Specialist Letterpress Technician Klara Vith shares her sketching and bookbinding toolbox with us.
Klara’s tools are housed in various boxes, leather and felt roll cases and pencil cases that all sit neatly in a drawer.
We asked Klara:
What is the one must-have basic essential (most used) tool in your toolbox?
Knife protectors for all sharps, this includes cutting knives, scalpels and shoe knives for cutting paper. Sharp covers can be easily made using paper and tape. These covers provide protection and keep points sharp
What is your favourite tool?
My Rotring Isograph technical drawing pen. These pens can be refilled, the ink flows really well and the nibs come in various sizes so you can draw with super fine lines.
What is the weirdest/quirkiest/most specialist tool you have?
My handmade ‘Nifty Tool’. I designed a clear sheet of acrylic that has a pica grid laser engraved into it. It has a small wooden handle and allows me to make square alignments easily and square off the edges of my prints.
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.
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.
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!
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.
STEP 1: FOLDING
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).
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.
STEP 2: CUTTING
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.
STEP 3: FOLDING THE ZINE
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.
1.Tell us about yourself. Have you always made art?
I have just graduated from Illustration. Since I can remember, I have always created art. One of my earliest memories I have is of drawing on a computer in nursery. The teacher said that I was definitely going to be an artist one day because my drawing had the most colours in it. I play the piano but art has always been the main focus for me. Even from the things that I watch. I watch a lot of anime. I decided to come to LCC Illustration because although Illustraion is quite broad, at LCC it wasn’t combined with fine art, so it was more tailored.
2. How did you get started in printmaking?
As part of the Illustration Course we had to do inductions in the Printmaking Workshops. I didn’t really enjoy printmaking at first, I thought it was long round about process, where you could just draw more directly and quickly in other media. My tutors really encouraged me to reconsider printmaking as they could see the potential of my drawing going into print. Their passion when talking about printmaking made me want to try it again. I tried printmaking again, but it was only when I tried etching that it felt right for me. I learned that I could break it down into two processes- the drawing and the printing. Once I focused on the plate making and then printing I found that this worked for me.
3. Who are your biggest influences?
Quentin Blake is one of my favourite illustrators. I really like his illustrations, from my earliest memories I remember Roald Dahl books. I just really like how everything seemed to be so energetic, everything seems to be moving. It’s art with the stories. So when I was introduced to his adult stories later I really felt like Blake was missing. William Blake, the Pre-Raphaelites, Anime have also been strong influences. At the moment, I tend to look generally at artworks on platforms like Pintrest, rather than an artist’s body of work.
4. Where do you make work now that you’ve graduated? What does your current work setup look like?
I am currently working in a spare room at home. This is my current studio. I draw and paint here. I don’t need a lot of space. In the future I will look to make prints at an open access print workshop.
5. Looking back on your time at LCC, what advice would you give to yourself, if you could travel back in time?
In the first year when using the print workshop I didn’t absorb much of what I was doing. I was associating this time with completing projects and project briefs. I never took a lot of time to really learn the process. In my second year I began to see the process as its own thing, and work in itself. Now that I have graduated, it is all print, this is the first time I have created work that is all art without a brief.
In first year, I thought I had ticked a box and that I was fluent in printmaking and I knew what I was doing. I would advise myself to take time to reflect and appreciate the work and the process and the time it takes to develop a practice. I didn’t understand printmaking at the time, now I understand it much more. It has a whole following.
This series of posts will explore the inner world of the technician’s toolbox. All of our technicians are practicing artists as well as educators and have built their tool collection to suit their changing needs and interests over the years.
A tool collection can be very personal with each tool having its own story and emotional connection. Tools can also range from being an essential basic to a specialist bespoke item. It is always very important that when borrowing a tool from someone to remember to be respectful that there may be this personal attachment to the tool. A tool that may seem like a standard piece of junk may have particular significance to the owner.
Toolboxes store and protect your tools and can be as varied as the tools themselves. Everyone has their own preference from a hardware store style compartmentalised box to decorative biscuit tins to leather roll up bags.
We have asked some of our technicians to share their tool collections and asked them three questions about their tools. We hope that these will inspire you to start you own toolbox.
We begin our journey with Specialist Screen Print Technician, Lisa Chappell, and her current set of tools. Instead of using a toolbox, Lisa has a set of pencil cases, tins and boxes assigned for different items and processes. Her pencil case collection includes:
A small one for pencils, replacement leads and erasers.
A medium one for pens, including Sharpie markers, opaque pens, Staedler and Rotring fine liners.
A large one for tools such as spatulas, scissors, craft knives and scalpels.
A clean one for bookbinding tools
In addition to her pencil case set she also has a tin for relief print that contains rollers, a wooden spoon and a baren, as well as a small box of etching tools
We asked Lisa:
What is the one must-have basic essential (most used) tool in your toolbox? A plastic spatula with flat edge for scraping up ink & mixing.
