For details about my work have a look at my website,

I am currently working on large prints combining water based woodblock techniques with oil based linocut: nothing if not a challenge! I'm also doing some teaching and go back to school myself in the spring to qualify as an adult education tutor

Tuesday, 12 January 2010


Sometimes I despair: I have been printing now for five years give or take. Five years of cleaning down my rollers, palette knives and the sheets of glass for mixing inks. Five years of sloshing white spirit from five litre cartons and mopping it up with paper. Yesterday it finally occurred to me to put some of the white spirit in a spray bottle and, taa daa, cleaning up became a miracle of economy, accuracy and efficiency.

The print I mentioned last time has reached the stage where all the action is down at the bottom of the image. I’m on oil based lino now so using the press. It’s important to have a fair amount of pressure so I packed the press with additional paper and was heaving the handle across with my feet braced on its feet (imagine Mammy lacing Scarlett into her corset Gone With The Wind style). The print quality was still very patchy. In desperation I went to get my husband (now he works from home he is open to such abuses) to give it some more welly. Instead he considered the print for a moment, fished a small scrap of lino from the bin and positioned it at the top end of the block. Instant printing success: his small adjustment stopped the block from rocking away from the plate. His brains triumphing over my brawn.

It could be that the cold has addled my brain. My dad, supplier of the dehumidifier, also supplied the genes for a total inability to generate my own warmth. I get up, think of a sensible number of clothes to wear, double it and still I cool through the day like a human storage heater, needing to be reheated in the bath by evening. It’s tiring and it’s not great for my image. Van Gogh had the romance of candles stuck to his hat while he painted the wheeling stars in the French night sky. Turner, I bet, looked heroic in a sou'wester while lashed to the mast and sketching his storms at sea. I, on the other hand, resemble the sensible pensioner in the Government information films about winter cold; the one who’s wearing those oh so practical layers, fleecy slippers and a warm knee blanket. I too have the warming mug of tea and the hot water bottle. I’m even wearing the cat...

Thursday, 7 January 2010

A little rusty...

While the rest of Britain may be missing work days through snow, I have found that my studio is easily warmer than my home and my productivity is rocketing. It has insulation and double glazing; our house does not. Indeed our house, in the best turn of the century tradition, demands roaring fires in every room and the generous consumption of fossil fuels. Sadly its ambitions are all now bricked up bar one and the only echoes of Edwardian largess remaining are the five chilblains I’m currently nursing.

In Japan I learnt to cut linden plywood. The masters cut wild cherry which is not only frighteningly expensive, but very hard and it lacks the neat guideline of reaching a new layer of wood to tell me that I’ve cut deeply enough. Here I raided my husband’s carpentry supplies and ended up with builder’s birch ply. In a fit of optimism I decided on a starter piece that a) was at least twice as big as anything I’d tried before, b) combined water based woodblock with oil based lino cut (another first for me) and c) used up paper I already had irrespective of its suitability. I think the cheapness of the birch ply had a lot to do with my insouciance. So far it’s going ok: the birch splinters like hell and the paper wasn’t perfect, but a Japanese landscape is emerging and I will keep you posted.

The only glitch in the studio is humidity: the butane heater throws out moisture and my huge chilly iron press is the perfect condenser. Fortunately my dad bought me a dehumidifier for Christmas. I’d like to say this was an act of genius on his part, but actually the cheque came with a note to ‘treat yourself to something pretty’: I just added ‘fantastic to save your work and your press’ to the end of his message. I’m hoping that I can polish the superficial rust off the Albion before the Open Studios and embarrassing questions start.