Julian Davies: “I want colour to be a major part of the work…”

fire and ice

Fire and Ice

Painter and printer Julian Davies describes himself first and foremost as a ‘landscape artist’, but in his prints (yes, I’m focusing on them) I found a lovely abstraction that somehow conjures thought of the 1950s, of space travel even – and all with a really unusual range of colours.

Working largely in acrylic but also adept at both woodcuts and linocuts, Julian has exhibited his work since the early 90s, and his art is collected worldwide.

 

Hello there Julian. When did you become a linocutter?

Like many people I first made a linocut at school with stiff, old, crumbly lino and a set of blunt tools – not a promising introduction.

It wasn’t until I started to specialise in printmaking at art school that I reintroduced myself to the method, which would have been in 1990. Something about the whole process appealed to me, from cutting the block and rolling the ink to the immediacy of the process, and from around 1993 I moved away from other print methods and into relief printing, firstly through large scale woodcuts and more recently lino.

Were you trained in the arts?

I studied for a BA (Hons) Fine Art at Grays School of Art, Aberdeen, and a Masters in Fine Art at Newcastle University – both times specialising in printmaking.

marshland moon

Marshland Moon

What are your influences?

At art school my work started to head in an abstract direction, with the images based in landscape. I’d describe what I currently do as ‘imagined landscapes’. The interaction of form, colour and pattern are more important to the work than being representational of any particular place, although there’s always a basis in the real world as a starting point.

The work’s been influenced by Wassily Kandinsky, Stuart Davis, Roger Hilton, Terry Frost, Patrick Heron and Alan Davie, to name a few. I also discovered the work of Rikio Takahashi and other 20th Century Japanese artists around 20 years ago, which have been added to the mix along the way.

lunar monolith 2

Lunar Monolith II

Your colour choices are often quite daring – but they work…

I’ve always enjoyed colour, and especially bold colour, and I want it to be a major part of the work. I don’t really make sketches or colour studies for ideas, at most there may be a very simple line drawing for each image – I want the work to have an element of spontaneity about it.

Quite often after cutting the first stage of the block I’ll decide on the colour I’m going to use, which may be suggested by the image on the block or as a reaction to a previous print or something I’ve seen. The next colour will be decided by the first, and so on. I have a feel for what will work, although until it’s printed onto the previous colour there’s always that moment when you wonder how it will look. Occasionally a colour will be applied which really doesn’t work, but thankfully that doesn’t happen very often.

When I first started to make relief prints they were cut and printed in black and white. While these could be striking and direct I felt like I wanted some colour in there too. I came up with a method of inking the block in black and then adding randomly cut coloured pieces of paper onto the surface of the block, with glue on the back, before laying down the paper on top. The colour would then come through the cut areas in places, which made an interesting contrast with the black and white areas. Using the collaged coloured paper was undoubtedly my trial and error period.

spooky action

Spooky Action

You also have your own, distinct style – how did you manage that?

My imagery has come together over the last 25 years, starting out quite busy, before I started to simplify things and strip out what I didn’t think was necessary. One thing I now try and avoid with my images is over-complicating them, which is always a temptation. If the image doesn’t need the bells and whistles then I try not to add them.

What interests and pleases me is what goes into the images, rather than any pre-conceived idea of how a linocut should look. I don’t make what I would say are the type of marks which may be expected in a relief print – I like areas of just colour and form, and seeing how they interact.

What’s your printing set up?

I’ve been printing at Thames-side Print Studio, in south east London, for about the last five years, which is a really great, large print workshop with knowledgeable staff and interesting printmakers. I cut the blocks at home in preparation, either lino or Japanese vinyl, and print on an Albion press using Caligo water-based inks on either Ho-sho or Masa Japanese papers.

Prior to using Thames-side I was hand-printing in my studio at home using a baren. I do sometimes miss printing by hand, but the depth of colour I can get using the Albion press can’t be beat. If finances and space ever allow I would get myself set up with a press at home, but that’s just a pipe dream at present.

vulcan threshold

Vulcan Threshold

Can you give us a top trick or hint that you use in your printing technique that others might not be aware of?

I always add tack reducer to my ink, which helps prevent blotches appearing in the printed surface. Getting a registration system that works for you is always a good place to start.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on five images, two of which are reduction blocks, while the other three are reduction and multi-block images. I also have a couple of other blocks for black and white images cut and ready. I’m not working towards anything specific, I just like to keep myself working.

frosted moon

Frosted Moon

You can see more of Julian’s work at his spiffing website, which is HERE.

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Gillian Nix: “Printing is my happy place!”

aaaaBased in Melbourne with a young family, something about Gillian Nix’s printing life really struck a chord with me. Having just had a wee bairn, the relocated Scot was, I noted from nifty videos she’s posted online recently – using every spare spot of space in her home to get her prints out – and every available period of time too.

Although I can only imagine how manic life with two small kids and a printing press is, what really amazed me was how Gillian has somehow managed to retain an artistic identity throughout the mania. You pretty much know a Nix print when you see one, a mixture of swirling patterns, kooky femininity but also an old world charm that many printers aim for but few achieve so neatly.

Have a look – see what you reckon – and of course, have a read of Gillian’s responses to my questions below… 

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Hello there. When did you become a linocutter?

The first time I tried was during a teacher training placement about 10 years ago at a secondary school in Glasgow. I met a very inspirational teacher who was using the soft rubbery lino with her secondary students aged about 14. They were making beautiful prints of lilies and I was so impressed that I decided to have go myself.

My first print was awful – I think it was of a tree – but I fell in love with the carving and the unique marks you get from linocutting. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with different imagery and mark making, and also working with a variety of lino, inks, paper and equipment. Lino printmaking appeals to me because I can combine drawing and mark making.

When I relocated to Australia I discovered the fantastic Silk Cut lino which enabled me to carve small details much easier. I was able to carve small details into a harder surface – which I had been struggling with using the rubbery lino. I also attended a beginners’ linocutting evening class at the Silk Cut workshop and I learned so much and my interest in the medium ramped up. Attending the first Silk Cut Award exhibition really made an impression on me and I was able to see a broad use of lino and the seemingly infinite possibilities.