What is your favourite tool? A retractable pencil for consistent line.
What is the weirdest/quirkiest/most specialist tool you have? A loupe, for a halftone addict
Print Curiosities: No. 3. Is selected and written by Specialist Letterpress Technician, Andrew Long.
Today I am sharing with you Double Dagger. A newspaper printed the traditional way, but it’s not what you might expect. It’s bright and colourful with amazing artwork and a focus on letterpress, unlike your typical newspaper. Every contributor includes an element of their work which makes each issue different and unique.
“The binding agent between all of our pages and contributors is a desire to print from the third-dimension, using both the tools that Gutenberg left us over 500 years ago and the tools of today such as the laser cutter. Printing using wood and lead type cannot be replicated digitally – the look, the feel, and even the smell offer an antidote to much of today’s commercial printing.”
(Loaring and Randle, 2021)
Double Dagger is a collaboration between Nick Loaring, of The Print Project, and Pat Randle, of Nomad Letterpress. The idea was formed, rather oddly, in 2013 on a sunny Somerset field. This was the first year Glastonbury festival had attempted to print their daily newspaper on a Heidelberg cylinder press using hot-metal type. The Linotype machine, which casts the hot-metal type for printing, had decided it no longer wanted to work. The newspaper was still printed on the Heidelberg, but the use of polymer plates rather than hot-metal type was the spark that started the Double Dagger conversation.
The first issue was released some 3 years later. To date they have released 3 issues, all full of letterpress goodness. Each issue is printed with lead type, none of that Polymer they had been forced to use at Glastonbury. Contributors include Stanley Donwood, Dafi Kühne, Ellen Bills and Thomas Mayo amongst many others.
You won’t be surprised to hear Nick & Pat are two of my favourite printers. Nick produces some of the most beautiful bold prints, you’ll find his work at The Print Project. Pat works out of Whittington Press and is the printer of Matrix ‘the finest periodical of the book arts of the 20th Century’. His imprint is Nomad Letterpress, where you’ll find some of the amazing books he has published.
If you want to know more about this publication check out the Double Dagger website, issue 1-2 are sold out but you could get your hands on issue 3. Follow Double Dagger on Instagram for any updates and to find out when / if they release an issue 4.
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.
What you will need:
Water based ink
Paper (Normal to print onto)
Paper (Thinner for your barrier)
Sponge/J-Cloth for cleaning your screen.
Spatula/ ID card for spreading ink onto your screen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tell us about yourself. Have you always made art? Influenced by my mother who works in the fashion industry, I was encouraged to draw at a very young age. I used to draw so much I was labelled as “the girl who can draw” in class. I love and want to pursue this creative path as a future career, so I was given support by my parents to take years of art academy classes back home. But even with all the support and approval from people around me, I still once had so many doubts on this art journey.
The art classes allowed me to get skilful at realistic and observational sketching and painting, but I never considered myself good enough to be an artist. At a time I felt lost and kept wondering whether capturing the likeliness is the only standard of good art, if so, why should we even draw when we have cameras. I know it sounds silly but it was actually after a lot of struggling, researching and learning, for me to realize how I used to have such a narrow mindset. The systematic learning of shapes, colours and lights & shadows, of course they are beneficial, but it also restrained me to believe drawing is just reproducing the reality. It never got me to see the real creative side of art.
Later looking at the impressionism and fauvism art which I really admire, now I believe art, especially drawing, is about one’s interpretation of something, and that something doesn’t even have to be real. The emotions, the experience, the imaginations, etc., they all can influence or form an artwork.
So I believe the answer is yes, I have been making art ever since I tried doodling out my dreams at kindergarten!
How did you get started in screen printing? I was introduced to screen printing during my introduction course at LCC, this traditional approach to a print process instantly caught my interest as this was something I had never seen before! What amazes me is the dedication that one needs to put into the preparation and printing process, and how nicely the textures and layers of ink turn out in the outcomes. Although it can be a bit frustrating when some flaws or mistakes happen, I guess that’s the charm of screen printing by hand, we are always learning as every time we print and face new challenges.
Who are your biggest influences? Uchida Masayasu, Tatsuro Kiuchi, On Yamamoto, Jame Jean. These are several of my favourite artists/ printmakers who inspire and influence me in terms of their compositions and texture making. Their artworks are really pleasant to see. (@uchidamasayasu, @tatsurokiuchi, @onyamamoto_art, @jamesjeanart)
Where will you make work now that you’ve graduated? I plan to head to other open-access print studios in London but haven’t made a decision yet. Because of the pandemic and my new postgraduate publishing course going on, I might slow down my printmaking projects a bit, but I will definitely keep doing it!
