What is Sera reading? Wakenhyrst

Tenbury Library copy of Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver, and my cup of tea. hahaha

A good book for a winter nights. Wakenhyrst is described as “a darkly gothic thriller” gothic it defiantly is which I love. the novel is about murderous obsession and one ladies life long fight to fly free of society and her father’s rule.  the narrative follows Maud living the life of a recluse for 50 years in the tiny village of Wakenhyrst in the Suffolk fens. 

After Maud’s mother tragically died in childbirth, she was raised by her father, a historian and a controlling man. its a devastating part of life in Maud’s history and you as the read can feel nothing but contempt at how this tragedy is so coldly dealt with. from that moment you know who Maud will be pitted against her whole life. in Maud’s eyes her father is already a murderer but is he guilty of more? Maud is a lonely child who secretly reads her father’s personal journals, he overlooks her as an equal and she is only a possession and disappointment to him. yet we the reader see she is much more.

I found the story to be awesome, but I do not like that so much of the narrative is taken up by the man’s journals and the reading of them. I found myself put off by his annoying scholarly tone and attitudes. However, this annoyance plays right into Paver’s skill as a writer and its only right that I find the man disagreeable. I do love all the folklore references and even the mediaeval influences. A book of Excellent quality.

What is Sera Reading? Anatomy of a Soldier

Seraphim with Tenbury Library’s copy of The Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker

A blinder of a book. I had heard that the book was challenging to some and upsetting to others. So, I approached the reading with my mind open, hesitantly expecting I would not understand. Parker’s writing in this book is phenomenal and nothing is wasted, description or information.

The story is told by the items that surround and orbit the Soldier. As the narrative is told at first this gives a sense of the less human, non-sentimental mind but soon you are enveloped by the British captain’s lost of his leg to an IED, then the other to an infection, and the slow, mind hazy recovery. The first three chapters, for example, are narrated by a tourniquet, a bag of fertiliser, and a boot.

The narrative is jumpy. From the chaos of an [Afghan?] firefight to a Sainsbury’s car park and back again. Yet doesn’t feel all that puzzling thanks to the prose being economical but evocative and at times wincingly graphic. I was soon able to navigate through the ruptured timeline. An amazing debut novel not surprisingly from a former UK soldier. I was astounded at how much I learnt and understood from this book despite having zero military knowledge or much interest in war novels. deeply moving and real. I defiantly recommend this to your bucket list.

What is Sera reading? The Ghost Tree: A Betty Church Mystery

Sera with the Tenbury Library copy in paperback of The Ghost Tree: A Betty Church Mystery

Hello, Its Sera again. A new mystery has arrived at Tenbury Library and you can find it on our Quick Choice Shelf. – What starts as a simple story of a runaway girl turns into a brilliantly twisty tale. The story is split over two time lines both with our lead character narrating. Betty doesn’t disappoint solving both crimes and unraveling the trail of misconception. Betty’s childhood friend Etterly, running from something, hides inside the trunk of a tree and disappears. nothing can be done as the trail goes cold on the police. June, 1940: Inspector Betty Church is alerted to a skeleton being dug up in a local woods. Though most clues have long since decayed, it is wearing an unusual necklace, Etterly’s necklace. A World War Two crime for fans of Agatha Christie. I’m a fan of M.R.C. KASASIAN since the March Middleton series. So, I’m defiantly going to borrow The Suffolk Vampire, I will let you know if its just as good 🙂

Is it part of a series? yes, Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire is Book 1 The Room of the Dead (A Betty Church Mystery): Book 2 and The Ghost Tree (A Betty Church Mystery): Book 3

What is Sera reading? Strange the Dreamer

2017 hardback of Strange the Dreamer.

Hello, I’m Seraphim “Sera” and I’m a Library Customer Assistant at Tenbury Wells Library part of Worcestershire Hub. Part of my day is finding out what kinds of books and titles folks are interested in. Recently, a friendly patron at the library asked me “Sera, what are you reading?” which opened a discussion.

