I have a real curiosity about print making, but feeling underwhelmed about the one taught session we had at college and the busyness of the workshops there too, I took matters in to my own hands and joined a day-long print making workshop at The Hepworth Wakefield.
The very lovely Laura Slater, who sells her own hand printed cushions and lamp shades in the gallery shop, was our tutor for the day and she was going to teach us about three different processes – a simple screenprint and a collography (both relief printing), as well as drypoint etching (Intaglio). But first we needed inspiration!
Heading upstairs to the gallery spaces we didn’t have to look too far for inspiration. On display were a range of screenprints and lithographs done by Barbara Hepworth herself in the early 1970s, with a little help from the Curwen Press. This range of graphic work on paper did indeed prove inspirational, and although seemed quite simply constructed proved puzzling and difficult when we thought about trying to repeat her techniques.
To get our ideas down on paper we sat on the floor by the large picture window of gallery 5 surrounded by the Hepworth’s plasters and prototypes, and the wonderful view of the wharf on the River Calder. For the screenprints we had three large pieces of newsprint, from which we cut out shapes with the idea that each page represented a different colour we would print on to a single piece of paper back in the studio. We also had two pieces of metallic card and on one we carved out an image to make our drypint etching, while on the other we stuck masking tape and cellotape to create forms and textures for the collograph.
After lunch we got down to the business of making the actual prints.
We mixed acrylic paint with binder to create the colour we wanted. We then laid a good sheet of paper, then the first our first templates made in the gallery, followed by our mesh screens. With a friend holding the screen with pulled the ink over it with a squiggy to transfer it the ink to the paper through the holes in the template. I have done screenprinting once before and I seem to have experienced the same difficulties as before – holding the squiggy at the wrong angle and not apply enough pressure, as well as getting ink on the clean parts of the good page. Must try harder Kate!
The other two print methods were completely new to me and indeed had never even heard of them.
For the collograph we covered our workstations with two sheets of A3 OHP sheets and taped them down. A small amount of oil-based ink was plopped on one and rolled out with a print roller until it was very thin. This was then rolled over the collograph several times and in lots of directions. Once inked up it went through a roller press with a sheet of damp good paper and some protective sheets too. The collorgaph could only be rolled through once without the ink needing to be reapplied. What was really neat was that you could add several colours to the same the print and that every print ended up different.
The drypoint etching was much the same, with each print being very limited and turning out different each time. For this type of printing you spatulaed on some oil-baed ink and dragged it over the etching, trying to get it into all the creases and grooves. You then dabbed it off with a cloth and, with some good and protective paper, rolled it through the press. It took more ink that I thought and this style of print will take quite a bit of technique to get right, more than an hour of trying anyway!
I really valued the opportunity to learn about the different types of print and to be actively encouraged to experiment and discover the paper and ink for myself, as well as the possibilities of the templates. The three methods I tried out literally only scratch the surface of possibilities and I can’t wait to start trying them with more considered projects as well as learning about the other techniques. All I need to remember is my angles and weight, as well as the print will turn out the reverse of your template!