I’m an art teacher by profession and I also have a young family (a 3 year old and a 4 week old baby!). I realised when my daughter was very young that I needed to be making art and stay creative for my mental health and sanity. I find the process of linocutting really works well with having small pockets of time. It doesn’t take much time or space to set up, and I can do short spells of drawing, carving or printing when I can. I find the process really therapeutic and relaxing – much like meditating. I love listening to podcasts and music when I’m making my work – it’s my happy place!

I definitely didn’t set out to be a printmaker as such, I have sort of fallen into this area of work over the last 10 years.

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What are the key influences on your prints?

I’m really interested and inspired by patterns – folk patterns, traditional patterns, embroidery, wallpaper, clothing… My experience of becoming a mother has influenced me a great deal over the last few years and I made a series of female figures which I call my ‘wobbly ladies’. They’re rounded at the bottom like the children’s balance toys and are metaphors for women trying to balance everything. I also enjoy storytelling – books, films, music, family stories and everyday experiences. I love rummaging through second-hand shops and markets for interesting objects which sometimes find their way into my artwork. I use a lot of floral and plant based imagery in my work and will often draw from cuttings of plants that I find.

My work as an art teacher often plays a role in the imagery that I use too. The Vegemite prints that I made came about after I was doing lino printmaking project with my Grade 6 class. We were looking at Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes and soup cans and took iconic Australian food as inspiration for a class project. I made a vegemite lino print as an example and liked it. Being an art teacher is a constant source of inspiration – I love working with students, researching artists, visiting galleries and working with other art teachers – there is constant inspiration!

I can also sense the look of toys, playing cards, tattoos, that kind of thing – would that be fair?

Yes all of those things I find interesting! Lately I’ve realised my need for pattern in my work, and I think that might be the connecting link between all of my prints. I love stories – both fictional and non fictional, and I love when objects have stories or a history to them.

For example, I have this beautiful Aran knitted cardigan that I bought from a vintage shop in Edinburgh. I decided to make a self portrait of myself wearing this cardigan, and once I started researching the history of Aran knitting I realised there’s a whole language of knitting patterns. I find patterns and stories fascinating, and if the two can be connected in some way then that’s golden to me!

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You also seem to have a distinct style which to be honest I’ve never been able to achieve – how did you manage it?

Thank you! I haven’t been trying to create a style in my work, rather just create imagery that I like. I think everyone has a style but it’s often only others that can see it!

What’s your printing set up like?

I work from home in Melbourne. Until very recently I had a dedicated room set up as a studio, but the arrival of our second baby has meant my beloved studio has been converted into a baby’s room. My studio is now chopped up and displaced. My printing press is set up in the living room behind our sofa, and my work desk is located in a little pocket of space in between a bathroom, laundry and outside area… it’s a challenge but I’m making it work!

I have a lovely printing press, which I call Maude, and she prints A2 size paper comfortably. Since buying my press I’ve been able to dedicate lots more time and energy into my prints, and I’m so glad that I made the purchase. It was scary spending that much money, but so worth it!  I have a makeshift drying rack in a cupboard and use coat hangers to peg up wet prints.

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It’s Maude!

Were you trained in the arts?

Yes, I studied a tapestry/fine art at Edinburgh College of Art. I tried printmaking when I was at art school but it just didn’t appeal to me at the time and I wasn’t interested. I remember doing a week long woodcut project in my first year and completely hated it – I just couldn’t get my head around working in reverse and reduction printing. It was only when I was training to become a teacher that my interest was sparked.

How has selling your work been going?

For a long time I was just making prints for the love of it and giving them away to friends and family as gifts. After my daughter was born I decided to start selling my lino prints online, as I wanted to have more sense of purpose for the artworks I was making, and also to create a potential source of income after I decided to teach part time.

I mostly sell my work through my Etsy store and I have had a few exhibitions over the last year where I’ve sold work. I find Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to be invaluable platforms to connect with potential customers and other creative people. I didn’t know how to use Instagram until I started my Etsy store and I had to ask friends to help me!

I’ve made sales all over the world, and it’s really exciting when I package up an artwork that’s going to travel a long distance!

What are you working on next?

I have an exhibition at a café in Melbourne (Pg.2 in Richmond) coming up next month which I would like to make one or two new prints for, but this might be wishful thinking as I had a baby last month!

My husband and I have been working with Byron Bay Peanut Butter over the last year on a series of packaging labels. I’ve been making lino prints for their labels and my husband, who’s a designer, has been creating the layout. We’re currently finishing off a new batch of packaging designs for some of their new products. It is really exciting to see my lino prints used on food packaging!

vege

I’m really keen to explore more work with patterns and female portraiture. I’m not sure how these will look, but it’s an idea that keeps coming back to me so I feel I have to explore it somehow. I’ve also been thinking about making a native Australian floral wreath for a while, so that might have to be my next project…

 

Gillian is all over the internet – and can send prints worldwide. So get your cursor to the following spots asap…

Etsy shop

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

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Jess White: “You learn to see the world a bit differently…”

 

5Many folk I speak to about linocut are lucky enough to work in the creative industries (or unlucky enough, depending on your view). Often you can tell from their prints.

Jess White, who recently started trading as Ink & Brayer, is one of those, bringing a zing of graphic work to her prints, as well as a keen understanding of colour’s importance.

So what does that relationship entail? And how does it impact on your work? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Ask…

 

Hello Jess. So, how did you come to be a linocutter?

I work as a graphic designer full time and the faux hand printed effect became really popular a few years ago, but when it’s done on the computer it doesn’t ever look as good as the real thing and the process of making it didn’t seem as satisfying.

It got me thinking how much I missed making actual prints and working by hand, so I bought one of those beginning printmaking kits when a work colleague mentioned there was a sale at the art shop – all a bit spur of the moment.

The first print I made was a few small cacti. They came out alright and I enjoyed printing them all over my sketchbook so muc, that I became a bit obsessed with lino and carved a swallow a couple of days later.

