The name ‘Double Elephant’- taken from the large imperial paper size used in printing is the name given to a studio nestled amongst the Phoenix Art Gallery. Double Elephant, a small but impressive printing studio is community based and available to anyone; professional printmaker, beginners and artists alike.
Prints at Double Elephant are created from a block, plate or through a stencil. They might be etched into a smoothly polished sheet of copper; collaged from a variety of textured materials, hand-cut into a piece of box wood of feature intensely-hued ink squeezed through a mesh stencil. It might be none of these traditional methods but an artist’s very personal working method developed over many years.
Artists are drawn to printmaking because it can provide a language of marks, a richness of colour and depth and other unique characteristics that can’t be achieved in any other way. Some artists produce all their work using printmaking processes. Others, such as painters, sculptors, new media artists etc, move in and out of this way of working whenever they need to.
Older equipment is also available to paying customers, which had been previously used to print newspapers. We witnessed a woman doing a photo-etching, which compliments each person’s unique style. Photo etching is a technique that uses a photographic-light sensitive material to coat the surface of a metal plate. The plate is exposed to a UVA light source together with the original artwork. Once developed the plate is etched in acid as a normal etching plate then printed as normal.
We were guided around the studio by Lynn, who was inspired by the beauty of nature- even pests like weeds! She talked of how she screen-printed a variety of weeds onto her father’s pristine lawn. She was very fond of Collagraphs and uses this in a lot of her work- one of these being a rare breed of Pear tree only found in Plymouth.
In Collagraphing the surface is built up like a collage, by sticking materials onto a cardboard block. Many artists like the ‘rough’ feel of Collagraphs, using different textures to experiment and explore how various materials take ink in different ways. The Collagraphs process is very versatile- the plate can also be printed like an etching or even in a combination of intaglio and relief.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip because printmaking offers such variety. However it is achieved, there is always an exciting element of surprise involved as an artist reveals another unique print. Printmaking, therefore, has broad appeal and lends itself to outreach very easily.
I found the art trip to ‘Double Elephant’ very interesting, and gained a better understanding of the many printing techniques used in professional printing. I saw the equipment used in many kinds of printing, as well as some professional prints.
I learnt about many kinds of printing while on the trip. My personal favourites were the following;
- screen printing
- relief printing
- lino printing
- light sensitive printing
I found the shapes made in the printing ink by relief printing especially interesting. I would like to try this kind of printing.
I thought that the prints which had been inspired by nature, in particular, I thought weeds were an interesting choice of topic. Also, I liked some prints of a British variety of plum tree. These prints where done by Lyn Bailey, who runs the Double Elephant studio.