Had a lovely Wednesday morning at Stef Mitchell's workshop held at Duckett and Jeffreys Gallery - an introduction to woodcut. It is a very satisfying process, holding little cutting tools (a bit like lino print) and slicing away strips and shavings - the wood makes a light tearing sound as I plough through it with inexperienced hands!
Stef is very creative and exploratory in her own work, loving the process and materials she works with, and was brilliantly able to pass some of this on in her tutoring. I should have listened harder to her initial guidance about the wilfullness of wood, how we should work with the grain and let it have its say.
This little 'taster' has given me an appetite - I am sure having another attempt, in light of my learning, will bring about a print more sympathetic to the material, utilizing some of its natural characteristics more artfully.
The little print that did emerge from my labour, was a bird, egg laying - and I wanted to give the impression of it in its nest within a hollow tree, at what should really have been a private time.
Stef is running more printmaking courses over Easter - contact the gallery for details.
Hens and Chicks are the names often given to Sempervivums - I love these evergreen perennials with their mats of fleshy-leaved rosettes.
The "hen" is the main plant, and the "chicks" are the offspring, which
start as tiny buds on the main plant and soon sprout their own roots,
taking up residence close to the mother plant. The name Sempervivum comes from the Latin - Semper (always) and Vivus (living).
My little plants have looked rather sad lately - I think they were expecting better weather by now - so I thought I would bring them indoors and re-pot them.
I've made lots of little - really mini - pots for them all. These are hewn from my usual sandstone and are a perfect size to get the little 'chicks' going when they leave their mother.
Some I thought I would put a design on - in this case a hen - obviously! Recently I was involved with a project where the lettering was designed to be leaded (as was often found on gravestones and taken to exalted heights by the Victorians). This process is seldom seen now, it is highly labour-intensive - but I think looks stunning. The letters end up being filled with lead, level with the surface of the stone, and polished - very elegant and striking.
I wanted to get this look, but with a carved image on the front of my little planters, and have been trying to achieve this with my sandstone mini-pots. One of the difficulties was that once the image was carved, the lead needs tamping down into the crisp cut shape, and this hammering (even with the softest rubber or leather hammer) causes the delicate sandstone edges round the image to break up and crumble slightly - thereby distorting the carefully carved image. Very frustrating!
So, I have tried to get the effect by using resin instead - making up a mixture of polyester resin and metal powder to resemble lead. I pour this into the carved shape, and overfill slightly so that I can sand back to the stone level once the mixture has hardened. I am quite pleased with the results and certainly it looks metalic and catches the light beautifully, showing something of the soft shine and glow of hammered and polished lead.
I feel as if it is a bit of a cheat though - perhaps I'll try again with the lead using a simpler shape.