So, in the spirit of sharing and encouraging all ages to read I’d like to tell you what this eclectic reader is reading currently.

STRANGE THE DREAMER is beautiful, the cover took me straight away. I have an illustration degree, so I do-“judge a book by its cover” partly at least. The cover is not the only beauty in this unusual fantasy, an unexpected story which has so many great characters that it’s very hard for me to pick a favorite. The narrative is easy to follow, which is so important in high fantasy such as this. Action is placed well in order to keep the motivation to stay in the story world. Worldbuilding is intense and wholly original, information and description is wound nicely into characters and scenes because there is so much going on, but, still very readable and fluid. Taylor is a very good writer.

Is Strange the Dreamer part of a series?

yes, so far we have two books. Strange the Dreamer 2017 and Muse of Nightmares 2018

If you are interested in finding a copy for yourself, our libraries at Bromsgrove, Kidderminster, Droitwich, Redditch and The Hive Worcester. Alternatively, please check out our website catalogue: https://wcc.ent.sirsidynix.net.uk/client/en_GB/wcc/entlogin

What was the sequel like?

Amy at home with her copy of Muse of Nightmare’s by Laini Taylor

13/12/2021 : The novel follows immediately on from Lazlo Strange and the ghost of Sarai, in the angle and in danger. this book unlike the first is not as balanced between emotional story and action. in distance the characters travel? no far. In the growth of characters maturity? massively. Killing and the choice to kill is the main issue around our new forging teams. The earth bound and the “god-sporn” have a new challenge on top of the problems about reconciliation. Vengeance feeling good in the moment and right somehow verses the knowledge that destroying the enemy would be destroying any hope for yourself and your own kind. Does foregoing vengeance mean that justice must fall by the wayside? A darker more twisted narrative and at the very limits for some young adult readers. Defiantly a teen to adult fantasy adventure.

Writing advice for the short fiction competitions.

A little writing guide here. It’s not a definitive guide on- How To Write A Short Story. Although, it will give you a few pointers as to what our judges look for when they’re reading entries.

The beginning. Make sure you grab the reader’s attention immediately. You don’t have many words, so use them wisely. Make sure you establish the tone, setting and character as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Character. Yes, this is a bit of an obvious one, but make sure your characters are believable and well-rounded. This seeps into the dialogue they speak, the actions they take (or don’t take), the motivations they have. It doesn’t matter if your protagonist is a down-and-out Santa, a middle-aged man looking back over his life, or a flip-flop, make sure their character is consistent throughout.

Plot and conflict. Another obvious one, but you’d be amazed how many stories we receive that don’t even get anywhere near the longlist because, quite frankly, nothing happens. Give your main character a problem to face – and make it one that the reader will care about. Use your 1500 or 500 words to work towards a satisfying ending. Even pantsers can benefit from a bit of planning, and even the shortest of stories can benefit from having the three-act structure applied to them.

The title. Our rules state that your maximum word count doesn’t include the title – so use that to your advantage. Now, we’re not saying that your title can be 200 words long! But a carefully chosen title that really complements  the story and adds a deeper degree of resonance will undoubtedly catch our judges eyes.

The mechanics. Check your spelling. Your grammar, your punctuation. Make sure you manuscript is professionally presented and properly formatted. Yes, it’s the story being told that is ultimately the most important thing, but if there’s only one slot left on the shortlist and two equally enjoyable stories, it’s the sloppy looking document, littered with spelling and punctuation mistakes, that will end up on the reject pile.

The rules. Read the rules… READ THE RULES… READ. THE. RULES.
And then, before you finally submit, go back and read them one last time to make sure you’ve stuck to them. Make a checklist if you have to, and go through it to make sure your story doesn’t fall at the first hurdle.

