Author Archives: Jacqueline Chiu

A note on paper

You get up in the morning, excited to print.  
You’ve been inspired by some AMAZING blogs and web content by your favourite technicians. 
You negotiate with housemates, and commandeer the kitchen table.  
You roll up the ink.  You might have a lino block ready, or a monoprint image to trace.   
You put down your paper, and carefully, press, press, and press.   

And then this happens:  

Photography of a poorly printed monotype of a pigeon.
Pigeon, printed poorly. Monotype, 2020.

That sinking feeling in your chest.  The bitter taste of disappointment.  The desire to give up, and turn on the TV.  Step back.  Breathe.  Try a different paper.  It might make all the difference.   

Here are ten prints, on ten different papers. Monoprinted with a pen, the handle of a wooden spoon, and the back of the spoon. Rolled up the same way each time, and printed off a thin perspex plate.

Left: monoprint on newsprint
Right: monoprint on graph paper

Left: Newsprint,  52gsm.  Nothing will ever print as well as newsprint.  It is smooth, flat, sensitive, and beautiful.  And no, there is no archival, cotton, thicker version of the stuff.  It is going to disintegrate. It is going to fade. I’ve even ripped it, bottom right corner. Truth to materials.  

Right: Graph paper, 60gsm.  Smooth, machine made, wood pulp.  I used this, because I don’t have any plain copier paper at home.  Easy to print, and I love a grid.

Left: monoprint on Simili Japon
Right: monoprint on Zerkall Smooth

Left: Simili Japon, 130gsm.  Made in the Netherlands to look like Japanese woodblock paper, it is high grade pulp, acid free, unbuffered.  Beautifully smooth, very sensitive, highly absorbent.

Right: Zerkall Smooth, 145gsm.  Mould-made, acid free, blended cotton and woodpulp.  A favourite for relief printing, but the increase in weight means a bit more work is required.  Less absorbent. Look at those spoon marks in the flat section!  

Left: monoprint on Somerset Satin
Right: monoprint on Fabriano Eco

Left: Somerset Satin, 300gsm.  Really thick, very lush, 100% cotton paper.  This is the one we recommend in the workshop, but it is HARD WORK if you’re printing any flat section by hand.  This print shows the distinctive surface pattern of a mould made paper.  It is also my fourth attempt on this paper.
Right: Fabriano Eco, 200gsm.  The hard surface of this paper, and the very slight tooth, means that monoprints look quite ‘dry’ and crayon-like.  Completely different when compared to the Somerset. You would not know these were printed with the same ink, and exact rolling technique, except that I’m tell you, it’s true!  

Left: monoprint on Hosho pad
Right: monoprint on Colorplan Smoke

Left: Hosho Pad, 90gsm.  This mid-week Japanese paper has the advantage of being designed to be printed by hand.  Soft, sympathetic, and yielding.  Almost romantic.  
Right: Colourplan Smoke, 270gsm. This GF Smith paper is a favourite amongst graphic designers, and comes in a wide range of colours and weights.  I have two colours, so I printed on both.  

Left: monoprint on Colorplan Harvest
Right: monoprint on unknown paper

Left: Colorplan Harvest, 270gsm.   Sturdy, robust, woodpulp paper, these take quite a lot of work to print a flat area by hand.
Right: Mystery paper, approx. 135gsm.  Some say Fedrigoni, others say GF Smith fluted, this random paper was under my sofa.  It prints beautifully, holding a soft line, and its lighter weight made it much easier to print than its graphic cousins.  

When you have access to the press, you take for granted the pressure, evenness, and ease, that 500 years of careful engineering have produced.  When you only have yourself, and a spoon, you have to embrace the process of uncertainty, and research the familiar in an unfamiliar way.  

Monoprint of a pigeon, printed on Hosho Pad, 90gsm.
Pigeon, again. Monoprint, 2020.

Paper choice matters.  Whether you’re making a book, a print, a drawing, packaging, poster or other publication, the physical qualities of the paper will inform your work, and place it within a wider making narrative.  This is true by press, or by hand.  Sometimes, the best-laid plans are scuppered, and other times, you find yourself pleasantly surprised by the mystery scrap you found underneath the sofa, as I have.  

A print flying off my balcony as I try to take a photograph.

PS. Moments of dissatisfaction and frustration come to us all.  Even when things are going well.  Here is the moment when I take a print onto the balcony to photograph. The wind catches it, and it’s gone.  

