Lino printing at COW Studio

Over Bank Holiday August weekend I went, with friend of Original Biscuit, Fay, to a workshop at the rather lovely COW Studio. I’ve been aware of COW for a few years now, since they were based at the Custard Factory, and I’ve been meaning to go to one of their workshops for far too long. On the Saturday before Bank Holiday Monday I had the chance to put this right and I attended their screen printing workshop.

It was a great chance to find out a bit more about COW and get to know them in person not just virtually (I follow them on Twitter and regularly check their workshop programme)! They have a lovely little studio nestled away in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and it is a haven of craftyness. Along with a lovely welcome to settle you in, and a brew and a squidgy brownie, every surface is covered in inspiration. From craft magazines to framed prints to bits of crochet and screen printed softies.

The rain (and thunder and lightning) soon started pouring so I knew I’d made the right choice to spend an afternoon crafting. Francine introduced the two techniques we’d have the chance to experiment with: screen and lino printing. She also handed round paper, pencils and templates for us to get started on our ideas. As I’ve never tried lino printing before I really wanted to create a design to use this medium. I did struggle to focus on one idea as there were so many quirky shapes and bright objects to choose from but I eventually decided to go against type and try to produce something more detailed and intricate than I normally create.

I roughly sketched out my idea and then used tracing paper to trace some shapes to firm the idea up. Then it was time to get cutting! After being shown the basic principles of how to transfer your design onto lino and then the basics of cutting I was ready to do my best (or worst)!

Initial sketches and prints

Initial sketches and prints

With lino printing you want to cut away the sections that you want to remain ink or paint free, the opposite to screen printing. With this in mind I started cutting away these pieces of my design. I quickly realised that, for a beginner, I’d been a bit ambitious in my design and that the level of curves I wanted might be difficult to achieve on a first attempt.

Nonetheless I stuck with the original idea but made everything more angular and sharper. On advice from COW Studio I added some depth to various parts of the design to add some texture into the finished print.

Once satisfied with my block of lino it was time to start printing. Rather than diving straight in, as I can be quite prone to do, Francine, sensibly, suggested some test prints. Working with paper, I rolled the paint onto the lino and then pressed the paper on top and pressed the paper onto the block to fully transfer the design.

With the first paint that I used, I found it difficult to get an even print. I’d been trying to avoid red as it seemed a cliche for a heart, but on advice from COW Studio, I turned to the red paint which was of a different consistency. It was a lot easier to get a good print from:

The final result

Overall I’m pleased with the final result and I am hoping to find a frame to proudly display my work. While it might not have turned out as I originally intended, sometimes you need to experiment, and test and fail in order to learn. I think I’ve definitely got a clearer idea of what will work with lino printing and how to do it. I can’t wait to experiment some more and I’m very grateful to COW Studio for running this workshop. Myself and Fay are already planning our next visit!

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