Monday, 25 January 2010

Weekend Adventure

Well, I'm back in the "real world", after my three days away at Knuston Hall.  I had a great weekend break and learned so much. It was definitely worth it and I am so glad I stayed over on Friday and Saturday nights, as I got to join in with the evening sessions and keep focussed on the projects I was doing, without being distracted by the minutiae of day-to-day home life.  Mind you, I missed D. and  J.  I'm not used to being away from home for any stretch of time. I've only gone away on my own a handful of times in the last 12 or 13 years - to a wedding in Germany, a visit to my auntie... not sure if there were any others! I think I'm a stay-at-home type really, though I love going on trips with my boys.

So, what did I do all weekend? 


Well, on Friday there was a one-day bookbinding course.  The original course description was that we'd make a "book with a difference", using traditional binding methods, to create a book with envelopes and interesting pages, with leather cover.  However, when we all arrived, it was obvious we wouldn't achieve this.  The College had over-booked the course - 13 people instead of the usual maximum of 8.  The tutor handled it well, but there just wasn't time for her to help everyone do such a complicated book, so we ended up making a "normal" hand-bound book, with a traditional Case binding, with paper-covered boards and a book-cloth spine.  It was very good and I did learn quite a few new things, but I was disappointed, as I'd hoped to cover several things that I'd never done before and there just wasn't time.  Still, I have an almost-finished book, that I brought home to complete.  I decided not to rush it on Friday afternoon, as I might mess it up. 

Here it is just now - it needs a little trimming of the end papers, the case needs to be lined with plain paper (to make it smooth before I attach the book block), then I need to glue the book block into the case and let it dry thoroughly .

This is the finished Book Block - ie. the pages have been cut/torn, folded and stitched together. The end-papers (green paper) have been applied and the spine has been strengthened with Mull (a stiffened muslin fabric) and kraft paper.  If you look at either end of the spine, you will see the headbands of coloured thread. These came ready-stitched on tapes, which can be cut to the correct length. I would like to learn to sew my own, but on a one-day course, time would not allow for such a luxury! Besides, these ones are very nice.

This is the Case for the book.  It's actually upside down, but that doesn't matter really.  If you look at the blue cloth spine, you will see that it curves.  This is because there is no stiffening board inside it. The spine will be fairly soft (though it is quite strong and the book block was strengthened).  I need to line the inside of this, with paper that will make it smooth.  Then, when the endpapers are glued in, to attach the book block, there will be no ugly lumps and bumps.

Here is an idea of how the book will look when finished. You'll see that it's not straight and the end papers need to be trimmed, as they stick out just now. The pages are hand-torn, so the edges should be uneven (it's called a "deckle").  I hope to finish this tomorrow afternoon.

So, that was Friday, up to 4:30pm.  It may not look like much, but there are a lot of steps in making a book of this kind. I learned the correct way to do this - an improvement on my previous method, which was not so sturdy or lasting and had meant I did not manage to put so many pages in my books.  I had also had a lot of problems with making some of the cases fit. I hope I will be able to solve those problems now!  I did actually take a "disaster" with me, to ask the tutor for advice (her name was Janine Pope). She was very kind and explained where I had gone wrong and what to do about it.  I definitely feel that it was time well spent and I had great fun.

Saturday and Sunday

From Friday evening, at around 8:15, we had the Printmaking course.  We began by making a Collograph Plate.  This is a technique that uses a piece of board as a support, onto which items are fixed with archival quality glue (we actually used normal wood glue, which is a strong pva).  The idea is to create texture and interest. Everyone had a different approach and their own ideas.  Janine had made some fabulous plates, with square/rectangular areas that each contained a series of shapes, holes etc, built up into an arrangement that pleased her.  The plate could be inked all over, or just in part(s). Once printed, the print could be cut into sections, to use for other pieces of work, or to display in those sections. 

This is my plate.  It started as something totally different, but turned itself into a sort of seascape.  That seems to be how things go for me - a germ of an idea develops all on its own, into something I didn't plan! (it's not always like that  - I can spend ages making sketches or diagrams, but it does happen if I start work with only mental images and nothing on paper - an adventure really!)

A detail of the bottom area, showing the various fibres, card and paper I used to build up the plate. There are areas of cut card, which are "Drypoint Board" - it has a shiny coating that allows the ink to be wiped off (or mostly wiped off), giving lighter areas.  I also cut and chiselled areas out of the mount board support, to give added texture.

