Rediscovering linocutting

Ever since investigating my stamps’ copyrights, I’ve wanted to get back into linocutting (in 7th grade I made a playing card for art class). Enter the discovery of a local print shop. I asked Evanston Print & Paper Shop if they had linocut classes, and lo and behold, I was able to register for one 2 weeks later.

On Saturday Sarah Vogel of Slow Industries introduced six of us to the art of 2-block printing. First you pick out a line art image. Then you determine which colors you want to use. We chose blue and red with burgundy as a blended color.

Based on those colors, you color in your image. Then you trace your image to the wood block, tracing the parts of the one color on one block, and the parts of the other color (including blended overlaps) on the second block.

Then comes the hard part, thinking in negative. You want to carve out the things you DON’T want to print, and leave the image you want to print. Carving 2 5×7 blocks was hard on our hands and wrists. Fortunately Sarah saved me by cutting out some negative space on my block. This is something to be done cautiously as the linoleum can come off the wood. I was instructed to carve out to the edges on that block, instead of carving toward the image, in order to ensure the linoleum stayed on the block.

After 2-3 laborious hours, we were ready for the next step, printing.

Letterpress printing is quite the buzzword in stationary circles, but I didn’t really know much about it. Surrounded by antique printing presses and steel type blocks, the print shop is teeming with nostalgia.

We were instructed to start with the dark color first (red in our case) and learned to place the block on the press, to ink it, and then push buttons and roll levers to print the first part of our image.

Everyone was pleasantly surprised by how their carvings turned out, and the character each image had based on the “trace” markings.

We then moved on to the blue press. Mine required a bit of adjusting to ensure the image lined up with the red part.

At the end, we all admired each other’s work, and got to take a souvenir sheet from each person.

My dragonfly.

While my hand does need a bit of a break, I do plan on making some smaller scale stamps of my own in the future for home-based printing. Taking a full-fledged letterpress class may be starting an addiction I don’t quite need yet, but I am glad to know that I have a letterpress print shop in my neighborhood.

Are you planning on any workshops in the near future?

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