Exploring Coats of Arms

When i’m not studying National Heritage and History I moonlight as a storyteller and one half of a writing team with Kevin Brooke published Children’s author from Worcestershire.

This weekend as part of World Heritage Day [19-20 September] we were invited to Harlebury Castle to make some stories about their history and preform them to visitors on the day.

Hartlebury Castle tells the story of the bishops of a major middle England plot of land and their evolving role in English society, from political and military guardians of a frontier with Wales to active participants in political decision making in modern times. They number a pope (Clement VII) who played a key role in precipitating the establishment of the Church of England; Bishops Latimer and Hooper, Protestant martyrs of the Reformation; and Bishop Hurd, friend to King George III and creator of the Hurd Library.

The great hall at Hartlebury has some of the most interesting and rare examples of Coats of Arms and the Hurd library too contains much of the information in its ancient books on how and why we have Coats of arms.

So, how did shields become Coats of Arms?

The ancient Romans used various symbols called insignia on their shields so that they could identify their different military units of soldiers.

The first real use of what we now know as coats of arms is portrayed in the Bayeux Tapestry which illustrates the Norman invasion of 1066, where some of the soldiers are carrying shields that have crosses and other symbols painted on them. However, by the 1100s, coats of arms came into more general use by feudal lords and knights in a battle to identify their soldiers and their opponents. By the 1200s, coats of arms had become a flag or emblem for noble families and inherited from one generation to the next. In Britain, only the aristocracy had the right to arms, with their serfs, servants and knights having these emblems as part of their ‘uniform’ when fighting on the battlefield for their Lord and Master. Eventually, the use of arms spread to the clergy, to towns, and places such as universities and trading companies; and so flags developed from coats of arms. The coats of arms that we are familiar with today were originally one person’s emblem. They were legal property which passed from father to son; however, wives and daughters could bear modified arms to show that they were related to the current holder. Other relatives of the original bearer of arms could use the family coat of arms but with a little bit of difference; maybe a colour change or an extra emblem. Coats of arms were essential in identifying people and used in seals on critical legal documents, and so their use was closely controlled. All coats of arms were tracked and recorded by heralds or agents to the King or Queen. which is why the study of coats of arms is called ‘heraldry.’

Did you know that the colours, animal, fruits, flowers and other objects used on the coats of arms all have different meanings?

Here are some of the meanings of the most used colours:

  • White stands for purity, innocence, peace and honesty
  • Gold stands for wisdom, glory, generosity and grandness
  • Green stands for happiness, love, and well-being
  • Red stands for strength and bravery
  • Purple stands for justice and is a royal colour used by Kings and Queens
  • Black stands for wisdom and sometimes grief
  • Blue stands for truth, strength and honour

The animals, fruit and flowers on coats of arms also have special meanings, here are some of the most used ones:

  • Apples, berries and grapes mean kindness, happiness and peace
  • Bay leaves stand for a poet or triumph
  • Oak trees or leave mean great strength and age
  • Olive branches or leavesstandfor peace and harmony
  • Roses are the mark of the seventh son -a red rose means grace and beauty; a white rosemeans love and faith
  • Bear stands for strength, cunning and defending your family
  • Dolphinmeans swiftness, love, charity and salvation
  • Dovemeans love and peace
  • Eagle is the sign for someone with a noble nature, bravery, strength and protection
  • Elephantmeans strength, happiness, luck and royalty
  • The horse stands for being ready for anything to do good for King and country
  • Lamb means gentleness and patience
  • The lion stands for great courage
  • Stagger stag’s antlers mean peace, harmony, strength and stamina
  • Swan means light, love, grace and perfection
  • Tiger stands for fierceness, bravery and fury

Mythological creatures are also often used on coats of arms, and these also have special meanings:

  • The dragon stands for a defender of treasure, courage and protection
  • Mermaidmeans eloquence
  • Pegasus (a winged horse)is the sign for inspiration and is considered a messenger of God
  • Phoenix is a symbol of resurrection
  • Sphinxstands for secrecy and knowledge
  • Unicorn(a horse with one horn)stands for extreme bravery, strength and truth