I’m still obsessed. I ended up with a few test copies of everything hanging around in my flat and when friends came round one evening they liked them, and along with my boyfriend suggested I should try selling them. My local pub was having a little craft market a few weeks later and I emailed for some more info with a picture of the swallow and the cactus and they unexpectedly gave me a place, so I had a few late nights panicking and making more prints in time for the market. I didn’t have amazing sales that day but I got loads of positive feedback and it was wonderful to have people like them enough to buy them.

I’ve only been working as Ink & Brayer for just over a year so I’m quite new to it and looking forward to making a lot more prints in the future.

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What are the main influences on your prints?

Probably animals, plants and space. I think the first two are fairly common because they’re such great subject matters, but space is a bit more unusual. I’ve been obsessed with space and sci-fi since I was a little kid and can remember my excitement of looking at the moon through a telescope for the first time and talking about the stars with my Grandad. There’s just something so fascinating about something we know very little about and imagining what might be out there. I also love the aesthetic of old sci-fi shows and how they depicted how space travel and the future might be. I’d like to do more sci-fi prints in the future.
I don’t have a particular process for planning prints, most of them just start as ideas that hit me at random moments, they’re just things I like and think would be interesting to carve out. I suppose you learn to see the world a bit differently, looking for things that have interesting textures or colour combinations that would work well as a print.

Nature seems to play a key role too?

Definitely – there are so many amazing plants and animals to capture and each represents its own challenge and learning, from the really furry ones that take ages to carve out to the texture and look of feathers. Although I live in London, there are quite a few green areas and I often cycle out of the city through the marshes and down the canals as well as visiting the large parks. It’s as good for clearing your head and relaxing as it is for inspiration.

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Your colours are so fresh!

Thank you, I really love vivid colour and combining different colours, sometimes almost in a slightly clashing way, like bright pink and lime green. I have a bit of an obsession with bright colours and patterns and I have to be careful not to go overboard. That said, I also really like white space and the balance between something very vivid and bold and the space around it.

When I have an idea for a print I normally have a colour scheme pictured in my mind before I begin. Maybe because I work with colour combinations every day in graphics, I find it fairly easy to imagine what it would look like so I can normally picture what works and what doesn’t.

As for mixing the ink, I’m normally fairly cautious testing a little bit first if I’m unsure. Although I know which colours to mix together to get the colour I want, I learned the hard way that only a tiny amount of the darker colours is needed in comparison to the lighter ones – I remember wasting a fair bit of ink at the start trying to make a light green.

What I also like is how you can do something as vivid as the Maranta leaf, but also a monochrome piece like the moon – do you like to alternate?

I hadn’t thought about that before, but yes, as well as colour I also like how striking monochrome is and have enjoyed doing a lot of black and white photography in the past. I often like to soften black and white prints by using an off white paper, so it still has the high contrast but has an almost vintage quality and is easier to look at. I find this preferable to the bright white with black. I do alternate between colour and monochrome but rather than set out to do one or the other I usually let the subject matter dictate.

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What’s been your experience of using fairs and stall to sell? 

I’ve done quite a few markets in the London area over the last year and I’ve found the Christmas ones in particular go well. It’s nice to meet potential customers and explain what you do, although I’m a quite shy, so I struggle with selling in person a bit, but it’s so lovely when someone likes your work and comes up to tell you. I also find people want prints framed, especially around Christmas as gifts, but I don’t have a car and can’t carry that much on the tube!

I think with a lot of fairs people are looking to buy little inexpensive items rather than original art prints and it’s hard to explain why your item costs more than say, a giclee print, because it’s a handmade original – but some customers understand the difference and are happy to pay more.

I’ve taken some of the lino blocks to display on my stall before and it was a great talking point because people realise the work that goes into it (or come up to tell me how badly they injured themselves doing it at school!). I just wish I could carve without going into the hessian backing because they’d look a lot prettier to display, I’m a bit heavy handed!

I also sell my work on Etsy and it’s exciting to send your work as far away as Australia, Canada and the US. I’m just hoping someone from New Zealand buys a print soon because that’s the exact opposite side of the world from here.

What sort of printing set up to you use/have?

For carving I have one of the Japanese pencil style gouges and a few pfiel tools and I use grey lino. I nearly always print using a bamboo baren, especially when using the thin Japanese paper, but that can be really tough for thicker paper. Sometimes I use a wooden spoon for tougher parts of the print but I feel like there must be a better solution, I just haven’t found it!

I also have a cold laminator that I got secondhand. It’s sort of like an etching press but the rollers are a small diameter and made of rubber and you have to make your own print bed. You can print quite well with it and I use it for large areas of background colour in my big 16×12” prints which was hard to do by hand on thicker paper. I’m sure it’s capable of more and I need to experiment with it a bit. The only problem is there doesn’t seem to be a way of effectively anchoring it to the table.

 

What are you currently working on?

A Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera) leaf on a teal background. I’ve just done the thirdand final layer, so I’m just waiting for it to dry. I’m also working on a different edition of my moon in metallic copper ink and navy. I need to make some smaller prints soon because my last few prints have all been quite big at 16×12”.

 

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Jess spent the last few weeks making a website – www.inkandbrayer.com

and she is also on Etsy here

You can also find her in the Instagram labyrinth as @inkandbrayerstudio and deep in Twitter as @inkandbrayer

Kirstie Dedman: “My press is a spoon, used with grit and determination…”

pink

Kirstie Dedman’s linocuts make me feel serene. Usually still life pieces from in the home, or shots of rolling landscapes, the hand coloured linocuts and reduction works feel, well, peaceful to me.

