Seedy Business


I have had this dried seed head sitting in the garage since last year (another one of my printmaking to-do projects) and rediscovered it the other day whilst looking for something else. I had originally thought about making collograph prints from it, and set about making a plate. First I flattened it in the nipping press, which removed most of the seeds and leaving lots of little stalks. This was then glued and varnished to seal it. I forgot to photograph the plate before it got inky, but here’s what it looks like now:

In the end, I decided to make a sort of collograph/relief print as I am not really set up for collograph prints. So I hand inked the plate, and wiped off the excess, and printed on damp paper as you would with collograph printing. I did 10 prints in total, but four are really good:

And I had tested my press for collograph pressure by blind embossing, which is just printing without the ink I suppose…

There are no photos of the process as I was pretty grubby wiping the inky plate and just concentrated on the job in hand, but I have since taken a few nice close ups…


What The F…riday!

Here are a number of instructional folders from a set of 24, each demonstrating some basic drawing techniques for different subjects.

In each folder there are 8 or 9 plates based upon a different aspect of the theme:

Here is the full folder on the theme of dancing in sequence:


Frederick Warne & Co. are most famous for being the publisher of the Beatrice Potter books, and now are owned by Penguin Books.

The lettering on each plate is hand drawn in one of two scripts; this broad lined calligraphic style:

And this simpler one-stroke script elsewhere.

I’ll leave you with a little ‘foxing’ though, and remember kids, drawing is not just about what ends up on paper; it’s also about what goes in your head…

Images, Photography

Wheeee! Bang! Whoosh!


The Lestarets, along with a few friends (and pretty much the rest of King’s Lynn by the looks of it!)  headed out to The Walks this evening for the bonfire and fireworks display. Great company, great fireworks and some fairly decent photographs too:





And while I was peering into the flames, I started to take notice of the fairground rides on the other side of the park:



And this one was taken through the heat haze of the bonfire (just visible at the bottom) of the flashing sign of ‘The Meteorite.’ I took a good half a dozen shots to try and capture the whole word, but this one was the best with just part of the ‘R’ missing.



Ah, bonfire night, the night of the long exposure…

Book Talk, handmade, Uncategorized

An Artistic Weekend

cheese grater

This last weekend I’ve been back up north to Sheffield. See the folks; show the children off, etc. In amidst this scene of prosaic domestic activity, I managed to squeeze in a couple of exhibitions. I spent a good hour browsing, reading and marvelling through the entries at the 2nd Artists Book Prize at Banks Street Arts, where my own humble offerings are on display with seventy-nine other entries. There were some very unusual ones that challenged the concept of ‘bookness’, a good many altered books, lots of handmade papers and a few commercially bound editions. There were many types of format, content and execution, and most were unnamed and only identifiable by a small blue sticker with a number for voting purposes. There were voting forms in the exhibition for the public to register their two favourites.

There were too many books to go through fully, which meant having to decided which were to be investigated further. There were perfect bound digitally printed volumes, hand-made paper creations, elegant casebound books, accordian folds, flagbooks, Japanese stab bindings, loose leaves and even a CD!


I was obviously drawn first to the more formally bound books, and then moved on to those with more unusual formats and materials. An early favourite was title ‘Clocks’- a slim casebound volume in grey cloth, around 30 x 25cm, which began typographically with single words on each page, progressing to beautiful graphic swashes on graph paper, and ending with pinholes in the page in the position of numbers on a clock face: booky, graphic and mysterious – it ticked all the boxes for me.

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I was also really charmed by this tiny (around 9cm tall) slim accordion book of prints depicting rice terraces, held in a gatefold cover and fastened with tooth-like toggles. The simplicity and quality of the single colour printing appealed and inspired me – I need to think about my own themes and practices if I am to produce anything as delicate and communicative as this.

