Print-making at Open Studios Cornwall

I recently left the hubbub and noise and chaos of London for a slice of peace down by the sea in Cornwall. Though I’ll still travel all over for acting and puppetry work, this is the place I will be calling home for the foreseeable future.

Ink print of a large leaf on paperAs luck would have it, during my first few weeks in Cornwall I had the opportunity to take a peek in some local artists’ studios and take part in a print-making workshop as part of Open Studios Cornwall. Driving down perilously narrow, windy country lanes after all that city driving ripped my nerves to shreds, but it was worth it for the glimpse of different artists’ creative lives. Chatting to each artist about their work was a real privilege, discovering personal stories reflected in how each person responds to the world around them through their creations.

Several of the artists taking part in this year’s Open Studios Cornwall also offered workshops (for a fee), covering everything from bookbinding to creative writing, stained glass to ceramics, Chinese calligraphy to botanical illustration. I wanted to take part in at least ten, but with a limited budget from the cost of moving house I had to pick just one, so I went for Mono Printing Using Natural Objects with artist Pam Furby.

Ink print of several smaller leaves on paper

The workshop provided a wonderful two hours to immerse ourselves in being creative and forget about the rest of the world. We started by wandering round Pam’s beautiful garden choosing natural objects we wanted to work with, then headed up to her little studio to have a go at printing with our finds. I mostly gathered leaves of various shapes and sizes, as I wanted to explore how their intricate veiny patterns would come out in the ink. The prints were just as beautiful and interesting as I had hoped, and a small feather also made for a lovely print.

The table in the artist's studio covered in piles of leaves, inks, papers and plastic boards.

I began by rolling out a small amount of ink on to a plastic board with a little roller, then pressed the leaf down into the ink, veiny side down (so that the side with the most interesting pattern or texture was face-down). I then peeled the leaf off and placed it on to the piece of paper I wanted to print on to, placed another piece on top, creating a leaf sandwich, then pressed down firmly so that the leaf left an inky print. Pam also had an ink press that we could use to give a more even pressure than our hands could.

A brown and black ink print of a small leaf on paper.Having never worked with ink in this way before it was very much trial and error for most of us, just having a go and having fun. As we became more confident using the ink and developed a sense of what patterns and effects we liked, some of us experimented with different colours, mixtures of colours, and different arrangements of our objects on the page. I found that often the second print using the ink-covered leaf would make a clearer picture than the first, which contained too much ink – less was more! When initially pressing the object into the ink we used a piece of newspaper so our fingers didn’t become covered in ink, and the ‘negatives’ this produced on the newspaper were often interesting pictures in their own right.

I love the prints I created during the workshop and one or two might even make it up on the wall! The next step is to experiment with different amounts of ink and pressure until I can capture as much of the delicate veins of the leaf as possible. Then I can move on to the next object, whatever that may be!

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