But there’s also something satisfyingly graphic about the work, which makes sense when you learn Kirstie is a trained graphic artist and also a freelance illustrator. But linocut seems to be a calling for her. “I first did it at Harrogate College doing my Art Foundation Course. It wasn’t something I’d ever done before, and I loved the different stages to the process,” she explains. “I particularly loved using the huge presses there, and the ability to create huge pieces. I seem to remember spending a lot of time with inky fingers and trying to get clean with Swarfega – and badly cut fingers!”

sunrise

Kirstie says her inspiration comes, as you might expect, from the outdoors – but also more retro bits and bobs too of late. “I live in the countryside and have two dogs to walk, so lots of inspiration comes from those walks. I also love looking at other artists works and trying out new techniques, this can lead to new ideas. But my latest works are of kitsch ice lollies, that idea came from walking past an ice cream van. I’d been doing some logo design and wanted to print something in quite a Pop Art style, then I saw the ice cream van and had my lightbulb moment…”

Like many of us, Kirstie has been using online channels to distribute her work. “I sell through Etsy, Folksy and ArtFinder,” she explains. “They take it in turns to give me sales. I sell best when people see the prints in real life. I recently did a local exhibition which was really successful. I much prefer events where you are not charged up front, but give a percentage of your takings. I find at those events everyone works harder to get buyers through the door!

dandelion

Another feeling many new printers will be familiar with is that which comes from a home printing set up. “I’m using a spare room as a makeshift studio, but when I have lots of printing to do I often use my dining room table. I’d love my own studio, but that’s just a dream currently. My press is a spoon used with grit and determination,” she says.

Even as Kirstie continues to work on her lolly series, more ideas are forming. “They should be finished in the next day or two – but then I have an idea for a more conceptual piece about how time disappears in a day… that’s still in the planning stages, and I have Christmas cards to design, so lots to do. I find it better to have a few things on the go at once, at different stages, that means no down time, and keeps my energy levels up.”

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You can view and buy Kirstie’s work HERE. Go immediately.

 

 

Dave Flitcroft: “Slowly but surely the art-making surfaces are taking over”

high summer

Isn’t it great when life flows around, buzzes along, only to return to something, maybe an un-accomplished goal?

It happened that way for printer Dave Flitcroft, who I discovered through Twitter and who stood out because – as his handle and the name of his Etsy shop implied – he worked from a bike shed.

I like a bit of constriction, me. Working against the odds and all that. But Dave wasn’t only working from a shed, he was also selling a great quantity of his prints too. And as you might expect, cycling was a key influence.

night ride

I first did linocutting at school and sixth form college in the late 70s – we used a couple of cast iron book presses. I really liked the medium and the effects I could create,” he remembers. “I left school in 1979 and joined the Police. Art took a back seat for the next 30 years, but it remained an interest. In fact, I found a cast iron book press in an antique shop in the early 80s and bought it intending to continue linocut print making. I used it with my kids when they had art projects during their school days, but otherwise it was a heavy lump that always lived in the bike shed.”

Next came retirement and a major life change, Dave explains. “I retired from the Police in 2009, moved to France and after the initial rush of house renovation I set the book press up in the current bikeshed (really an old hay barn) and started linocutting again – at last. After a while I opened a shop on Etsy called Art From The Bike Shed.”

Cycling, then, was now a facilitator as well as an influence. “Cycling through beautiful countryside on quiet lanes and tracks and wanting to capture the feeling is my key influence,” Dave says. “But also, the pen and ink drawings of Frank Patterson, the cycling artist of the 30s and 50s are inspirational in the way they capture the mood of cycle touring but the line drawing technique doesn’t work for linocut,” he adds.

“I was learning from the style and technique of Paul Nash, Edward Bawden and Eric Ravillious – the greats of wood and linocuts are a strong influence on me. I particularly like the paintings of Simon Palmer. They seem influenced by Nash and the subject matter of sinuous country lanes in a stylised countryside really resonates. I love and aspire to the colour work of Carry Ackroyd, perhaps my favourite artist.

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So, it really all happens from a bike shed nowadays?

“Yes, in fairness my bike shed now is an old, wedge shaped hay barn. It’s not an ideal studio because it lacks a lot of natural light. It’s south facing and most of the year I work with the door open. Slowly but surely art making surfaces are taking over. I still use my cast iron book binding press, but most printing is now done using an A2 size etching press purchased from Gunning’s Art Gallery in Ironbridge.”

Dave says that, as well as cycling, there are other elements he sees – while out on his bike – that influence his prints. “Landscape and nature are really important to me, but I experience them mainly from a bike, or tandem. I love to read about, research and then ride old routes, roads and tracks. They naturally find their way into my sketches and prints.”

Dave says he is also constantly on the look out. “I keep a sketch pad of ideas and also use the Procreate app on iPad. My usual approach is to develop a sketch or sketches into a print size drawing, then trace the key elements and transfer it onto lino. I use the original drawing and photographs as references rather than drawing a lot of detail onto the lino.

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“I also often use rough watercoloured sketches to inform my colour palette as the print progresses. I often photograph the in progress print and import it into the app to trial the next cuts, gouges and colours. Being able to flip the image in that app is really useful.

Next up came the potential to sell work, egged on by the online community. In February 2014 I opened my Etsy shop following requests to purchase some work I’d shared on Twitter. I’ve sold some early work prints to an online bike shop called Cyclemiles, but otherwise all my sales are via Etsy.

“I’ve sold more than 400 prints and sold out a few limited editions. Recently I created a special souvenir print for a long distance bike ride, London-Edinburgh-London. The edition of 100 sold out within three weeks, which was great, but became quite hard work in terms of packaging and postage. I know many people dismiss Etsy as an option for selling art, but my personal experience has been really positive. It allows people to buy direct from the artist at a fair price avoiding the huge commission charges of galleries and art shops.

But it’s back to nature next for Dave, he says. “I’m currently doing a 40x45cm reduction print of a tree tunnel holloway. I think it will lead to a series of similar pieces, but there are also some other drawings waiting on the cutting pile. ‘Sunflowers’ was a reduction print I made a couple of years ago. It quickly sold out as there were only eight in the edition. I’m currently using the final remains of the lino to make smaller watercolour tinted prints. I’m experimenting with colour combinations to inform a new Sunflower reduction print I’m working on…”

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You can visit Dave’s Etsy shop here and he’s also on Twitter as @Artfrombikeshed – and there’s a Facebook page at @DaveFlitcroftisartfromthebikeshed.

