Giving something back: Carolyn Murphy

The ‘nearly finished’ reduction linocut Carolyn is working on for Macmillan.

Printing at home for your own pleasure is fine, perfection even, and going out into a studio or even selling your work is admirable too. But some printers take it even further, producing works to benefit others, for charity or similar. And Carolyn Murphy is one of those legends.

Based in Manchester and usually working in her attic, but sometimes visiting Hot Bed Press in Salford and Prospect Studios in Rossendale, she has recently undertaken a massive linocut commission for Macmillan. Prints of the artwork will be sold for the charity, which she confesses has been “very helpful to her”.

“It’s the largest I’ve ever printed and it’s my first commission – an A1 reduction linocut for Macmillan’s Cancer Support Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital in South Manchester,” Carolyn explains.

Initially a school printer, she returned to the printing fold in 2008.  “I didn’t return to printmaking until about 2008 when I did a weekend woodcut printing course at Llanthony Art in Wales with artist Veronica Gibson. I knew I was hooked again at once. Linocut is still my favourite medium and I enjoy working both with multi-plate and reduction.”

Hard at Work by Carolyn Murphy.jpeg
Hard at Work

Carolyn says her love of print has been maintained by the courses she’s attended. “I’ve been a member at Hot Bed Press since 2011 and was on their first Complete Printmaker evening course, which ran for a year on Monday evenings. I love to learn from other printmakers. I print regularly with Alan Birch’s Prospect Printmakers and have attended workshops with printmakers I admire, including Hester Cox and Ian Phillips,” she explains.

Carolyn says she’s inspired by wild industrial landscapes, hidden places and Manchester itself. And, just like with many who create art, finds there’s a therapeutic aspect to her printing. “I had a tough few years where recovering from cancer surgery and felt lost. Printmaking has been a great help in finding calm and getting back my energy and oomph. It’s a joy to regain that passion and focus. I feel lucky to have met some great people through printmaking. There’s a lively community of printmakers here in the North West and it really adds to the fun and inspiration.”

Over Morecambe Bay by Carolyn Murphy.jpg
Over Morecambe Bay

Which brings us neatly to the stunning print she is, as we speak, working on for the charity. “I started by working up a quarter-sized prototype to try to reduce some of the risks. I’m printing it on the largest etching press at Hot Bed Press. I’m nearly there! I have one more colour to print now. I’m happy with the way it’s going,” Carolyn says.

“It’s taken me over 60 hours of cutting and printing already and it’s definitely testing my stamina. It will be part of the opening of the new extension to the Macmillan Centre in a few months. I’m really proud to be able to create something positive and uplifting to go on the wall in the new Centre. It will also help raise funds for Macmillan. They provide an amazing service and have helped me enormously,” she adds.

Carolyn also exhibits, she says, and is looking forward to more across 2018. “I’ve had an exhibition in Chorlton since December, with a fellow printmaker. It’s just coming to an end and I’ve been really pleased with the response. Sales of my linocuts and new cards (produced by the not-for-profit organisation Love From The Artist) have been really promising. I have three more group exhibitions planned so far for this year. I’d like to build up some more sales opportunities and see how things can develop. I’ve recently added a shop function to my website, which is a start!”

Autumn Hideaway by Carolyn Murphy.jpg
Autumn Hideaway

But there’s more. “I have a few pieces of work in the Longitude Gallery in Clitheroe at the moment. In October my work will be in exhibitions at the Old Parsonage in Didsbury and the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. I always post latest news on exhibitions and fairs, and my finished work on my website and I post work in progress and behind the scenes stuff on my blog as well as on twitter.



Fresh ink No. 2: Amanda Angus

In the second of my series aiming to highlight up and coming linocut talent, I spoke to printer Amanda Angus, who trades (very well thank you) as PandaBlueCreations.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 09.49.21.png

Her work is perfect for cards and limited run prints, and she’s had success in selling such delights, which is never easy…

Can you remember your first impressions of doing linocut? 
Oddly enough, yes. I didn’t really like school and don’t remember much of it, but I remember the handful of linocut lessons we had vividly. I reproduced a photo I’d taken of a Przewalski’s horse and foal at the local zoo and I remember being a bit annoyed that everyone else had chosen tigers and elephants and I’d essentially gone for a dumpy little zebra without stripes.

I took a short evening course a few years ago for about three months and picked up a few basic painting techniques, but other than that I’m self taught.

Where do you look for inspiration?
I try to look out for the small things that make my life a little better and bring those moments into my work. One of my most popular prints is of two girls with entwined plaits watching a sunset, with the words “I am glad every day that you are my friend” – this was an off the cuff remark I said to a good buddy on WhatsApp and as I said it, I realised it was a print waiting to be made.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 09.48.27

Do you get those days when everything goes wrong?
I started linoprinting last summer just after the birth of my first baby, so I’ve never been able to dedicate a whole day to printing, just an hour here and there when the baby is sleeping. So because of that, if things start going wrong I just put everything away again and walk off. That said, I did once accidently use acrylic paint instead of printing ink and got really angry that nothing was printing properly before I worked out what I’d done.
I handprint rather than using a press, which is fine for me as I only ever print up small batches. They have to be small because I only have space to hang everything to dry on a shoelace hanging from the dresser – so I’m literally working on a shoestring!
How have sales been going? 
I do sell, but it’s not the be all and end all, though I do like having a hobby that pays for itself. I’ll never be able to jack in the day job and pay the mortgage solely selling prints, but I don’t think I’d want to, because then it might stop being fun.