PPS. What papers are YOU using? Reply and let us know!

Make-at-Home: three hacks for better printmaking

Text written by hand on paper
Text on paper

Making-at-home can present lots of challenges when you are used to a well-stocked workshop. In fact, this period of lockdown has been the longest I have ever been away from a printmaking space, in 20 years. It means working differently, working creatively, and for many of us, working in spaces that were not designed for printmaking.

Four weeks later, here are my three hacks for better printmaking-at-home. These are especially good if you share spaces with others, as I do, and are useful when thinking how you can continue your practice after university.

1. Your window is your lightbox.

Clockwise from top left: photograph, text written by hand on paper, blank paper, ballpoint pen, roll of masking tape

You will need: a window, paper and drawing tool
You could also have: any kind of tape, an image or piece of text you have found, or drawn

Tracing an image onto a piece of paper.  Image and paper are both taped to a window.
Good for tracing a found image, or drawing to make a stencil for screenprinting or monoprinting.
Reverse tracing text on paper.  Paper is taped to a window.
Also good for reversing text for printing.

2. Your drying rack… is your drying rack.

Left: scissors, thread, an assortment of small clips

Right: two clothes drying racks

You will need: a clothes drying rack, clips, string/floss, scissors (careful of the sharp!)
You could also have: lots of clips, lots of string/floss

Photograph of a small bulldog clip tied with string, to a rail on a drying rack.
Clips tied loosely to a rail.
Left: an example of clipping two prints, back-to-back, to the drying rack

Right: a clothes drying rack full of prints
Tip: double your capacity by clipping two prints together, back-to-back

3. Your shopping bags are your paper soaking tray.

Clockwise from left: stack of paper to soak, two clear plastic bags, coloured paper tabs, a clean sponge in a bowl of water

You will need: paper to soak, a water sponge or spray, water, two plastic bags
You could also have: small paper tabs, large and heavy books

Image of paper being sponged with water.
Sponge the bag first, lay a sheet of paper on top, and then gently sponge the top of the paper.
A stack of soaked paper, with coloured paper tabs separating each layer.
Optional: stagger tabs between each sheet of paper. This will help you peel off each sheet as you need them.
A soaked stack of paper, between two plastic bags, underneath a large book.
Place the second bag on top, and then add a big book, or two. This will help with even absorption, and keep your paper from drying out.

Featured Graduate: Vytenis Semenas

Vito printing in the workshops at LCC, 2018.
Vito printing in the workshops at LCC, 2018.

Vito Semenas graduated in 2019 from BA Illustration and Visual Media (IVM). His work involves intricately carved and carefully printed linocuts and engravings, that draw inspiration from different mark-making languages and cultures. In this first Featured Grad post, he talks about how he has continued his practice after graduating from LCC.

Tell us about yourself.  Have you always made art?

I believe visual art is one of defining characteristics of the human species. As far as I can remember I have been always doing some form of visual art. Whether it was experimenting with photography or drawing anime illustrations, art has always been a big part of my life.

The body of my work contains different techniques and styles developed over the time; it can be described as a catalogue of my life. So the answer is yes: I have been doing art my whole my life whether it was intentional or not.

The Metamorphosis, 2018. 
Linocut on Somerset Velvet Newsprint.
The Metamorphosis, 2018.

How did you get started in printmaking?

During the first year in LCC, where I was studying Illustration and Visual Media, I tried numerous techniques of illustration and printmaking, just to get to know what would benefit me in professional practice. I even tried to do a digital paintings as this style of art was always fascinating to me. However, I was not able to achieve the results I was aiming at. For that reason, I kept looking for other ways of expressing myself.

In the meantime, my love for printmaking was growing extremely fast. I decided to create a series of lino carvings during the summer holidays hoping that it would help me to prepare and improve my portfolio for the upcoming year. At the time lino printing technique looked easily accessible and most affordable technique if I had to work from home.

What influences your artwork?

An artist might be inspired by one painting, a body of work, or even an entire style of art.

Finding influences and connections between artists is an important to the art I create. For me it is important that the conversation of art continues and new intuitions about art can be made whilst looking from different viewers perspectives. My illustrations are based around the idea of utilising fine line work and geometrical shapes combined with the various allegorical meanings and symbolism to books, mythology-religion, movies, personal experiences and so on. The biggest influences of my style have been my obsession with the patterns and naturalism that could be found in the nature. Sometimes influence comes by examining the descriptive attributes of art other people create. However, finding influences is a sophisticated process that involves studying.