Nell Smith: “I get quite excited when I get new ideas…”

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 10.54.11Manchester’s Nell Smith is one of those annoying people who’ve found a real identity through their art, who can create across different mediums and yet still retain a sense of it being ‘her’ work. I was attracted to the lincouts though because they seemed to be alive, as if they were fizzing out of the page (or screen, in my case).

Nell can still remember, and in fact still has, some of the first prints she ever cut. “I first got into linoprinting at school, I did a three colour reduction cut made up of four blocks as it was so big – quite ambitious in retrospect! I still have some of the prints, inspired by a trip to see family in Mexico, they’re quite cool and I’m pretty proud of 15 year old me….”

Nell works in large form sketching as a genesis for her prints, but also runs a business that produces baby clothes. It’s a point worth noting, as I think a childlike fun is found in the prints of hers I’ve seen online. That, and a love of animals.. “My main influences are probably the natural world, I love curious creatures and old engravings. Also just the process of lino, it’s so quick when you get into it, really physically and mentally engaging, I find it quite meditative,” she says.

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Nell also says that speed is of the essence when an idea grabs her. “I get quite excited when I get new ideas, so I work quickly, doing a few sketches and then going straight to the lino, not over working too much. I like to keep that sense of energy, and I think that works well with my Staffordshire pottery prints, I love the expressions on the faces of the figurines, and wanted to capture that oddness. I’m not interested in perfection.”

One character of Nell’s I particularly dug was a slippery looking customer called Pizza Girl. “Pizza Girl is me! I was thinking one day, if I eat another pizza I’ll turn into The Incredible Pizza Girl, and quickly drew her. I was thinking of doing a range – Pizza Boy, Pizza dog, but I haven’t got round to it! I move on quickly from one idea to the next, I’m quite impatient, because my mind is so full and frenzied a lot of the time…”

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On top of her whirlwind of ideas, Nell explains the more ‘regular’ jobs that take her energies up, as well as a heavy amount of promotion of the printmaking craft. “I’ve been self-employed since 2008, working and selling from Manchester Craft and Design Centre,” she says. ” I’ve always done some teaching alongside selling, running printmaking workshops in various places in the North West. I’m actually leaving after Christmas, I’ve been a member of Hot Bed Press printmaker’s studio since 2014, and have just moved into a big new studio there, so I’m going to be making the most of 24-hour access to the print studio! It’s an awesome place, full of lovely printmaking equipment including Albion and Colombian presses, I love it. We’re having open studios in November, so swing by if you’re in the area!

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Next for Nell is a project with a definite scientific leaning. “I’m working on scientific illustrations for Manchester Science Festival – we’re running Scientific Studios at the Craft Centre in October, I’ll be showing people how to use my mini etching press and then overprinting with my Adana letterpress, which should be fun.”

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You can have a gander at Nell’s work on her website, nellsmith.co.uk and she’s on Instagram @nellsmithprints. She also has work in the National Centre for Craft and Design, Bury Art Gallery and Museum and the Royal Exchange Theatre shop. Also, most of her wares are on etsy, here.

Nell will also be at the Manchester Print Fair from 21-22nd October and Etsy Made Local Christmas Market 1-3rd of December at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. “Come say hi!” she says.

So do. If you’re in the area of course. Or even if you’re not.

Sangeeta Bhagawati: “A break is sometimes refreshing…”

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Sangeeta Bhagawati’s linocuts are heady mixtures of a number of techniques – but all grounded in linocut.

Be it chiné-colles or collage or colouring that takes the prints into new places, the effects are always charming and with a cool, measured life of their own.

As someone who only works in one medium at any one time, I approached Sangeeta to see how the process goes for her.

 

Hello there Sangeeta – what are the main influences on your prints?

My practice is dictated by an urge to make motif prints by combining linoprint and chiné-colle techniques to create a palimpsest like effect. I’m very much influenced by the techniques of collage and pattern making on which I relied before turning to printmaking. I regularly incorporate chiné-colles from vintage magazine pages and Japanese origami papers into my linocuts to create the motifs and patterns I desire.

How did you come to be a linocutter? 

I started with a beginner’s printmaking course in 2014. The course introduced me to all types of printmaking processes and I soon became hooked. After a year and a half I became confident to work independently and started concentrating on linocuts more.

I think it’s the best medium to work on as it gives me the freedom to play with colours. I also find it easy to combine linocuts with other printmaking techniques, especially chiné-colle.

My work’s evolved to the point where I’m concentrating solely on the potential of linocut and chiné-colle and experimenting with various types of paper to create my signature motifs.

Nature plays a key role in your work, but also the man made world?

My prints constantly highlight the interaction of human world/nature with urban life/man-made life. My series Métropole explores this plurality of modern life, parodying a patchwork style to give a feel of fragmentation.

Your colours are so restrained and well thought out – is there a lot of trial and error?

A lot – especially when I’m working on reduction prints. Sometimes the layered colours I thought would work together turn out to be otherwise. I’ve scraped and thrown innumerable prints into the bin just because I couldn’t get the colours right. I’m still learning how to make colours work.

I also like how you can do something as vivid as a human face, but also a starker piece like Métropole – do you like to alternate to keep things fresh?

Yes – a break from what I usually do is sometimes refreshing. For example, currently I’m taking a break from my linocut and chiné-colle to do a bit of monoprinting. This happens when I hit a creative block with a certain project – like when I print a linoblock and then can’t decide how to best proceed with the chiné-colle on it. This will last for a week or two and I think it’s essential as small breaks often give me some space to come up with new ideas for my main project.

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What’s been your experience of selling your work – what methods do you use?

I mainly rely on exhibitions to sell my prints. I put them up on social media as well but since I mostly produce series of limited editions I prefer not to sell them via social media. I’ve been in a couple of exhibitions since 2014 and have seen good response from the crowd and sold well.

What sometimes hampers sales through exhibitions is if I’m exhibiting somewhere which is not exclusively for printmakers. In those cases, sometimes the audience doesn’t know what printmaking is and don’t appreciate the toil behind each print.