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My favourite (and got my vote) was this tooled brown leather box, around 10cm square and 4cm deep titled ‘Working Song for a Shetland Shearer.’ The lid lifted away to pull out a… well, I don’t know the technical term for this, but it was a sort of double/twisted accordion, which, when expanded, the panels revealed engaging wood/linocut prints in three colours. The content featured interconnected verses of Baa-Baa-Black-Sheep, with directions for sheep shearing and mixed illustrative styles. The result was a beautiful and seemingly inconsequential work, that ‘spoke’ much more intensely than I had first thought. This is a book made not to celebrate or inform, but exists for the romance of itself, imbued with importance by its own craftsmanship. The leather box binding makes the book solid, timeless, precious and personal. This is a book that I wish I had within easy reach of my desk right now. I seem to enjoy the perverse feeling of creative inspiration tainted by jealousy!

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There were seven other books that really twisted my melon, and a whole host of others that sparked ideas, made me think and made me smile. Here are some of my favourites.

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The winner of the first Book Arts Prize, Katherine Johnson was awarded an exhibition at the gallery where she displayed a range of altered books and book inspired concept pieces.  There were two main installations. The first one, in a stark, white room, featured paper planes made from book pages, emerging from a casebound book titled “Wings of Fate; Strange True Tales of the Vintage Flying Days” by Norman Macmillan. These were suspended on drop lines fro the ceiling, and emerged from the book in a graceful arc across the room to a point just above the door. Mesmerising in the simplicity of its effect. These images don’t really do it justice, but they are all I’ve got.


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The second piece, in a darkened room lit by a single spotlight, was a thick vertical  column of paper chains, each link made from a line of text cut from a book. Suspended from a single point at the ceiling, they fell to the floor and spread outwards to an abrupt end.

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Both were elegant and inspired works that made me smile and wonder about the possibilities held within the form of the book. There were a number of smaller pieces on display too, each confidant in it’s execution and beautiful in their detail. One to watch.

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My thanks to John and the kind folk at Bank Street Arts, who gave me permission to take the photographs, as well as all of the artists whose work is shown here. I apologise for the lack of individual credits but I would be happy to add details and weblinks to any of the featured artists. Go visit the gallery if you are in the area. It’s a small, independent gallery, run by enthusiastic, friendly people. Try the Bakewell tart in the café too!


I also went off to the other side of Sheffield to the Cultural Industries Quarter, to the Yorkshire Arts Space  to see an exhibition of posters by Martin F. Bedford, a designer, illustrator and photographer who was an early inspiration for me as a young pup! He designed lots of gig and event posters for many of the cities arts and music venues, especially The Leadmill, (some history here – many a lost night spent in the bar in my time!!!) which many of us aspiring designers wanted to do. I did, in time, design quite a lot of posters for them (so thanks Martin!) but back to the story.

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BUT. Yes, but. There has to be a but. It was shut. Why aren’t galleries open on a bloody Saturday? So go to Martins website  and take a look at his work online – buy a print (I wish I could afford a John Cooper Clark one, above!) or buy the book.  I have had one of his books since last Christmas. It is really a blast from the past for me, but is also full of quirky, colourful grassroots design and striking imagery, and has lots to offer those who enjoy music design and ephemera, and may never have even been to Sheffield! It is also worth considering that The Leadmill was notorious for quick turnarounds and last minute work – many of the posters I did were commissioned on a Wednesday, printed on a Thursday, flyposted on a Thursday and Friday night for a gig the next Tuesday! As I recall, they only paid a flat fee of forty quid for each design! But you could get in to the gig for free and see some great (and not so great acts) and see lots of people carrying your posters which they had paid a pound for!

Anyway, following my disappointment at this exhibition being shut, I wandered down the road to the Site Gallery  (which was open and free) and spent a while in a wonderful exhibition space showing a minimalist video installation by by New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based artist Daniel von Sturmer. I’m not usually moved by this sort of work, but these wes playful and beguiling films, well presented with crystal clear sound. The fact that I was the only person in there answered my earlier question about galleries don’t open at the weekend (they did have two very delightful ladies on reception though!) but it was nice to have the place all to myself.


