Letterpress / Workshop

Printmaking has been the basis throughout my art practice and I’m constantly returning to old methods and wanting to try some new. I have been interested in the process of letterpress for quite a while, so this semester I decided to ask the technicians to organise a letterpress workshop so myself and other students could experiment with the method.

As my practice is text based, i discovered letterpress through my research. I haven’t seen a print created by letterpress in person before, so this was an opportunity to finally see it. For this session we were asked to write a haiku, so we could use this to make our prints. Haiku is a short poem from traditional Japanese decent, and it consists of 3 lines of text; the first and third lines are 5 syllabubs and the second middle line is 7, below is the haiku I wrote in connection to my work:

Look into my mind
Where the darkness wreaks havoc
it consumes my life

Going into the session, we were then asked to cut our haiku’s down, for the sake of the small amount of text the vice can hold and it also was to make our texts more to the point and evocative, so what I ended up printing was:

M I N D . .
Darkness wreaks havoc
Life consuming.

The next step was to decide a font, I used 18pt Perpetua; a very small text, reflective of the aesthetic of a typewriter. Now it was time to compose our pieces of text in the vice, making sure the letters were all backwards so it would print the correct way, and finishing the vice by using blank metal blocks, to assure the type wouldn’t move when being printed.

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Below are images of my completely set text in the vice:

The next step was to remover the blocks from the vice, and place them inline on the letterpress printer, inside the metal frame. Then, just like the vice, packing out the empty space with metal bars and compressing the entire frame together so when ink is applied and then printed, nothing would move out of place.

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Illustrations of the Letterpress process from the mentor.

We then each printed 2 pieces on thin white paper and also a warmer cartridge paper, the process of loading the paper and then rolling the machine that took the paper and pressed it onto the inked type was simple to do but the technical aspect of it is difficult to explain, so below is a video I found online, showing the letterpress printing process:

The Outcome:

I really enjoyed the entire process, it felt and looks very industrial with the metal type and machines. However, i’m not entirely impressed with the outcome, i feel it looks too simple; as though it has been printed through a computer. I think the detail can only be seen in person, with the slight impression it makes on the paper, but the process of making the haiku, setting the type in the vice and printing is the highlight of letterpress. I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop, but I feel the outcome is not correct for my practice.

Embossing / Workshop

Embossing is a process I have been interested in for a while now, but it has only recently been available at our print studio’s at uni. The embossing technique uses compression form weight and air suction, to create an impression on paper that is a relief of the object you place beneath the paper.

For this, I laser cut text from acrylic sheet, creating 2 sets of text; one for embossing which is the rectangular piece, and one for de-bossing ; the individual acrylic letters.

Acrylic for embossing:

Acrylic for de-bossing:

The first technique i tried was embossing, which created a raised text effect, by pushing weight down onto the acrylic rectangle and suctioning air upwards beneath the letters. I used both wet and dry paper for this, the wet paper meant the text would be more raised as the paper is more pliable.

Embossing – Dry paper

Embossing – Wet paper

 

I then used the individual acrylic letters to experiment with de-bossing. I firstly had to apply spray mount to the letters and set them onto paper in place, so the text was in-line. De-bossing is the same technique as embossing, but prsses the text down into the paper, instead of raising it. Again, I used both wet and dry paper, but the wet paper made a heavier impression.

De-bossing – Dry paper

De-bossing – Wet paper

I really enjoyed this process, and i’m impressed with the outcomes, I prefer the effect of embossing, but i’m not happy with the rectangular frame, so I would need to increase the size of the surface next time. Obviously this was an experiment, so the prints aren’t perfect – the spray mounted letter stuck to the paper and tore it slightly, the pressure was too much which resulted in the tearing of the letters and the marks on the prints are a result of the burnt edges of the acrylic, which I need to remember to clean next time around. But I can see the technique in person now, and return back to the print room to use the embosser solely.