My good friends have suggested I have a small video installation in my exhibition space to show the process behind each print. Some exhibitors also exhibit their lino blocks along with their prints and I’ve learned this gets a good response.

What sort of printing set up to you use?

I basically work on an Albion press for my linoblocks and an etching printing press for my chiné-colle work. I’m a huge fan of the print room at Morley College in London. I’ve been going there since 2014 and it’s become my comfort zone as it contains everything necessary for any printmaking technique.

Plus, I get to work under my mentor David Holah who taught me the A-Z of printmaking. Sometimes I also use the print rooms of East London Printmakers as they’re very welcoming and they have quite a peaceful set-up.

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What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished working on a series of monoprints titled Passage. I’m still deciding about the direction of my next project which will obviously include linocut and chiné-colle, and will probably include some botanically inspired prints.

Where can we see your work?

You can visit my Instagram (@_amoort_) and Twitter where I always put up my latest work. YBut yu can also visit my Tumblr where I often discuss the process behind my prints and even put up videos.

Haggy Tea: “In an increasingly insane world, observing nature keeps me sane”

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Sometimes a print just speaks to you. You see it, it grabs you and then you want it. Before you know it, all your walls are full up and there are prints on top of cupboards and behind the sofa and under the bed.

What I mean is, when you see a print you want, it sort of haunts you for a few days. I had that with a piece by the elusively named artist Haggy Tea, and her two-colour print of a bird on a spade’s handle really stuck out as I browsed online. I’m wasn’t even sure what the bird was – I’m not Bill Oddie.

Then, on further inspection, I discovered birds were her ‘thing’ – and I really admire people who specialise like this. So you can guess what happened next…

 

Watcha Haggy. When did you start linocutting?

In 2014, after being bought a one-day black and white linocut workshop taught by Nick Morley, aka Linocutboy, as a birthday gift from my boyfriend. Unlike many people I’d never done it at school, so had no previous experience, but I instantly fell in love.

I then received the two-day colour linocut workshop for Christmas 2015. Together, the workshops taught me all the fundamentals. I’ve been pretty obsessed ever since. I have a lot to learn still, but I can see real progress in my work and I just love printing.

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What influences your prints?

Most of the ideas start out with the desire to create an image as a gift or greeting card to give to a family member or a friend, or just for personal interest. From the beginning I have particularly enjoyed printing images of nature and book-related images – nature and books are great loves of mine.

Recently I’ve experimented with a print of a local manor house, which was my most challenging and largest linocut to date, but I was very pleased with the outcome and it’s encouraged me to keep trying new things!

Why are birds so important in your prints?

Over the last few years – lefty that I am – I’ve been increasingly feeling like the world is on the edge of a political, environmental and societal crisis, and in direct correlation to this feeling my love of nature has grown.

In an increasingly insane world, observing nature keeps me sane. Nature carries on, I take heart in it buzzing and tweeting around me. In this time, I’ve become more and more interested in birdlife. I’ve been trying to get better at identifying birds and birdsong, and essentially I just think birds are incredible in their behaviours and intelligence.

My favourites are Corvids (Crows, Ravens, Magpies), Owls, and Swallows/Swifts. If you read about the intelligence of a Raven or the flight/sleeping behaviours of a Swift, you can’t fail to be amazed! It’s become a bit of a running joke with some of my friends that I have some kind of condition where I can only linocut birds. I have linocut other things!

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You have a very nice minimalist approach to using ink, why do you think this is? There’s never too much on the page…

That’s an interesting observation. Partly I think it’s because creating clear prints is very important to me, but partly I think it’s because I seem to have a bit of a hang-up believing that starting with a black background and essentially drawing with the tools to create white lines on the background is kind of cheating – I think this might be linocutboy’s fault!

I sometimes wish I could work larger block areas into my designs, but they always come out minimalist and line-y. I guess it’s my unconscious style. Often my prints seem to be one item in the middle of the page, so one of the reasons I was so happy with my latest Country House and Barn Owl print was because it was my first linocut of a large and complex scene which filled the page.

What sort of printing set up do you have?

I’m lucky enough to have a room I can use pretty much solely as a studio – it’s a cellar room but it has a window. I have a table and two desks down there and a cupboard of materials.

I started out printing using a wooden spoon, and then progressed to a Jackson’s Art Supplies 10×8″ lever press, but last birthday my boyfriend (he really has been instrumental in my progress as a printmaker) bought me a Victorian Book Press from eBay. It’s a beautiful cast iron press in perfect condition with its original paint job. It would have been used to bind books the old fashioned way. I’m restricted to A4 prints with it, but that suits me fine. I use Pfeil tools and battleship grey lino and I print using Caligo Safe Wash Relief Ink, which is a lovely pigmented ink made of vegetable oil that can be cleaned up without the use of harmful solvents.

What methods do you use to sell your work?

I started selling at the very end of last year as a way to pay for my materials and make my hobby self-sustainable, and because it’s fun and so lovely when somebody wants your artwork enough to part with cash for it.

I started out by selling a few Christmas cards through a local gallery. Since then I have sold work through my Etsy shop and I’ve had a stall at three craft fairs. People often discover my work through my Twitter and Instagram profiles.

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What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve had a few weeks off recently to enjoy the summer, but I’ve just started working on my Christmas card designs. So far, I’ve sketched four designs onto pieces of lino. Surprisingly two designs feature birds!

Once I’ve got my Christmas Cards printed, I have many, many other ideas to be getting on with. I have too many ideas and not enough time!

Where can we see your work?

The best place is online on Etsy, Instagram and Twitter. I’d love to have some of my work in a gallery or have my own exhibition some day, but I haven’t been brave enough to go down that path yet. One day…

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Steve Shaw: “I wish more people would have a go at creating…”

I really just do printing. After years trying other things – writing, drawing, weaving, running – anything to keep my mind active and all with a pretty low level of success, I’ve settled on the relief printing medium to keep me sane.

Not so for potter, painter, draughtsman and all-round amazing beard wearer Steve Shaw, whose recent ventures into linocut he says, are merely the next step in an ever-evolving artistic journey. Probably by the time you read this he’ll have become a glassblower and a fine jeweller – but I caught him in ‘linocut mode’ – and struck with my questions while the iron was hot…

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Hi Steve, can you remember your first impressions of doing linocut?