At the moment, having someone stop at a fair to say they like my work and ask me questions about it is exciting enough on its own. I’m not very good at taking money for my work because if someone likes it I’m so touched I just want them to have it, but I’ve learnt from experience that underpricing or giving things away actually makes people feel awkward, so now I’m really strict with myself and limit myself to only throwing in an occasional extra card with an order!

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 09.48.41.png

What are you working on at the moment? 

I recently completed my first reduction print, depicting the lighthouse at the end of Folkestone Harbour Arm during a storm, and I’d like to add some more local landmarks to this set, focussing more on the nature surrounding them than the landmark itself.

Where can people see your work? 
I’m on Facebook, Etsy and Instagram.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 09.47.51.png

FRESH INK No. 1: Doug Frost, aka @Dougmouse

I went to many print fairs in 2017, and what struck me was the breadth of experience at them – you’d have established artists who were 40 years or so into their careers, alongside those just starting out, with maybe only one or two items to show the public.

I love them both, but thought I should start to shine a light on newcomers to the printmaking/linocut world – and one I found (through Instagram) was Doug Frost. So here’s how things have been going for him…

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 13.09.45

“I signed up for a lino course at Whitehawk Inn in Brighton back in January 2015. I was looking for something new to try for the New Year. My thrill at the first ‘reveal’ got me hooked, and although I don’t work on it all the time, I dip in now and again when the urge gets too strong.

“It’s a bit of a joke at home that I’ve spent more time on courses than I have actually doing the art, but I enjoy learning, and lino is the one medium that I’ve stuck with. I’ve done a weekend colour linoprint course with Nick Morley – aka Linocutboy – in Margate which was fantastic.

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 13.12.14

“I’m not very imaginative, and feel I’m more technical, which is why I enjoy lino so much more than say, drawing or painting. I’ve copied artists I admire, like Angie Lewin, used photos I’ve taken in Brighton, while the Mexican mask was suggested by a friend so I searched Pinterest for inspiration. I also like the style of tattoos and 50s print.

“You get happy accidents too. For my latest Christmas card I mixed glitter gloop into my paint and it didn’t mix well, but the blotchy result was quite effective. I don’t sell at the moment, but once I get a style nailed down I hope to start entering into Open Houses during the Brighton festival.

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 13.13.26

“We have a galley kitchen with a long worktop which is perfect unless someone’s trying to make dinner. I used to rub with a spoon, but after reading a post here on Probably Prints about Steve Shaw with his Xcut Xpress, I got one, and I’m converted. I’d love a cast iron book press but it’s not practical in a flat…”

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 13.10.44

Check out Doug’s work on Instagram as @dougmouse

Max Angus: “I Googled ‘how to convert a mangle to an etching press’…”


Max Angus does nature prints well. Really well. Her style is delicate, almost as delicate as the feathers of the birds she regularly prints, but her colours are bold.

Alongside her painting, she works in numerous plate linocuts, and her growing body of work touches on animals, plant life, village scenes and even the odd spot of architecture. It feels pure, rural even, and the general mood is of a blissful, sun-drenched land. A better land perhaps.

Max is also a member of of the Society of Wildlife Artists, so I asked her about that, as well as her printing techniques…

img117Hello Max. When did you become a linocutter?

That must have been about 14 years ago. Many years earlier after leaving college I didn’t have access to an etching press. I wasn’t really happy with what I wanted to achieve burnishing by hand. Then after a long search, I acquired a mangle and Googled ‘how to convert a mangle to an etching press’. I tried a few dry points and mono prints but it was the linocuts I found most exciting.

What other disciplines do you work in?

Wood engraving and charcoal. Though I enjoy painting, I’ve not had time to paint for a few years now.

What are the key influences on your prints – nature seems key?

I’ve always enjoyed walking and being outdoors. Drawing from nature combines the two passions.

img113What does being a member of the SWLA entail?

The SWLA Society of Wildlife Artists is one of the Federation of British Artists (FBA) art societies. The society holds an annual exhibition called The Natural Eye at the Mall Galleries. The exhibition is open for artists ‘representing wildlife in its natural habitat’. The society was set up by Peter Scott and other great artists like Robert Gilmour. Most member artists are not explorers but artists creating art from the wildlife on their favourite patches. The membership of the society is by election by the other members. I have been part of The Council of the society and The Treasurer for the last four years.


What’s your printing set-up like?

I work in a small part insulated workshop divided into mainly four sections. A table for cutting and planning. An area for mixing inks and inking lino. Storage for supplies. In the last section there’s a huge Albion Press from 1859 nicknamed Hettie.

Were you trained in the arts?

The printmaking at college focused on all the higher end printmaking techniques. We were given just one morning on linocut. I thought I was going to be a painter. I found in linocutting and the creation of multiple plates for different colours the closest in printmaking to painting.


How has selling your work been going?

I only create small print runs of generally 45. I don’t always print the whole run as I’m always keen to move on to my next picture. I always think being represented by about five galleries works well with the small print runs.

Where can people see/buy your work?

The main showcase achieved over the previous year is The Natural Eye exhibition at the Mall Galleries. The five galleries I use have a greater footfall than trying to sell direct. I also find they’re very friendly and interesting places to visit. Only selling through the galleries leaves me free to get on in my studio.

What are you working on next?
Currently, I’ve created a black and white wood engraving 10x10cm. Using the same source sketches I’m working on a partner, three block linocut sized 38x38cm.


For more information have a gander at Max’s site.


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.

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… 


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.


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!

womn 2

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.

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 09.51.53

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!


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





Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 09.52.17


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.


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.


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.


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”.



Jess spent the last few weeks making a website –

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…”


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!”


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!


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.”



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.

winter sun

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.


“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…”


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.


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…”

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 10.58.47

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!


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.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 11.03.40

You can have a gander at Nell’s work on her website, 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.