Well. This was a big day.

I was actually looking for lessons on bookbinding when I found Union Street Printmakers. They may well be the only place offering these workshops in SA; previously, there was a former NSW Bookbinder’s Guild member offering one-on-one or small group classes at Henley Beach, but I’ve had a hard time finding out if they’re still offering classes.

Yes, there are YouTube tutorials, but some things are better done in a workshop that has the tools and an instructor who’ll spot your mistakes.

I had a little interest in linocut printing, after trying to use stencils with my tea jars and finding them to be a great big hassle. I wished I could make a stamp for the lids, so I didn’t have to fuss around with the stencils.

Later, when I took up bullet journalling, I bought some little stamp markers from Officeworks to use as references to my computer, my Google Drive, and so on in task lists. They weren’t cheap - $4 each - and despite only being 4 months old and not that heavily used, some are already running out. Again, I wished for two things - that I could make up my own designs, and that I could just ink them as needed.

I looked into linocut, but was scared off by the tools and the stories of injuries. I’m kind of clumsy sometimes, and so was scared of that. I was also a little intimidated by the price of everything.

The workshop was $160, but it seemed perfect - a day with people who knew what they were doing, with good quality tools, and where (presumably) there’d be a first-aid officer on standby.

Happily, no injuries today!

Getting there was a bit of a drag - I caught a bus from Currie Street instead of the tram to the Entertainment Centre, the latter of which would have been much faster - and not much fun in 33C heat. But I made it in the end.

In the morning, I tried EasyCarve rubber stamp making. EasyCarve is, well, easy to carve - but its drawbacks are its higher cost, that it tends to split and tear more readily than lino, and that it’s hard to do tiny little details. But, its advantages are also that it’s easy to mount onto a handle for stamping, and it can be shaped to stamp on difficult surfaces (like the slightly concave jar lids).

A small piece of white EasyCarve rubber, lying on a piece of white paper that is on top of a green cutting mat. Next to it is a slim, wood-handled U-shaped gouger tool. There is a square spiral design on the rubber in black marker, and some shreds of rubber just above it. Another small piece of EasyCarve rubber; the visible surface has been coloured in black with a permanent marker. There is a complicated curved design on it in white (from the rubber surface being cut away). A piece of paper with two stamps visible on it. The stamps show the Bluetooth symbol, with two thick curved lines around it, and many smaller thin lines in the areas around it; the logo and lines are whitespace. In the topmost stamp, I attempted an overlay effect with red ink over black; the red stamp is slightly offset. In the lower stamp, which is very faint in the center, I tried for a two-toned stamp - the faint center band is red, while the sides are in black. Two stamps made from the complicated swirl design stamp. The first stamp was a slightly re-inked ghost print; it is mostly black, but there is some red across the right-hand side, and the whole stamp is quite faint. The lower stamp has been rotated 180 degreets, and is in red ink. Three of the curves stamps in black ink, on white paper. The lower one is slightly faint, but not too bad. The left top stamp is quite dark in its upper left corner, but becomes faint partway through. The stamp to its right has been rotated 180 degrees, and is quite faint as it is a ghost print. A black stamp of the Bluetooth symbol, with a partly-completed border of 4 stamps of the square spiral in red. The border is only on one side and across the bottom of the Bluetooth symbol. Two of the border stamps are ghost prints.
Yeah, I'm a nerd. I thought stamps for warchalking (warstamping) would be cool, but...chose Bluetooth for some reason, even though that's not part of warchalking. Quicker and more discreet too. The square spiral was me learning howe to straight lines. The curves were...kiiiinda based on a Norse trimming pattern called 'endless dog'. I'm not very good at drawing.

In the afternoon, it was time for some real lino. I tried two designs - a paisley-inspired shape, and a shape based on a motif from Graham McCallum’s book. I ran out of time to finish the second block, but I did finish the first. (Carving here was extended by needing to keep warming the lino - it becomes devilishly difficult to carve while it’s cold.)

Two linocut blocks, side by side, on a brown wooden surface. The left-hand block is a paisley shape (like a fat comma) with an internal border of a rope pattern, a 7-petalled flower at the thick end of the symbol, and patterns of crosshatching, dots and oval-shaped gouges in three vertical sections below the flower. The right-hand one is a flower motif, similar to a lotus with a circle behind it and a stem; it is mostly drawn in white marker on the black lino surface, but some of the outline has been cut already. The paisley linocut block, and above it a resulting print in black ink on a piece of green paper, lying on a white tabletop. The print on green paper is mirrored from the linocut block. 4 prints from the paisley block, lying on a scuffed white tabletop. In the top left is the black print on green paper. Next to it is an attempted offset print of dark blue over black, on teal paper; the offset was too far, so it is a bit of a mess and hard to discern the design. On the bottom right, a white piece of paper has a design of three of the paisley motifs; two are in black, with the thick end downwards, while the one in the center is dark blue, with the thick end upwards. In the lower left, on another piece of white paper, is a rotated offset overlay print; the first, bold black print of the paisley block has the thick end downwards, and a second ghost print was made over it with the block rotated 180 degrees, which was also slightly offset to the right.
The two blocks (I didn't get time to finish the flower block; I wanted to do it as a reduction print, where you cut the design in stages and print in between). Then, the paisley test print, and my experiments. The blue and black offset was not meant to be offset that far, I don't know what happened there.