I’ve only been doing it for about 18 months, so yes! I loved the process straightaway. I’m a potter and the person who taught me pottery was a copper engraver for the ceramic industry. I used to watch him engrave and thought I’d like to do something like that, plus people told me I should have a go. Then I was at the art shop and it seemed everyone was buying lino, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I was looking for another medium to try and this was ideal – so different to just painting. I like that it’s such an old technique but I also think you can feel the history in the process.

As a potter I draw on clay vases then graffito it into the clay (scratch in the line drawing). Lino printing has been the nearest medium I’ve found that gives me the same excitement when I’m decorating pottery. I don’t think there’s any part of the process I don’t like, but my favourite is the engraving as it’s so therapeutic. I like the fact you’re not strictly in control of what the finished image will look like – again like pottery when something goes in the kiln. I don’t like to push the medium so I tend to use one colour printing. I want it to look like a print. I want my printing to have a different look than any other medium I use. The effect I’m getting from lino is completely different and unique. I couldn’t get that same feeling or effect using any other medium.

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Are you trained at all in the arts?

No. I’ve always loved the arts, be it music or painting or drawing. I had a wonderful teacher at school who introduced me to all manner of arts. I can remember doing scraperboards. I use the same disciplines for my lino printing.

My philosophy for lino and all the mediums I use is to just have a go. I’ve found all I really need is a basic ability to draw, and that can see you through. I wish more people would have a go at creating art. I don’t like the elitist way the arts are sometimes treated. I think everyone should get involved in some way – they just need to find a medium that suits them and believe me, there should be a medium out there for them.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I know it’s a cliché, but everywhere. Music is my main inspiration. I used to paint portraits all the time, especially musicians. The only problem was I could never convey the excitement I felt for the music in the finished portrait.

The answer was to depict the lyrics or the excitement of the song in a single image. I started to paint whatever ideas I had. I found this very rewarding and liberating. I use the same to do my printing. I was really influenced by the punk movement and especially the DIY attitude. When Buzzcocks bought out their Spiral Scratch EP I couldn’t believe the fact they’d done everything themselves down to the sleeve.

DIY fanzines came out at the same time. Using basic printing they created some stunning graphics. They were a great influence for me. Again, it’s that ‘go out and get involved’ attitude – you will be rewarded in so many ways.

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Do you get those days when everything goes wrong?

I think every artist has those days. I’ve found especially at work where I’m being paid to create artwork, I have to carry on even when things aren’t going well or not coming together as well as I may want.

Usually you’re told to walk away and come back to it later, but this doesn’t work for me. I find I can often get over it by persevering. You have to find your own methods to get over days like that.

What I would say though is art should be fun – it’s not the end of the world when things go wrong. In fact, I’ve had some happy accidents. Things haven’t gone the way I was thinking but have turned out better. I tend to go with the flow.

How have sales been going?

Really well. In fact, the lino printing has allowed me to get into more art shops, as well as showing and then selling my prints on social media. I also have exhibitions at the gallery where I show my artwork. I’ve got to admit, competitions and exhibitions are not my thing. I really like the process of creating artwork – that’s the thing that keeps me excited about art. I like turning my ideas into images. If someone else likes the result enough to buy it, well that’s just a bonus.

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What sort of printing set up do you have?

I really like the results I’m getting with the simplest of tools. I use Essdee handles and blades, Sea white water based block printing ink and mostly easycut lino, although i’ve just acquired some of the canvas backed artist quality lino to try more detailed work. I’ve also just invested in an Xcut Xpress die cutter which I use as a press. This was after being asked to do some lino printed greetings cards – 30 in all. Using the spoon method was really, really tiring (and as i mentioned earlier art should be fun).

I’d thoroughly recommend the Xcut as an economical press. I still use the spoon for the bigger prints. I tend to use Bristol board or card, as I do like the way the ink sits up on top of the card – very tactile.

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What are you working on at the moment?

It’s been very busy just lately. I’ve been working on some portraits recently of John Lennon and Ian Curtis. I’ve found lino printing has given the portraits a lot of atmospheric feeling I haven’t been able achieve with painting or drawing. Especially on the Ian Curtis print, I had to resist the urge to tidy the many lines on the face as I would in any other medium. These lines give the portrait an edgy, troubled feel, even though his eyes are closed, also giving a sense of relaxation of someone in the zone. These feelings then compete giving that edge to the whole print. This was one of those happy accidents – the lino printing took over and you can’t ask more from a process than that.

I’ve just started doing screenprinting too, which although a completely different medium demanding differing skills is so enjoyable.

I’ve also recently attended a local festival. I’d already engraved a piece of lino and I got the people who attended to have a go at printing from it. They first had to ink the plate then take a print using the spoon method. It proved very popular, the reaction to lino printing really surprised me. We had to get extra tables to let their prints dry out. I do hope that they go home and have a go at lino printing themselves.

Where can people see your work?

The majority of my artwork is on show at Theartbay Gallery in Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent, and this includes drawings paintings and lino prints.

http://www.theartbay.co.uk

My lino prints are available from the Art Department in Hanley. This is an independent art materials shop and gallery in Stoke-on-Trent. I buy all my materials there – it’s such a friendly inspirational shop.

http://www.theartdeptstoke.co.uk

What he said! Steve’s also on twitter as @ShawSteve5 of course. 

The Iron Frog Press: “It’s allowed me to contribute to the advancement of printmaking”

Even now, three or four years into my printing life, I’m still trying to find the right tools for the craft. My baren – the actual thing you press and smooth the paper onto the plate with – leaves a lot to be desired.

I know people use wooden spoons for home printing, but I can’t really get with that, so I use one of those ‘my first baren’ things that’s crude, plastic and will probably break very soon. Plus the angle it requires from my wrist is all wrong.

But other printers I meet have all manner of solutions for the task of actually getting good ink coverage from a handprint, from home presses to rolling pins and more.

