Lino printing... Many people have fond memories of hacking away at old pieces of carpet at school (in an art class hopefully), but after a near miss in a technology class my school decided that young children and sharp implements shouldn't mix, so I arrived at Northern Print as a novice in all things lino. As I started milling with the other participants (who included two art teachers, a regular class goer and a seasoned printer) my trepidation grew – the closest I'd got to anything creative was trying to decoupage a Cadbury Roses tin and trust me, that didn't go well. But after a big mug of coffee and some mini stollen (to get in the festive mood), I was ready to go.
Luckily our instructor (complete with paint-streaked apron for authenticity) was Jan, a pro – she recently helped Northern Print claim the Guinness World Record for the longest single linocut print. So while I was slightly intimidated by her fantastic ‘here's one I made earlier’ cards (imagine lovable polar bears, dynamic design and perfect trees), I knew I was in good hands. She calmly and succinctly talked us through the process from creating the design, choosing the correct tools, and cutting the lino while keeping your fingers intact to applying the paint and achieving the perfect finish.
Her narrative was interspersed with handy tips, for instance if you don't have a fancy Japanese baren at home (which you roll over the paper to ensure the ink is equally dispersed), then you can use the back of a wooden spoon. She was even careful to impart the instructions in small doses so that novices like me didn't have too much information to process in one go.
Then it was our turn. Fortunately for me they had stencils. Unfortunately for me I picked one of the most complicated designs – a lovely Nordic Christmas tree which I transferred to the lino with tracing paper and which looked clever and creative until I started chiselling away at the plate in a haphazard fashion, but que sera. Then it was time for the fun bit – experimenting with different colours, shades and papers as I produced the different products. We were given plenty of time and support to experiment and my confidence grew as the class progressed. By the end I was creating two-tone images, using talcum powder as a block to create the effect of snow and fancying myself the next Andy Warhol.
The workshop costs £38 for two and a half hours, and by the end of the class I had enough Christmas cards to send to the whole family and some really lovely wrapping for those extra special presents. But the class was much more than the end result. The all-consuming nature of the process proved a very welcome distraction from everyday life and as I emerged back into the winter’s cold at the end of the evening I felt altogether more relaxed and serene. And if you feel inspired, Northern Print also sell the materials and tools that you’ll need to carry on at home – I know what will be the top of my Christmas list this year.
Christmas Printing workshops will run at Northern Print in the Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle on Wednesday 25 November and Wednesday 9 December. For more information or to book visit www.northernprint.org.uk