Monday, 15 December 2014

I Am Making Art @ Spike Island

I ran a drop-in Christmas themed printmaking workshop at Spike Island Cafe on Saturday 6 December 2014, 12–4pm. Was lots of fun and very inky!

I take full responsibility for the inky mess in the Spike Cafe. Photo by Spike Island.
The idea was to let people produce their own relief blocks and print their personal Christmas cards, tags, bags or wrapping paper.

With a bit of preparation before hand I set 3 different methods for relief printing that people could jump into. The idea was to have a few levels from very simple and quick to a more intermediate technique. Also good to have a few different activities people can jump between.

This was the first method I directed participants that came into the workshop as it is the quickest and most fun way to get results with printmaking.

Using sticky back craft foam, the participants could cut shapes and/or inscribe drawings directly into the foam. The great thing is scissors could just be used so no dangerous sharp objects are needed. Also with the sticky back no waiting around for glue to dry.

The backing paper could be removed and the foam was easily stickable to A6 sized cardboard offcuts to create the printing plate.

This is an example of the type of block and print that was made - note this is not my image

Ink was rolled on, just as with lino, or painted on with a brush. Then the card, tag, bag or wrap was placed on top of the block and pressed down just by hand or with a barren.

I found this technique from this tutorial.

One of the youngest participants inking the foam stuck to cardboard with a roller with help from his dad. Photo by Spike Island

Using easy carve lino and some cheap lino cut tools - the original idea was to have this as an extra activity so after someone has tried out the collagraph technique, could then have a go at lino. If any experienced print-makers came along they could jump right into lino.

What I found was that the experienced printmakers were generally interested in trying out the foam technique as some ran their own workshops and could see the benefit. 

Others who had done lino in the past, but were not experienced print-makers, grabbed some lino, a tool and a cup of coffee and sat at a different table and quietly worked on their lino block.

Some of the parents who came with their children had tried out the foam technique and were interested in moving on and trying lino with some great results.

It ended up being incredibly busy at a few points which made it hard to monitor exactly what everyone was working on - some kids were starting to pickup lino tools and begin starting their own lino block without getting a little demo first - this led to some small cuts and I will write more in the things to learn section below.

This made use of the already inked up rolling blocks - in the quieter times participant could use these to create monoprints using an object to scribe into the back of the paper or gift card to transfer the ink onto the paper, creating a one of a kind print. We didn't do many of these and the inks were sometimes not the best to work with for this method.

Photo by Spike Island

Photo by Spike Island

Things to learn from
I'd love to say everything went superbly well but of course there were issues.

I was lucky to have Hannah and for some of the time another volunteer from Spike Island to help out on the day. I really could not have managed the workshop on my own - especially in the busy times but also because I have never done a drop in style workshop before.

The 3 coloured inks (blue, red & green) I provided were very cheap waterbased inks. Each had different qualities but overall quite tacky and good cover, easy washed up but all dried up a bit to quickly both the block and rollers. Some ink retarder on the day would have been a savior - unfortunately a few trips back and forth to the sinks to wash up the built up inks.

The black was a much better quality (Caligo Safe Wash relief ink). No drying at all and washes up fine with water soap and elbow grease - I'd recommend anyone to invest in better quality inks - overall it saves your time, produces better prints and easier to clean.
Lino tools 
During the day we had 3 minor cuts with the lino tools - next time this would need to be monitored better. Thankfully nothing too serious but during the busy times it made it very hard to supervise anyone who decided to jump onto lino. Perhaps a dedicated lino area and tutor would be an option. Or for a drop in workshop like this don't have lino as an option.

Running out of materials
We went through all of the materials I had prepped - there was a budget for materials which was maxed out but it would have been nice to have some more or even alternatives on hand. By around 2.30pm 100 cards had been printed so luckily I had more of these nearby in Spike Design. By 4pm we had printed the rest of these too.
The foam used for collograph was also running low by the end of the day.

Overall the workshop went well and there was some good feedback from Spike Island:

"Very popular session with lots of positive feedback. People enjoying making cards etc. they could use for xmas. Lots of comments re enjoying experimenting with printmaking, many for the first time. Quite a lot of the visitors were first time visitors to Spike and/or I Am Making Art and implied they would be returning. "
During the afternoon we saw a total of 50 participants.

 Age Range: Babies – middle aged (28 adults, 8 teens, 19 children).