Monday, July 7, 2008

Printsy Interview: Lapwing Printworks - spoonergregory on Etsy

'Four Prints' - spoonergregory on FlickrInterviewed by: Amie Roman

Names: Sarah Spooner & Jon Gregory

Identity on Etsy: spoonergregory

Print studio name: Lapwing Printworks





What drew you into this (some would argue) esoteric art form? Especially wood engraving - perhaps it's more popular in the UK, but wood engravers are not so thick on the ground in my neck of the woods!

'Engraving St. Winifred's' - spoonergregory on FlickrWe were drawn to printmaking after spending all our hard-earned pennies on prints by local artists, which inspired us to have a go at it ourselves. Our interest in wood engraving was sparked by the engravings of artists like Clare Leighton, Eric Ravilious and Agnes Miller Parker who were working in the 1930s. It can be much more difficult and painstaking work than producing woodcuts or linocuts because of the hardness of the wood and the unusual way in which you hold the tools. But it’s a very relaxing and rewarding process. We’re still learning and experimenting, but hopefully in a few years we’ll be brave enough to submit something for the Society of Wood Engravers annual exhibition.

How long have you been printmaking?

We both did printmaking at school, and came back to it about three years ago.

Were you both printmakers or was it one of you that introduced the other to the art? Do you ever work collaboratively on pieces? If so, how do you co-ordinate that, or does it come naturally?

'Preparing to carve...' - spoonergregory on FlickrIt was Jon that decided to pick it up again first, and before long we were both at it, especially after we moved in together and had the space to spread out on a big table. [That sounds quite rude, but I’m not sure how to rephrase it!]

We nearly always help each other with the printing of each other’s blocks, but the designs are our own individual work, and of course we always discuss our ideas and designs with each other. I’m not sure we could work collaboratively on a project without tears and recriminations, but it would certainly be interesting to try…

I love your logo & Lapwing Printworks name; I read the reason on the Crafty Synergy blog, but I'd really appreciate if you could re-iterate your inspiration for the Printsy blog.

When we decided to set up an Etsy shop and re-do our website we decided to have a name that we could both work under. We both like lapwings, which are very common birds in Norfolk. They have jaunty little crests, and a very distinctive ‘peeewit’ call. It just seemed appropriate somehow.

You seem to use a lot of very bold, simple, bright colours & graphic shapes in your work. Is this something that's a product of printmaking & the media you use therein, or is it something that is within you and printmaking is just well suited to express it?

Woodcuts and linocuts are very well suited to bright colours and graphic shapes, which reflect our personal tastes perfectly. We’re always attracted to bright and shiny things, much like magpies. Our colourful and graphic prints are often done straight after a detailed black and white wood engraving – a fun way of recharging our printmaking batteries!

'Card' - spooonergregory on FlickrI'm very intrigued with your wedding invitation prototype referred to on your blog - have you done any more? What were your inspirations? Was it a specific commission or just a nifty idea?

The wedding invitations were actually for our own wedding in January. We knew that we wanted to make our own invitations, and saw a tutorial for these cards in a crafty book.'Confetti' - spoonergregory on Flickr They were quite fiddly to make, but we were pleased with how they turned out in the end. For our wedding we used a square of an old map on the front, with a letterpressed insert inside. We loved the striking folds on the front – much more interesting than a plain card! I’ve made more cards since our wedding, using our own block printed paper for the front. We love buying cards from other printmakers too – it can be an affordable way to buy a little piece of original artwork.

Can you talk a little about your Adana press? Please describe what is letterpress, and how it's different from just "relief printing". Do you have any interesting thoughts on letterpress lore, or what drew you to letterpress printing?

We’ve had our Adana 8x5 for almost a year, and we are still learning! We originally got it with the intention of using it to print wood engraving blocks, which are typically ‘type high’ (the same standard height as metal type). Inevitably we then became interested in letterpress and have gradually been building up a little collection of type and decorative blocks. We are slowly getting to grips with letterpress, and we’re looking forward to using it more in our work.

The principal of letterpress printing is similar to relief printmaking – only using metal type and blocks as well as hand carved blocks. There is lots of information about letterpress on the Briar Press website

Do you have trouble ever getting inspiration?

Sometimes, but a long walk in the countryside always sorts us out with plenty of ideas for several prints. Once you start looking for interesting patterns, shapes and colours in the most ordinary, everyday things around the house there are always dozens of ideas just waiting to be turned into a colourful print.

It seems wonderful that the two of you are so creative & love to work in the same medium - does it ever get competitive or challenging working together, or is it usually a pretty harmonious environment in the studio?

It can sometimes be challenging working together, but we are rarely competitive. When we are both working on our own prints at the same time we are usually too absorbed in our own work to worry about what the other one is doing (apart from getting each other another drink and a biscuit of course). We’re very supportive of each others work, and have learned to accept constructive criticism from each other!
'Bookplate - a closer look' - spoonergregory on Flickr
How do you manage to get commissions?

A combination of word of mouth and luck! We have a page on our website about commissions and were approached in this way for a few bookplate commissions. Since we’ve had our Etsy shop we’ve had our first international commission for a bookplate, which was very exciting.

What are some of the commissioned works you've done?

All the commissions we’ve done so far have been wood engravings. We’ve completed several bookplates, which are great fun to do because of the relationship you build up with the customer when creating something so personal and unique. We’ve also done an engraving of someone’s house and the Whippet Ale labels.

At the moment we in the early stages of another bookplate commission, roughing out ideas and sketches with our client before we come up with a final design. This particular one will be based around the landscape and poetry of the First World War – a challenging subject, but a rewarding commission so far!

'Final House Print' - spoonergregory on Flickr
Do you have any favourites? Personally, I love the Whippet Ale label you recently posted about on your blog!

We both chose different ones – Jon’s favourite is the house engraving because it was the first big engraving he did, and it has been one of the most enjoyable to work on. My favourite is the Whippet Ale labels, which is the first time that we have combined letterpress and wood engraving, and we were paid in beer.
'& with these pencils I shall do great things' - spoonergregory on Flickr
Finally, one of your recent prints "& with these pencils I shall do great things" - this image seems to capture the spirit of every artist as they sit down at their desk to work. Do you feel, for yourselves, that this is a motto, an inspiration, or a flog to get you on to work?

It is an inspiration for us – there’s nothing quite a pot of freshly sharpened pencils and a sketchbook to get the creative juices flowing!

Thanks Sarah & Jon - I was delighted at this opportunity to interview you and to get a little better insight into your work.


mizu designs said...

How fascinating to read about a couple who are both printmakers. Great interview and beautiful prints!

Belinda Del Pesco said...

Wonderful interview, and great photos of the work in process, the couple and samples of their work. Loved the questions too. Discovered their work through this interview and saved them to faves on etsy.

Ellen Shipley said...

I like the wedding invitation idea. And also the pencil holder print. 8-] Perfect to all artists.

Ele said...

It's wonderful that you can work together and yet individually. I really like the pencil holder with motto print!

Annie B said...

Hats off to your lovely wood engravings. I just visited your blog and saw the street scene you recently completed and proofed. I love it! Don't know much about engraving except for the wonderful-sounding tool names: spitsticker and such. Maybe you'll write a little something for the printsy blog sometime about the basics of wood engraving?