There is tissue paper here, also a bit of net bag, which a sponge or something was packed in.  The dark grey, shiny stuff is carborundum.  This is a gritty material, which will hold ink and give a dense area on the print.

The whole plate was coated in a thin layer of pva, then left to dry thoroughly (which can take a while, as the pva used to stick the textured parts on can take a long time to dry).  Once it was all dry, the plate was coated again, this time with shellac (a yellow varnish).  This would prevent the ink from sinking into the plate and allow ink to be applied, worked with and wiped off etc.

Here are two of the prints I made with the collograph plate.  The colour palette for the top print was much darker than the one below. I had paynes grey and dark blue, also more umber and sienna.  It produced  a much darker print first. The print shown here was taken by making a second printing from the plate, without applying any more ink. I like it (though I have stupidly got a splodge of dark ink on the "sun" and have spoilt it!).  The bottom print is also a second printing, but this time using a much brighter palette.  This is my favourite of the prints made with the collograph plate.

Here is the plate, after it has been inked and printed. I think it makes a good piece of art in itself! 

In fact, there was a lady on the course, named Mary, who was a regular student there. She makes lovely, dainty little plates, which are truly beautiful.  Janine always encourages her to pull a few prints from her plates, but very often, it is the plates themselves that she wants to keep - she prefers them to the print! She even had one of her plates in an exhibition. It was a metal plate, which looked very like a fish jumping out of the river. She had called it "The Evening Rise" because of its resemblance to a jumping fish. It was lovely - she didn't have any prints of this to show, just the plate itself.  If you hadn't known it was a printing plate, you would have perhaps thought it was a collage painting.

While the collograph was drying, I tried a bit of experimenting with metal plates, of the kind Mary and some other people were using.  Janine gets thin metal lithographic printing plates from a local printer, who would otherwise throw them away after use.  The metal is thin enough to bend, score and cut, but stiff enough to make into certain sorts of printing plates.  Mary, Stella and Marlene, who were all returning students, were working on these plates, applying carborundum and other items, for texture and depth and making various marks in the plates as well.  Marlene produced some wonderful pieces in this way, especially one of a standing figure and a series of fabulous images she had made, using a photo of a Venician building.  Stella had brought some photographs of organic objects, stones etc, that she had taken at the beach in Ireland. She made some plates using these as inspiration.  Her plates were more layered, with card or board built up for texture and some carborundum in pva applied with a brush, or sprinkled over areas of the plate.  The prints she made were more abstract than Marlene's but just as interesting and lovely.

Stella didn't mind me taking a photo of her inking-up table.  The plate she was inking up is to the left of the inks, next to the roller.  You can see that she has a very natural, organic selection of colours on her palette.
Marlene was using browns, greys and rust, then tried yellows and greens too.  She also produced some prints using hot oranges and reds, which were very effective.  Mary, on the other hand, preferred a cool palette of turquoises, soft blues, mauve etc.  Her prints and plates were glowing with jewel-like colour.  It is so interesting how everyone produced such different work, using the same materials.

Here are my two experimental metal plates.  The bottom one has areas of carborundum, which have collected dense patches of ink.  There are dots and lines pressed into other parts of the plate, to make designs.  The images in the red and green carborundum were made by pressing pieces of lace into pva and carborundum circles, then removing the lace when nearly dry.  The yellow circle has marks made by drawing in the pva/carborundum mixture.  
The top plate is an image made by pressing a point into the plate, a bit like drypoint printing.  The lithographic plates are not really designed for this technique and my prints were not very good. The best bits were from the textured areas on the top of the second plate (ie. the carborundum etc).

These are two pieces of lace that I found.  I loved these birds and decided to use them for the next technique.  We were given pieces of plastic sheet, a bit like perspex, which you can buy in a diy shop.  We used them to make designs like drypoint printing on metal.  Except this is easier and cheaper (though I'm sure you could get much better results with metal plates, once you were good at it!).

This is a bad photo of my plate.  It has been printed, so the inks are visible in the scratched design.  I got some nice prints from this plate and really enjoyed this technique.  Mary had used this plastic, to make a plate with three feathers on it.  It was amazingly fine and delicate, producing absolutely gorgeous prints.  Mine was not so dainty, but it was still nice enough for a first effort!

