I’m not entirely sure when I became obsessed with the idea of block printing. It may have been a few months ago, when Meighan O’Toole took Jen Hewitt’s block-printing class and started posting photos all over Instagram. Yes, that may have been when the seed took root in my brain. That may have been when I bought a lino-cut starter kit. I didn’t actually use that kit until this week, though, such was my obsession with the idea of block printing.
But I packed the kit, along with some other print-making stuff, when we went on our road trip. I had visions of carving stamps after Owen went to bed, and returning home with all kinds of things to print.
As it turned out, the weather was colder and far windier than we’d anticipated it would be in many places, and when it wasn’t super windy it was often very hot and so Owen went to bed later than usual, and anyway what I’m saying is that I hardly made anything at all on the trip, stamps and blocks included. (I also hardly knitted, and I didn’t bring out the watercolours even once.)
It was on one of the last nights of the trip that I finally said enough, and I pulled out a wee circle of rubber. I forgot to reverse the design for proper directional printing, but I made a stamp of our wee camper, and in the process of doing so I fell completely in love with block printing – not just the idea of it, but the actual act and product of it.
As I knew I would.
Block printing, see, like screen printing, is just so practical. You get the one-time thrill of creating something new, going through all the steps to make a stamp/screen, and then you can use that stamp/screen over and over and over again. In some ways, block printing is even more satisfying than screen printing: blocks take up less room to store than screens, they’re less fiddly to apply, and set-up and clean-up are faster and easier.
So when Owen decided that he wants the activity at his half-birthday party this weekend to be tie-dyeing t-shirts (just like last year, for he is a creature of habit) I knew that I had to make a stamp for those shirts. Obviously.
And so I sketched. And I ended up taking to the computer. And I printed. And I traced. And I drew. And I transferred. And I carved. And I printed. (And lest you think it all went perfectly in one go, take a look at the final photo on the right. I touched up the lino block twice before getting the small lines deep enough, and it took me a few goes to get a feel for how best to print on fabric vs. paper.) (I printed up a onesie, too, because I found one at the bottom of a pile and thought WELL DUH. That one’ll go to the next baby shower I attend.)
This weekend we’ll make a good-old classic mess (in a heat wave, no less) in our backyard, and when O’s friends get their tie-dyed shirts home and untie them so they can be washed, they’ll see that stamp on there reminding them that they made the shirt. (I have it in mind to make a quick stamp that says “in 2015” to add on tonight in red, so then when parents dig up those shirts in a few years, they’ll remember when their kid made it.
Now I want to print everything. Fabric, postcards, greeting cards, random pieces of wood hanging around the workshop, the walls, my bedsheets. Everything.