Crosses and angels are a sign of Christianity and stand for dignity, honour and glory.

here are some other meanings of the different angels and crosses you sometimes find on coats of arms :

  • An angel or a cherub means dignity, glory and honour and joyful news
  • Cross is a sign for faith and service in the Crusades
  • Celtic Cross shows heaven and earth as one
  • Cross Flory (flowered at each end)means one who has conquered
  • Seraphim(angel with three pairs of wings)means bearer of joyful news

Some other objects are also included on coats of arms and their meanings:

  • Anchor means hope
  • Bells mean the banning of evil spirits
  • Harp stands for the bridge between heaven and earth and also for a person who has good judgement
  • A plume of feathers is a sign of obedience and peaceful minds
  • Shell stands for a traveller to far off places
  • Sword, dagger or dart shows justice and military honour

Hope this helps you make or enjoy your own Coat of Arms.

Introduction to Screen-Printing.

Screen printing arrived in Europe in the 18th century, but it was slow to catch on as a fabric printing method owing to the high cost of silk mesh at the time. Once the Silk Road made imported silk more affordable, screen printing gradually became a popular way to print fabric. By the early 20th century, printers had developed photo-sensitised emulsions, allowing artisans to create intricate stencil designs much more quickly. In the 1930s, artists began experimenting with screen printing as an artistic medium, naming their new-found form ‘serigraphy’ to distinguish it from industrial printing. By the 1960s, artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi and Andy Warhol were using screen printing to create beautiful art. Dubbed ‘pop-art’, the artist used screen-printing to create multiple copies of a single image, fundamentally questioning what constituted fine art. Warhol’s famous Marilyn Diptych is perhaps the best-known example of screen printing as an artistic form. (Fortune, 2006)

Tecniniton Dave Fortune quite literally wrote the book on waterbased screen printing. In 1989-90 Dave was at the ‘University of Berlin’ researching solvent-free water-based screenprinting, which he brought back to the UK. Based at UWE, we are very lucky to have Dave around to teach and guide us. Screen printing consists of ink being spread over a screen with the chosen design, again using the photo-emulsion screen printing process, The acetate sheet featuring the design is then laid onto the emulsion-coated screen, and the whole thing then exposed to bright UV light. The light hardens the emulsion, which later creates the barrier between the ink and the paper. So the parts of the screen which are covered by design remain in liquid form which is washed away before drying and then printing.

Being familiar with the process meant I needed to challenge my self with the mark-making stage on the acetate sheet and explore otherwise avoided techniques.

Above is the acetate stencil I created for this workshop.

It is having been to a talk on Moiré patterns which is the interference between two periodic objects, that produces a new over-arching pattern that inspired me to use the netting to create one of these patterns.

Moiré patterns can emerge from all manner of scenarios and are particularly prevalent in the digital age. At the talk, we discussed the general types of moiré pattern and how they form, alongside the print maker’s fight against them in half-toning processes, and also how they form the basis of the artwork of Anoka Faruqee.

The dip pen image in Roto Ink (an acrylic ink made with pigments suspended in an acrylic resin binder, so it is light resistant and waterproof) is of Alice Liddell, The 10-year-old girl who as a friend of the author Lewis Carroll inspired the story Alice in Wonderland. As before I wanted to introduce reality into my fantasy; however this time I chose to reverse my thought and use a real person into the no-reference sketched landscape.

Roto Ink washes thinned with methylated spirits built up my landscape. I used a pin to scrap into the acetate for the tree bark. On the mushroom, I worked the ink wash with some sandpaper and used drops of meth alcohol to great the spots on the mushroom hood.

I used photocopied leaves on acetate, which I then cut into smaller leaf shapes and using clear glue I stuck them to the acetate to make the tree canopy. At first look, the leaves I copied are too big, so I reduced them to a small image of leaves. The idea has failed to create the canopy effect I was hoping for. the ‘too big’ leaves would have been better at creating the effect.