 

Laser Cut / Workshop

I’ve always wanted to experiment with laser cutting, so this semester i signed up to do a workshop which took course over 3 sessions. I love the potential laser cut has, I don’t necessarily see using laser cut as a finished artwork, but it gives you opportunity to mock-up an idea. Over the sessions, we used the programme corel draw to draw up our designs and then using a trotec engraver to bring our designs to life. We used various materials throughout the sessions including; ply wood, acrylic and cartridge paper. Below are all the experiments I made with my various designs engraved on:

Spiral of 50 rings on Wood:
-This was very simple, corel draw allows you to draw and manipulate shapes, so I gave a spiral 50 rings. From the rings being so small, the overall effect is quite subtle.

Vinyl Record design on Clear Acrylic
– From my prints resembling records, I decided to draw up my own record design and carve it into 3mm clear acrylic, which has achieve quite a ghostly effect.

Vinyl Record with my text inside on Black Acrylic
– I used the record design again, but added my own words into the middle where a label would go on a normal LP, and I have also used black acrylic to emulate a real vinyl record. I like how similar it is to a normal LP, it’s as though I have made a real one that i could play.

Vinyl Record with my text inside on Clear Acrylic
– The same design as above, but in clear acrylic again. I prefer the black acrylic version as it looks more sophisticated.

Vinyl Record with my text inside on Wood
– This has given a really good result and it’s humorous how useless the object it, it doesn’t even look like it can be played because of the material, but the design looks like a vinyl record, it has a limit to it now because it could never be played.

Vinyl Record with my text inside on Cartridge Paper
– I love the effect of the laser cut on the paper, it has a fragility to it now and it’s really beautiful. It feels really tense in how it could so easily be ripped, and how the etching could have gone so wrong – it resembles bone to me and it’s interesting to think of carving text into bone.

Iris of an eye photo with bitmap traced on wood
– With this piece I traced the bitmap of an image of an eye from google, and this tracing has shown the detail in image and possibly the eye. It really reminds me of my own prints, and the even texture they have, I imagine if I were to outline the details in my print, it would look similar to this eye.

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I’m interested in the outcomes that have come from this workshop, and i am going to explore the laser cutter further by booking in on my own. From this workshop, I am confident to use the technology and i’m excited to see what else i can do.

Neon Workshop / 25-06-2016

Last week on June 25th, I took part in a neon workshop (previous post – booking a neon workshop). The company called Neon Workshops is in Wakefield and I had a taster session booked where we would learn about neon and its history, how it works and also get to try making a neon shape. I chose the taster session in order to understand the material more, neon sign making is very expensive, so doing this workshop was vital for me in order to decide whether it was something I would want to take further.

 

The start of the session was talking us through the history of neon signs and also how a neon sign works and is made, this was a lot of information in a short space of time – but below are some notes I took from this part of the workshop:

-The first neon sign was produced in 1910 in Paris
-Paris is now a hotspot for Neon signs as it is where it began, so this is an ideal place for seeing some original signs
-The neon gas inside the tubes lasts a long time; recently one was found behind a wall of a building and it was still lit up
-LA is also famous for the signs; they were also a hotspot for them in the past and they are becoming more popular and cult now
-However LED has taken over from neon as it’s cheaper – Piccadilly Circus in London is an example of this
-The term neon is a label for the traditional red colour
-Neon can be coloured in various ways; having the gas inside react to a colour or using coloured glass tubing and regular gas
-Kryptonite is an option for neon signs and is cream in colour, not green like superman tells us
-The Science part of the neon process, in terms of what makes the sign light up is the gas reacting to the electricity put through using diodes which are attached onto both ends of the tubes
-Neon Workshops in Wakefield offers 35 colours over the spectrum and over 10 shades of white light

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Neon signs always use glass to contain the gasses, and in order to shape the glass you use fire to melt it and then bend into shape. We were shown a tutorial and then it was out turn. This first exercise was bending the 5cm glass tube to an angle, we had cut the glass tube ourselves in 30 cm lengths using a single score and pushing the glass to break it away. As the area that would be bent was small, we used a direct flame, so the rest of the tube would remain straight. To ensure the pressure in the glass tube remained perfect when the glass tube was removed from the flame, we has to blow a small amount of air into the tube. I was quite nervous at the thought of doing this but when it was my turn it was a lot easier than I thought, I expected it to be really tricky and dangerous but it was the exact opposite.

Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of this piece but I bent the glass to a 90 degree angle, so it resembled an L shape.

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The final task was to be a bit more creative with the shape of the glass and create a squiggle. For this, the glass tube would need to be fully pliable, so the whole tube was placed over a long length of fire, which allows the glass tube to be a consistent temperature. I was more confident doing this task, and I decided to not plan a shape and just let whatever comes to mind happen. A big point the tutor mentioned was to never allow the glass to touch each other – if this happens the glass becomes weak and when the gas is put into the tube it would crack and become useless to contain the gas.

Below is an image of my squiggle creation. I’m really pleased with my piece, during the workshop I was commended on my control of the glass when bending it into shape:

After completing this workshop, I’m still wondering whether this is a technique for me. I enjoy the process and the outcomes, but the high expense and unpredictable outcomes of making neon signs makes me rethink if this is something I want to explore further. Definitely something I’m going to think about.

Booking a Neon Workshop

Today I booked to take part in a Neon workshop at Neon Workshops in Wakefield on 26th June. In order to develop in my practice, I want to progress from EL Wire to actual Neon, in order to achieve a more professional result.

Neon making is very expensive, so this workshop will allow me to use the material and process, and then see my results; from this I can make a decision as to where to take my practice from this point.

The workshop I have booked is a 2 hour taster course, which will offers me;

‘Customers will see glowing examples of neon art explained and mesmerising demonstrations of cutting, blowing, stretching, bending and fusing glass with flame, whilst having a go themselves.’

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Piece from 12 Months of Love produces in Neon Workshops. Image Source.

The company; Neon Workshops, specialises in the development and manufacturing of neon lighting for the creative industry. I believe it is ran by artist; Richard Wheater whom I have researched on my blog, and they have made works for many artists including Tim Etchells, there works are exhibited in there on-site gallery.

I’m very excited for this workshop, it will be my first time interacting with neon and I can’t wait to finally use the process and make my own sign. The workshop offers you to make a small piece, but if I want to continue the process, I will need to book an intensive course, where your ideas will be produces into Neon and costs marginally more than the taster workshop.

Map to Neon Workshops, approx 1 hour away from Sheffield:

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Neon Workshops – http://www.neonworkshops.com/

Ceramics Workshop

21/04/2016 and 03/05/2016

I have started a 3/4 week workshop in ceramics. This workshop is lead by Sheffield potter Emilie Taylor, and I will be using and trialling various ceramic methods and clays including; Earthenware, slip, Stoneware, Porcelain and throwing.


Week 1 – 21/04/2016

This week, we used Earthenware to create a plate/dish. Earthenware is a form of clay, often used to make jugs, pots and plates as when slip and glaze is applied, it becomes impervious, so liquid won’t effect it. Earthenware is fired at 1000-1200 °, and will result in a solid, resistant outcome.

Below are some photos documenting my steps in creating my plate, I wanted to relate it to my current artwork, and so impressed a space/galactic/constellation design into the plate, relating it to my void paintings. I have used slip to create a background, and this will create various tones on the plate, contrasting to the colour of the clay.

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My plate now needs to be bisque fired to 1000°. I will then add further decoration by using coloured glazes, this will then be glazed fired to 1080-1200°, where the plate will then be finished.