Visit your local galleries and arts centres. Apart from supporting real, honest people sharing and promoting the work of other creatives, you may leave inspired, educated, baffled or just smiling. Exercise your intellect and your emotions.

handmade, Printmaking, Projects, Uncategorized


I didn’t wait too long before getting the press into service. After pressing a few books it was time to print something. I was going to use a lino block I had cut last year, but decided to cut something new as this was the first time. I decided to create a sort of “private press” style logo using the press itself as the motif. After a few abortive attempts I settled upon this one, quickly sketched out to give a good indication of the relief areas and traced in reverse onto the lino block using carbon paper:



I got a bit ambitious here – the design only measures 10.4 x 8.2mm so there was no way I was going to get the letters cut accurately, but hey, I may as well try. After transferring to the lino, I prefer to draw pen over the relief areas. This helps me to prevent cutting away the wrong parts!



Out with the old lino tools and after warming the lino for a few minutes (this softens the lino and prevents it from ‘tearing’ as you cut) I gouged out the edges to get a feel for the sharpness of the blades before getting into the details. Of course, I tackled the type first…




A quick word on the tools. For the edges and details I used the number 1 and 2 ‘v’ shaped blades (below, left) and a flatter number 10 ‘shovel’ shaped blade to take out large areas and remove the peaks created by the smaller v shaped blades. I often leave these peaks on for a more rustic look, but decided to go for something a little cleaner this time.


Health and Safety note – keep the fingers of your other hand behind the blade when cutting. (I expect many tales of linocutting injuries following this post…) Please observe the postition of my hands in the previous images.

I did the cutting over two evenings – this is quite taxing on the eyes and hands (Jeez – I sound like an old geezer!) but the surface textures of cut and smooth lino are just so lovely I had to photograph them!

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And to finish, a quick check with a wax crayon…

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I flipped this one over on screen just for the effect of comparison here.  And now we go to print. I have just recieved a tin of water-based relief ink (Caligo 250gsm from GreatArt) so it’s out to the garage (a temporary home – I’m hankering after a cool garden studio).  A small amount of ink goes a long way. Transfer out a smear (it’s the consistency of marmite!) onto a smooth surface – I’m using a spare kitchen tile and roll out smooth with a clean roller until it sounds like frying bacon. (Mmm, bacon!) and roll onto the block in all directions making sure that all the surfaces are evenly coated.

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Into the press then. With the paper carefully placed on top and a J-cloth as a press blanket, a good amount of pressure was applied.

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And the results? Well:


I did 5 prints in all, and my eldest daughter (Uppercase) also did one. She also took the last 5 photographs! They are drying at the moment so I will hi-res scan them in and post them soon. Oh, I’m such a tease!

graphics, stuff'n'fluff

What the F…riday!

skinners cream3

It’s time to meet the family and sample my cream! (sorry, that really wasn’t necessary, but I couldn’t resist). I had a visit from a dear friend and colleague Hilary on Wednesday who gave me this little leaflet. It’s a promotional piece that came with a cream making machine from way back when – they do pop up on ebay occasionally, and apparently quite collectable. I can’t remember whether she said she still had the machine, but she had kept this promo leaflet. Any guesses why she gave it to me?


Anyway, this thing is great! Do you think Great Aunt Zena would make it into todays marketing?



And if anyone is wondering about what the cream maker actually is, check it out here.

bel cream maker


Flickr Update


I’ve just been updating my Flickr page. There are over a hundred images already uploaded, all at reasonably high resolution. There are loads of textures – great for Photoshop layers, and general image manipulation. All copyright free and available to use in your own work – just don’t claim you took them, or give me a credit somewhere. If you do use any of them – send me a copy – I’d love to see what you get up to…