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Linocut and letterpress workshop in Montefiore

Last week I ran a linocut and letterpress workshop at the beautiful Italian studio Opificio della Rosa. We had an intense and very productive six days but I loved every minute and I even got to relax for a few days afterwards. The studio is in a stunning castle in Montefiore, an unspoilt hilltop town where there is very little to do but drink cappucini and watching the world go by.

The aim of the workshop was to produce a short narrative-based book using linocut and letterpress while experimenting with a range of techniques and trying to retain a sense of playful exploration. The students certainly threw themselves in with gusto, staying late some nights long after I had left the studio. You can see images of the final books they produced below. They are very varied and all beautiful. I couldn’t have asked for more. And it’s hard to believe it was all achieved in six days.

Linocut textures – test prints

Day one was all about mark-making and composition while getting to know the basics of linocut and letterpress. In the morning we made simple black and white linocuts, trying all the different tools to make a variety of marks. In the afternoon the students got to play with some of the wooden letterpress type, printing it in different colours.

Letterpress blocks on the press

On the second day we made two-colour linocuts and started to combine the linocut and letterpress elements on the same page. I wanted the students to use the letterpress in an experimental and non-traditional way, so that the two techniques merged, rather than having separate text and image.

2 colour linocut Rapa (radish)
Inking up the letterpress type with a colour blend
Land! Linocut and letterpress
The turkey who lives on the hill

Each student was asked to bring a narrative of their choice to use as the basis for their book. I wanted to keep the idea of narrative very open and we ended up with a diverse collection, from Edward Lear’s The Owl and The Pussycat to a recipe for apple pie. The structure of the books was originally going to be a simple concertina but one or two students wanted to push the boat out and try something different so we ended up with five different formats, including one ingenious folding book.

Here are a few images of the finished books:

Quando Siamo alla Frutta is a collection of Italian sayings involving fruit and vegetables.

A Kitchenary Tale takes a quote from Joe Ecclesine:

Paprika measure

2 dashes = 1 smidgen
2 smidgens = 1 pinch
3 pinches =  1 soupcon
2 soupcons = too much paprika

What do you need to make Apple Pie? is more of a sculpture than a book. It folds and unfolds in several directions to take the reader through the process of making an apple pie.

The Owl and The Pussycat takes the characters from Edward Lear’s classic and combines them with the letters that spell ‘nonsense’

Finally, Scwambrania is about a fantasy land created by two children who have been punished and sent to their room.

I would like to thank Umberto Giovannini for hosting us and organising the workshops, Veronica Bassini for all her assistance and expertise in the studio and all the students for their enthusiasm and energy! I hope to run similar workshops in the future, so let me know if you’re interested.