We also trialled Throwing this week. This is the process most people associate with potting/ceramics and involves the use of a potters wheel. I don’t have any documentation of this but will upload a photo of the pot I threw. I believe we used porcelain clay for this, which is the brilliant white clay, often adorned with decorative blue drawings/patterns, it is fired 1050-1250°. I actually really enjoyed throwing, it’s a very difficult skill to grasp and I ended up spoiling 4 pots before I caught a grasp of the throwing skill, but I was determined to do it and I did. Throwing is a skill that needs to be mastered in order to achieve the results that are so often overlooked, below I have attached a video that is a similar technique we were taught today, but we made a pot/bowl on a smaller scale:

 

Week 2 – 03/05/2016

Stoneware

The second ceramics workshop was used to work with Stoneware. This is a clay that when fired at 1200-1300° turns into stone. This process creates a durable material and is often used to create jugs and pots. As I wanted to incorporate my practice into these ceramic workshops, I made a casket shaped box, since my practice surrounds my fear of death. Stoneware requires precision and measurement, as you make each individual side of what you’re making separately, and then mould them together. I was making a rectangular box, so required 6 pieces. I made the box first, which was tricky as you need to make sure all sides are sealed. After this I made the lid and added a lip so it would fit into the box and be secure. I then applied a cocoa coloured slip to the box to add colour, when dry I placed both pieces together, separated by newspaper. This needed to be done because as the clay dries, it shrinks, so in order for the lid to fit the box, they need to shrink with each other.

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At this point, I’m not too pleased with my piece. I think it looks good, but in hindsight I should have made a jug or vase, I feel as though I’ve wasted a chance to use the material for what it is for. My box will now be fired, and I will do a post when it is complete.

 

Bookbinding Workshop

07/03/2016 – 14/03/2016 – 04/04/2016 – 11/04/2016

Week 1 – 07/03/2016

Today was the first of four workshops I am taking in bookbinding. This is a workshop I pushed to be set up as bookbinding has always been something I wanted to learn. I love buying books, notebooks, sketchbooks, So making my own has always been an interest to me. This workshop will be taught by Sheffield based Bookbinder and Book Restorer; Heather Dewick.

In this workshop we will be producing an A6 Flatback case bound sketchbook, an A4 Portfolio file and an A5 Pamphlet Zine Book.

Today we began the A6 flatback case bound book. The first aspect to make with bookbinding is the pages, so this week we made the inside of the book, we used 8x A3 sheets of paper and also used a kettle stitch to bind the pages. Images of these stages can be found below:

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I’m really excited with my progress and I can’t wait to continue the process. Below is a video showing how to kettle stitch, the paper stages of the book are very simple but I wanted to reminder myself of this, in case I return to bookbinding:

 


Week 2 – 14/03/2016

In this weeks workshop, we finished binding the inside of the book, which meant adding ‘end papers’ to either side of the book and also securing the spine further. This can be seen in the below images.

We also started to make the book case for the book, by measuring the grey mount-card to the pages and also deciding the design of the book. I chose a space themes fabric, but with bookbinding the material needs to be thicker and more durable than just fabric, so I had to glue paper to the fabric and allow it to dry until I could make the case.

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Week 3 – 14/04/2016

This weeks workshop brought finalising and completing the Book. The next stage was putting the case together and then attaching this to the pages. These were very simple stages but required precision, when the two pieces were attached, it was just putting it into the press once more and the book is complete.

I’m so pleased with my result, It looks so professional and I’m thrilled with my sketchbook. So far this workshop has been amazing, Heather Dewick is fantasic artisan and the process was very fluid and easy to follow. I’m excited that I now know how to make my own sketchbook and it’s definitely something I will return to in the future.

Photos of the final stages:

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I’ve attached another video, this one showing how to make the case, just as a reminder to myself:

 

 

Week 4 – 11/04/2016

The final Bookbinding workshop was used for two smaller projects; an A4 portfolio file and an A5 pamphlet zine book. First was the Portfolio, this was very straight forward to make – a lot of cutting and glueing but the result is really professional. The zine book was even simpler to make; just a matter of folding sheets of paper and sewing them together, and I really like the outcome, I’ll be making a lot more of these, instead of buying them as they are pretty much the same quality.

The Workshop as a whole has been really amazing, I’m very pleased with the results and I’ve learnt skills that I can use again.

Portfolio:

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Zine Book:

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I’m thrilled with my outcomes and the overall workshop experience has been amazing, I’m excited to continue the bookbinding process after this.