Bonus: here’s a page from Graham Leslie McCallum’s ‘5000 Flower & Plant Motifs’, which inspired the flower block. I found it while I was looking for patterns to fill my paisley symbol with. The flower motif I was going for is figure D, in the top right-hand corner.

Page 73 of Graham Leslie McCallum's 5000 Flower & Plant Motifs.

The sea dragon print here (made by another participant) also shows an example of an effect that can be obtained with superimposed ghost printing.

A piece of white paper with a print of a leafy sea dragon on it; the background is filled with wary lines, and the sea dragon's body isn't outlines so much as suggested in outline by the wavy lines stopping. An overprint has been created by rotating the block 180 horizontally, and ghost-printing over the bolder black print with a faint blue.
Almost a Moire kind of thing.

I have a lot of ideas, but I’ll need to save some money to get a set of good tools and some EasyCarve and lino pieces. And find a better way of warming the lino than sitting on it, since I don’t trust a hotplate. (And apparently, track down an old office printer and pull it apart to get parts for a hand-held printing roller, since printing rollers are large and very expensive.) I’ll put some links on my wishlist, if anyone feels generous or wants some gift ideas.

Union Street Printmakers runs a variety of full-day intensive workshops, at different locations. I went to one of the intensives, at Stone & Quoin Studio, 6 Manton Street Hindmarsh (it’s behind Pony & Cole Cafe). You can request a full-day workshop, and it’d be really good if you have a group - either beginners, or people who can’t do printmaking at home.

The techniques that can be covered include:

  • Low-toxic intaglio processes – drypoint, etching, monoprints/monotypes, collagraphs, chine colle, etc.
    • Relief processes – lino printing, woodcuts, wood engravings, collagraphs, embossing, photopolymer, Japanese woodblock, etc.
    • Stencilling & screen printing – DIY kitchen table techniques, screenprinting with hand cut stencils, screenprinting with drawing/masking fluid, screen monoprinting, beginners repeat pattern textile printing, etc.
    • Other print processes - waterless lithography, gelli printing, printing without a press, etc.

And coming soon to Stone & Quoin Studio in Hindmarsh:

  • Letterpress, book arts, zines and textile screenprinting.

They also provide casual classes, which run Mondays 2-5pm (for intaglio) or 6-9pm (lino & relief). They have a Saturday class in Stepney, but the Hindmarsh studio was really nice and has an attached cafe. The casual classes are $40 per person for single classes, but you can book 10 classes in advance (and they should be booked well in advance). There are also evening classes for a group of at least 4 people, Tuesday-Friday 6-9pm at Hindmarsh, for $50 per person

And finally, the teacher today, Simone Tippett has a portable workshop press and can provide equipment and materials for schools or other studios. My parents (and others of their generation) got to do basic printmaking and stamping at school - Mum made fabric stamps with potatoes, on more than one occasion. I didn’t get to do any of that at school - the first three schools I went to were severely underfunded and didn’t trust the kids with equipment anyway, and the last school I went to (a private school) just didn’t do any of this. This would be a really fun activity for older kids or teenagers, especially those interested in doing stuff like zines or fashion design - if you want that patterned fabric that doesn’t exist, the first step is to make it yourself, and fabric stamping is faster than trying to handpaint. And even though I had no disasters, it’d be best to do it under supervision - this does involve some sharp things, after all.

They have a ton of upcoming full-day intensives throughout April and May, on all sorts of techniques as well. It’d definitely be worth emailing ahead to find out if the classes are full or not.

Then, there’s the workshops that attracted me in the first place: the guest print program.

I’ll be there for the Basic Western Bookbinding workshop, because there’s almost nowhere else to learn this stuff under supervision in Adelaide (at least, nowhere that advertises it). I’d really recommend looking at that workshop if you’re a traditional media or sketch artist who might have to bind sketchbooks one day, or if you’re into fountain pens or unusual papers, or if you just want to make a neat custom notebook for yourself.

They have a Facebook page as well, which has lots of photos of different types of prints if you’re not sure what the technique you like is called, or what different kinds of prints look like.


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