A good baren can make all the difference, so I was intrigued by the US company, The Iron Frog Press, and its dedicated quest to bring better ones to the printing community. Formed by husband and wife Sharon and Matt Bagley, the pair make high quality, hand blown glass barens aimed squarely at the printer.

For full disclosure, I don’t own one of these, I just wanted to know more.

Although, my 40th birthday is just round the corner guys…

 

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Hi Matt. before you created the Print Frog, were you both printers?

Sort of. Sharon is a professional photographer but she’s gotten a lot more involved with printmaking as a result of the Print Frog. I jokingly say she’s a printmaker through marriage. Actually, we did meet in the printmaking studio at university. All the photo majors were required to take printmaking and when Sharon took it I was the lab monitor.

I’ve been a printmaker for over 25 years. I studied printmaking at the University of North Texas. After graduation, I worked as a press operator for several years. I ran a Webtron flexographic press. I printed mostly food and chemical labels, but every now and then I got the chance to print my own artwork. In 2008, I started Iron Frog Press to encourage more fine art printing in our Dallas community. The Print Frog was initiated in 2012.

How did the idea come about?

I had a project where I was having difficultly printing an image cut into a twisted cherry block. The only way I could pull a complete impression was using my trusty old wooden drawer pull baren. I was dreading the edition process because I have fairly severe repetitive strain injuries all over my right arm.

In a conversation about my problem, a friend made a crack, “Well, if you knew a glass blower…” I did, and he owed me a favor. I asked him to make one but he made me about 40. They performed way above expectations. We quickly sold out and I never intended to have more made. But printmakers wanted them and I was being asked from people around the globe when they could get a Print Frog.

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Was there simply nothing good enough on the market?

Yes. Finding high-performing tools for hand printing was non existent. Most printmakers learned to print with with a wooden spoon. They’re cheap and work well, but are uncomfortable and very inefficient for editioning. Any barens that were available were usually cheap plastic toys. And expensive Japanese ball bearing and traditional Hon barens could be ordered, yet they had limitations too.

So most of my colleagues who seriously hand printed made their own barens or retrofitted household objects like doorknobs, baby food jars, drawer pulls, metal bowls and so on. These all worked, but quickly became tedious and painful for larger or multi-block editions. I used two drawer pulls glued together for over 20 years and now I’m suffering for it. So by the time the Print Frog originated I was well aware that an efficient, comfortable and some what affordable baren was not available.

They’re very beautiful looking things – I assume this was intentional?

No, not at all. I was just being open minded to what the best material for a baren could be. Glass is beautiful, but it posses so many other properties that make it the ideal hand printing tool. It’s smooth, heavy and glides across the paper so easily that a 5-year old can quickly master it. Glass is impervious to all inks, and chemicals and solvents can be easily wiped off.

Our ‘Studio’ models are made of recycled glass and are hand blown. Our ‘Pro’ models are hand-crafted from borosilicate glass. Borosilicate glass is a much higher quality material and has the added bonus of being heatproof. It’s the perfect tool for encaustic monoprinting. The overall shape harmonised with the wonderful properties of glass, the Print Frog is an outstanding example of Gestalt…

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What are the benefits?

I actually get to use the baren of my dreams! I do have a 48”x72” Conrad monoprinting press in the studio. It’s an awesome press for large woodblocks, but I still tend to print most of my color multi block small pieces with the Print Frog. It effortlessly prints on mulberry and kozo type papers, but it can also be used on a variety of substrates such heavy etching paper, vellum, copy paper and transparent silk.

After developing the Print Frog I discovered it was an extremely versatile printmaking tool. As well as printing, I use it in paper-making, for chine-collé, folding heavy paper, tagging paper for registration and anywhere you need an extremely clean weight. Some users have given reports of it working on intaglio and bleed-edge lithography too. Eric E. Coleman, who teaches at Penland School of Crafts, used the Print Frog to help cutout a head-gasket for a VW engine!

It’s been a great way for me to connect with the international printmaking community. Printmaking is an inherently collaborative medium, since there are many steps, completing projects often involve more than one person. Printmakers face many of the same challenges and dilemmas. There’s a fellowship of the medium and printmakers are eager to share ideas, solutions and even artwork.

The Print Frog has allowed me to contribute to the advancement of printmaking. It encourages printmakers to continue their craft, because you can setup a print shop anywhere. Setting up a small low cost home studio or travel print shop is now feasible. Also, due to its versatility, it’s quickly being recognised as an indispensable tool in any print shop.

It’s opened up educational opportunities for me as well. Since the Print Frog is so easy to master and very portable, it makes an ideal tool for teaching printmaking to children. Back in my early career, I never considered being an instructor. But now, in addition to teaching, I’ve developed methods for teaching printmaking to early elementary age kids. I also teach to art instructors these methods. Teaching printmaking to our future printmakers is the most rewarding benefit that I have gotten from the Print Frog.

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What sort of range do you offer?

The ‘Pro’ model is made of borosilicate glass which is the same glass that cookware and scientific equipment is made of. It can be crafted precisely to fit ideal design specs. They’re handmade and vary a little bit in size and shape, but artists vary too. It has an extremely comfortable handle that’s stout and allows for a neutral hand position. I can easily print a hundred impressions in one day with almost no RSI aggravation. The ‘Pro’ model is our highest quality baren, at $130.

Then there’s the ‘Studio’ model in clear/turquoise which is hand blown out of recycled glass and varies more in size, shape and coloor. It performs almost as good as the ‘Pro’ but costs $85. Finally, there’s the ‘Studio’ model in Cobalt which is the same as the other “Studio” model, but is a deep blue and have the Print Frog logo stamped on the handle, which is $80.

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Where can people buy them?

You can get them from our store section on our website and we also have an Etsy store.

We ship most places in the world and if your country is not on our list we will gladly add it. But the most enjoyable way we like to sell is at printmaking events. People can come by our booth or demos and actually try it for themselves. We’re looking into attending some printmaking events in the UK soon.

Also, be sure to check out our social media pages for more updates, videos and other fun stuff. We’re on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram.