a short time, as a technician at Print Club London.

I love being a technician and find myself learning every day. Not only do I really enjoy printing, but also helping students/printers to bring their ideas to reality and enabling them to experiment and push themselves into new areas.

Installation photo of collage 'Waiting For Something To Come Bite Our Toes', 2019.
Waiting For Something To Come Bite Our Toes, 2019.

Where can we see more of your work?

Most of my work in progress can be seen on my Instagram and more “finished” work on my website.

Instagram: @izzysmithson

Selected Exhibitions Since Graduating

  • 2017 Graduate Show, London College of Communication
  • 2017 Elephant Press, London Design Festival, London
  • 2018 Print Showcase, Royal College of Art
  • 2018 Object Resurrection, Hockney Gallery, Royal College of Art
  • 2018 Sustainable Futures, Dyson Gallery, Royal College of Art
  • 2019 Work In Progress Show, Royal College of Art, Battersea
  • 2020 Against the Grain, Southwark Park Galleries