A close up of the red bird, so you can see the scratched design.  Some scratches are deeper than others, which gives some variation of tone, while the marks made and the "fill patterns" give more variation.

These are my final two prints.  I'm quite pleased with them, especially the very last.  In fact, Janine told me to sign it, mount it and put it on the wall. I felt that I'd finally produced something worth keeping!

Overall, I had a fabulous weekend.  The place is lovely, the house is beautiful, the room we worked in was a great size, with efficient heating, decent equipment and plenty of space to work.  We had three delicious meals a day, plus morning coffee/tea, with home made biscuits and afternoon coffee/tea with home made cakes! In fact, I probably need to go on a diet for a few days, to make up for all the yummy grub I scoffed!!

If anyone lives in UK and fancies a reasonably priced course, have a look at the Knuston Hall website. They do a lot more than bookbinding and printmaking.  You can stay overnight for a very reasonable rate. They really take care of you and everyone is very friendly.  It's really worth making the effort to go there, even if you live a bit of a distance away (and I gather their prices are much more reasonable than some other places!).  They have put dates of their spring and summer courses on the website. Many of the summer courses last up to a week - a good chance for a holiday doing something that interests you.

That's it then! The story of my Weekend Adventure. Hope you liked reading it.  I took lots more photos - so I don't promise not to bore you with some more of them in the next few days.  Wish I had taken more of the actual workroom and creative processes though.. I got so tied up in what I was doing that I forgot to get my camera out.


  1. Wow, wow, wow!!! I love the prints - especially the first one with the various textures! Absolutely gorgeous! I think I'm drawn to printing because it's somewhat similar to rubber stamping. I've played around a little with jello plates and had fun . . . maybe need to do that again soon.

  2. Your whole weekend sounds the variety of prints.

  3. gosh lizzie so many things to read about and take in. i love the book you made even if not will enable you to complete it in your own time. the printing course looks spectacular with an amazing array of different techniques and methods to trial and discover which ones you prefer. i love the work you have put into the ''seascape'' and the ''birds''. the prints are beautiful and each one is an original. are you planning on selling some on etsy. i'd love a seascape one. anyway, hope the creative juices are fully restored and look forward to seeing the completed book.
    Jo xxx

  4. Wow, this is a whole new world for me. It's fascinating! The prints are amazing and I'm sure that you are rightly very proud of what you have achieved! I think I need to go back and have another look.

  5. Wow! And - wow! And also - wow! I love what you created, and I love your detailed description - it reads like a review :-) And a very positive one! Thanks for sharing x

  6. wowweee. I love all the prints. The birds are gorgeous. You should be very proud of your work. I like the sea scene print. I did something like this for my GCSE art. IKt was called intaglio printing and was great fun though a lot of hard work, finding out what textures work best! Looks like u had a fab weekend though! xxxx

  7. I'm jealous!!! And happy for you that you had this weekend of wonderful crafting. Your work is beautiful, Lizzie!

  8. As I was reading this I thought that Rinda would love this course and there she is - the first to comment!
    Thanks for going into such detail about the processes you have learnt, it really is quite fascinating. Like Sian - this is a whole new world for me and I appreciate the time you have taken to share it all with us :-)

  9. Wow! That looks like a really fun weekend get away. I like how you used a la poupee for the printing. That's something I would like to start doing.
    What a great read, Lizzie.

  10. I'm so glad you all found my post interesting (as it was so long!).

    Pity you can't all fly over here to do the course too (what fun that would be!). I really had a good time and the tutor was great - enthusiastic, friendly, pleasant and knowledgeable. She teaches at the University in Northampton also and her main areas are textiles and printmaking (I think...).

    Lori, my "a la poupee" was more "a la scrapey-splodgy", but it was fun! Have you seen the fabulous videos by Mariann about inking plates?

  11. Hi Lizzie ~ Thanks for your comment on my blog post regarding the notebook I made for my niece. I should have included more detail in the post - I've edited it now.

    The pencil tube is separate from the notebook - the picture almost makes it look attached. :o)

  12. you have a blog award
    Love Jo xxx

  13. Wow that looks like it was a lot of fun! I love the prints you made

  14. Wow, looks like you have been busy!

    Thank you for all your lovely comments you leave me, I have a blog award waiting for you at my blog.


I love to read your comments!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...