Looking back on your time at LCC, what advice would you give to yourself, if you could travel back in time? It is definitely “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and don’t feel too frustrated and then give up easily.” As I mentioned, it is just very common to have small flaws and mistakes when you just started printing. But back then I was too focused on the imperfection and felt bad when getting called out that I was rusty. I even stopped printing for about a year, which I really regret as this period of time could have been properly spent to practice and learn from mistakes. So I think it is important not to be afraid to try and continue making work, and always believe that practice and hard work will pay off.
Additionally, I planned many screen print works to be happening in the last term, I wish I could have known the lockdown would happen and finished the printing in the second term. But luckily, the “Return to Make” in September allowed me to carry on making two of the projects, I am very grateful for the LCC screen print team to make this happen.
Where can we see more of your work? Instagram: @thescenestealers I am a member of The Scene-Stealers Collective and we make art for some iconic Films & TV shows. It is not about creating a movie poster that serves as a marketing tool, but about our original artistic/illustrative interpretation of a scene.
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.
Print Curiosities is back! We have expanded our series to include a variety of print and book curiosities from the personal archives across the Printmaking, Book Arts and Letterpress Team. We have asked our technicians to delve into their collections to select, share and write about some of their favourite, special or unusual works of art.
Print Curiosities: No. 2. is selected and written by Specialist Printmaking Technician, Kath Van Uytrecht.
Having spent nearly a decade editioning prints privately for artists and for Graphic Studio Dublin and Stoney Road Press publications, I have accumulated a good collection of printer’s proofs. Some of these prints are large colour multiple plate prints created by some of Ireland’s top established artists.
Today I have selected to share something a little more subtle and delicate, but equally noteworthy and special.
‘Small Bear’ is one of the most prized etchings in my collection. The print was gifted to me by artist Maev Lenaghan. Maev studied printmaking at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and holds an MFA from Konstfack in Stockholm. She currently lives and works in Sweden.
Maev is interested in narrative and storytelling across Fine Art, Illustration, Literature and Design. Her work explores our relationship and connection to wilderness, working with media such as books, drawing, painting, pastel and printmaking.
Maev is a contributor to I DO ART, an ‘independent dissemination platform for art, with a focus on personal stories and attitudes, visuality and process’.
“My artistic practice springs from ideas that are in essence narrative, that take stock of life in the face of an imperturbable wilderness.”
In 2012, Maev created a series of etchings depicting oral storyteller Clare Murphy in action on Story Night, a regular monthly community storytelling event in Galway, Ireland. These prints were exhibited as part of a solo exhibition titled ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Woods?’.
She describes this show as “a peek at the richness of our interior lives, and then takes a walk to the edge of our society, in search of wilderness. As a species our strength lies in communities, in imagination and communication, and we are reminded of this amidst lively human interaction. We gather together in communities for protection, vulnerable as individuals. Most of us live removed from places where nature is still wild and foreboding. Yet even amongst those of us who have lost sight of our vulnerability beyond the societies of our making, there are yearnings for wilderness, for the great outdoors.”
Most recently Maev exhibited in The Space Gallery in Shanghai, China, with a show titled THIS BRIGHT EARTH. Another recent exhibition ROOTED IN SILENCE at Galleri LOKOMOTIV, Örnsköldsvik in the north of Sweden received an excellent review. The review is written in Swedish, but you can translate it online.
“My latest work encompasses woodblock prints, linocut prints and artist books. These culminated in an exhibition in the north of Sweden which I called ROOTED IN SILENCE. There are two levels to the work: as a balancing of line, colour, emptiness and movement to create energy on the picture plane and to reflect experiences whose very nature are unspoken. Whether recalling the feelings of watching a bonfire burn on the Swedish traditional night of ‘Valborgmässoafton’, visiting the zen rock gardens of Japan or observing the exposed roots of trees; these are memories of being mesmerised by something. These are experiences that quiet the mind and speak to the unconscious and that I believe elicit the emotive response of stillness that you are looking for with the exhibition titled ‘Silence’.”
I met Maev whilst working in Graphic Studio Dublin, one of Ireland’s oldest printmaking co-operatives.
‘Small Bear’ was created for Graphic Studio Dublin’s 50 year Anniversary exhibition titled ‘Gold’. The image is only 10cm x 10cm in size, but by looking at it closely you can see that contains a variety of beautiful line and texture that you can look at for hours. I come to it again and again and it always gives me joy as well as inspiring me to want to make etchings. This deceptively simple image contains three different etching techniques. This really demonstrates the quality and expertise of Maev’s drawing, mark making and printmaking. The etching is made of hard ground and soft ground line as well as sugar lift for a textured wash.
I chose this print not only for its beauty, and accomplished technique, but because it reminds me of the spirit of generosity in the printmaking community as well as the power of patience, subtlety and stillness and the complexity and simplicity of storytelling. You can explore more of Maev’s recent narrative works on her website and instagram.