The Story of Two Mountains, 2020.  
Linocut on Fabriano Avorio.
The Story of Two Mountains, 2020.

Where do you make work now that you’ve graduated?

My dream and goal always were to set up my own little print studio at home. In the meantime, I was lucky to win the Thames -Side Print Studio New Graduate Prize. I also was nominated for a Royal Academy printmaking fellowship. These opportunities provide me with the access to printmaking studios 3 days a week which is more than enough knowing how slow engraving and carving techniques could be. I illustrate, plan and design my pieces at home. I also carve my blocks at home in order not to waste that precious studio time.

Planning is very important and for that reason I record my work time by using designed apps for time tracking. This comes really handy calculating how long it took me to carve each piece and makes it easier to decide on a sales price.

Photograph of Vito at Thames-Side Print Studio, holding a lino block, in front of a press.
Vito at Thames-Side Print Studio.

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

The time at LCC was the best part of my life. I gained a lot of knowledge, met a lot of amazing artists and field professionals. It also opened the doors to a lot of exciting new projects and opportunities.

I am happy that I tried so many different medias and that would be my advice to everyone studying at LCC: try as many different things as possible! Experiment and don’t be afraid of failure. That would be the advice I would give myself: is to not be afraid of things not turning out the way I was planning, because everything happens for a reason.

The Arrow Maiden, 2019. 
Linocut on Somerset Velvet Newsprint.
The Arrow Maiden, 2019.

Where can we see more of your work? 

Most of my work can be found on my Instagram profile and website, which also serves as a e-shop and portfolio.

Instagram: @wild_stork

Selected Exhibitions
2019 Final Degree Show UAL, London College of Communication
2019 WOWxWOW- ‘’Monochromagic 2’’
2019 WoWxWOW- ‘’Eternity’s Engine’’
2019 National Original Print Exhibition, London
2019 Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair, London
2019 The Masters Relief, Bankside Gallery, London

Ling’s Top Tip – Save all your paper

Photograph of origami cubes, made with found paper.

There is paper everywhere, waiting for you to use it. From junk mail and pizza leaflets, to catalogues, bank statements and old magazines, to newspapers and delivery inserts, there is plenty of paper, everywhere.

Photograph of junk mail, newspaper and magazine.

At many printmaking studios, members bring in their paper to use and share. It’s free, and it gives you something to read when you’re waiting for your screen or plate to dry.

Photograph of newspaper cut into paper stencils for monoprinting.

I use it to make stencils for monoprinting. Magazines and newspapers use thin paper stock, perfect for cutting with a scalpel or scissors. Stack several sheets together to make multiple stencils, rather than cutting one at a time. I use masking tape to hold my stack together.

Photograph showing how to clean a lino block with an old magazine.

Free paper is also great for cleaning up after printing. This lino block is taped to a cutting mat, and cannot be moved. I slide it between sheets of a magazine and press down, to take off as much ink as I can, before wiping the block clean with a cloth.

Photograph of twelve sonobe origami units.

My favourite thing to do with free paper, however, is to fold it. Mock up a book, test a design for packaging, or do what I do: cut it into squares and make some origami! This unit origami pattern is simple, but you can create complex shapes just by making more of the same unit, and slotting it together.

I learn a lot about paper when I do this. Bank statements come on a thicker, rigid stock, which is harder to fold, but provides better structure. Magazines are easy to fold, but the results are a bit floppy – technical term! The inexpensive paper stock is very sensitive to moisture, and damages quickly.

Photograph of a twelve-unit origami fold.
12-unit fold, with found paper.

To make a cube, you will need six squares of paper.
To make the 12-unit fold, you will need twelve squares of paper. Good luck!

Hello world!

We’re building a website! 
Welcome to the LCC Printmaking, Book Arts & Letterpress website.  We hope you will find it useful and interesting.  All are welcome.

We plan on filling our site with resources and links for our students, colleagues and visitors.  Some of our information will be especially useful for students at LCC, but a lot of it will hopefully be helpful to everyone. We are not website builders, but a team of passionate makers who are now looking for ways to keep in touch, and keep making in these uncertain times.   

Questions?  Email:

An image of us building a website here.