Scrolling through upcoming Facebook events I spy a printmaking workshop running at Torre Abbey. Printmaking is something I did fleetingly at school and have often wanted to return to, especially since working at Artizan Gallery and seeing some incredible examples of linocuts, etchings and lithographs come through their exhibitions (see Arthur Homeshaw for some amazing examples). I load the event and at just £6 I can hardly resist. Click, the boyfriend and I are booked (we’ll tell him later)!
The workshop is linked loosely to an exhibition that was at the Abbey; Devon Birds, a photographic show from the Devon Birds Society, is an exhibition of photography from the group which dates back to 1928 when it was known as the Devon Birdwatching & Preservation Society. This in itself is worth focusing on for a second. The exhibition has now sadly passed but, displayed in one of the Abbey’s main galleries, it showcased a collection of incredible wildlife photography captured by the society, depicting some of the common – and less common – avian sites found in Devon’s skies. Some of the images really were spectacular, the exhibition successfully giving a sense of the huge diversity of winged friends we have in the county. The society is well worth checking out too; they do some incredible conservation work, annually collating around 60,000 bird records, and there are some great incentives to membership. You can also view some of the images which were on display in the exhibition in their online gallery.
Now, back to the workshop! We were met by a friendly face, Kate Richards, who we first met earlier this year at the gallery. Herself and the team from the newly established Squircle Arts CIC were running the event, one of many that they’re currently hosting at Torre Abbey. We were based in the Learning Lab, a group of about 12 with all the bits we needed laid out and ready to go. Ink trays, rollers, mark making tools and, to start with, a tester piece of lino. Kate took us through the basic steps, explaining how the sections we took away would impact the final print and how the different types of cutting tools would give different effects. A brief safety note to always cut away from ourselves – something boyfriend promptly ignored resulting in a nicked thump – and off we went! It was the perfect amount of tuition; enough to get us going in the knowledge we could ask questions if we needed to, but with the right amount of guidance that we could make our own discoveries. We were let loose on a small piece of lino to experiment with mark making, try out different tools and test out our first print. The most difficult part of linocutting is working out what areas appear black and what appear white; the bits you cut away (most often the outlines) become gaps where the ink avoids and therefore appear white, whilst everything else takes the ink and becomes solid colour on the print.
The whole process was made really accessible, with the Squricle team successfully demonstrating how easily this could be done at home if we wanted to carry on. We inked our first linocuts and then printed our first pieces using the back of a wooden spoon to apply pressure. And they came out looking pretty great, the humble spoon a more than adequate (Change to suitable) replacement for a large press! Mark making tests completed, birds became the inspiration of our main print. I ambitiously chose a Kestrel, and passed a good hour continuing to get to grips with the materials as I made my design, carefully carving away bits of lino, wary that each mark is irreversible. Everyone in the room was intensely focused on their pieces and slowly, one by one, we all reached the pivotal moment of trying a print. We inked up again and this time my print went through the press; and I can happily say I was very pleased with the results! The act of printing is really exciting, revealing the image you’ve made and whether or not you’ve correctly pictured the effects of your marks. My design came out as I’d expected, and I was quite proud of the impact it had. I carried on experimenting with prints on different coloured paper to see the effects but this time using the back of a wooden spoon to press. Again, it was really interesting to see the difference this made. The image was not quite as sharp as the press, but the softer style was still really attractive.
Too soon the workshop was over, but It was amazing how much we’d learnt in such little time. The whole evening was a lovely experience, with Squircle definitely hitting the right balance in the way they delivered the class, and succeeding in making linocutting feel completely accessible. Everyone went home with beautiful prints and hopefully as much confidence to carry on as I felt! Great job Squircle Arts on a wonderful workshop!
A Bit More About Squircle
Who are we?
A squircle is a shape that sits somewhere between a circle and a square. It is a square-circle. For us, it's symbolic. It represents how it all began. Four people who had ideas, and together we had a dream, a vision - to share our love of the arts, nature and culture with our community. In October 2017 Squircle was born. The Squircle Arts team are Kate, Joni, Heather & Dan!
What do we do?
We are a new community interest company based in Devon. We love the arts and culture and we want to share it with you!
We will be popping up in locations across the Bay. Come and find us at future events - in the woods at Lupton House, at Torre Abbey Museum and Gardens, Torquay Museum, on beaches and at festivals. We also take our arts and cultural activities into local schools and residential care homes. Our workshops link to our cultural history and natural environment. Upcoming pop up workshops will include: clay sculpture, making your own screen-printing press, cyanotype
botanical printing, outdoor ‘Art Jam’ events, after-school 'Art Pop' and large-scale community projects including our ‘Create one / Donate one’ project.
Please find us and like us on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram @SquircleArts & at www.squirclearts.co.uk
We love the arts and culture,
We want you to love it too.
We’ll share everything we know
In a pop up workshop near you!