A great help came from my classmates Tom and Stephanie. Steph has experience in using screens to print in different artistic ways, i.e. watercolour transfer. Tom works in textile screen printing, primarily custom tee-shirt printing. Tom had a quick way of working and was a great support during the practical element. Admittedly, I did not get a fully printed image on my first two ‘pulls’ of the screen. Tom quickly identified I had the screen too far away from me resulting in my pressure on the screen wasn’t getting the ‘nooks and crannies’ in the stencil. Even pressure is important because the squeegee when pulled across the screen, delivers the layer of ink.

Below is the photo of Steph’s printing area set up.

Despite only having one screen Steph produced a varicoloured image by using tape and card stock to ‘mask out’ areas. Inspired by this, I wanted to have a try at loading my screen with more than one ink.

Below you can see my final prints.

The idea for the Moiré patterns has worked, but I would next time take more care in trying to use them to shape the object or character by creating a tone with the pattens. I’m glad that the sandpaper on in washed acetate has given the ground and the stem of the mushroom a real 3-D feel. Different graphite pencils have helped to build depth and tone to the forest floor but not successfully; harsher marks are needed and darker tones. The two-toned effect of the two colours being pulled through the screen was my favourite success. It really helps the feeling

I would like to try methods such as using masking tape or vinyl to cover the desired areas of the screen like Steph and also Painting the stencil onto the mesh using ‘screen blockers’ such as glue or lacquer.

Influence on this piece

Folk Realism is the belief that they are natural real-worlds outside of our thinking and independent from us. In literature theories, it often can be treated as Eco-Critical but is not always. Folk Realism occupies a liminal place between the normal and the unknown, stories of people we recognise, people we feel we could know, but their lives become damp with myth and legend. There’s a sense that ecosystem, the landscape, the sea, the earth under our feet is claiming back people. Relationship with other metaphysical systems in public opinion is rarely thoroughly examined, but it is not a brand new way of working. Daphne du Maurier had unearthed the Cornish landscape, its dark history and its myths for her novels and stories for some time. Proving Folk Realism works very well at the human psyche and curiosity. Lewis Carroll, who was particularly gifted in geometry and logic; his Alice books contain many reimagined examples. The “Mad Tea-Party”, for instance, has the Hare, Hatter, Dormouse and Alice circling static place settings like numbers on a circle, as in a modular system, rather than in a line. Carroll developed a natural real-world that’s ecosystem was firmly mathematical regardless of the character’s problem-solving ability. (V&A, 2019)

I was intrigued by the article ‘Folk realism: The literature exploring England’s legends and landscapes’ by David Barnett @davidmbarnett published in the Independent newspaper Friday 2 March 2018

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/folk-realism-english-literature-countryside-legends-landscape-nature-gothic-writers-fantasy-a8234691.html

David Barnett is interested in how little it takes to turn our world into a fairytale. It is here in the brisk air of misty mornings, and dark, low sun evenings, I can begin to understand what Barnett is referring to. It is between the two states, modern living and seeking out heritage that a literary genre has been reborn.

We are both in the normal world – cocooned in central heating, connected by phones and laptops, washed in the light from the television – and outside it; isolated, separated, remote. And that is the duality of a current trend in British writing which overlays contemporary lives on the older, darker backdrop of our heritage and folklore.” (Barnett, 2019)

Andrew Michael Hurley’s first novel, The Loney, initially only 300 copies published is a brilliant example of the threshold dividing folk horror and magical realism. The story, The Loney, became the winner of the Costa First Novel Award in 2016 selling thousands more. Based on the vast Lancashire coast, a family are making a kind of pilgrimage to a holy shrine. They want to fix Hanny the brother of the narrator of his muteness. The spiritualism of the family is unorthodox compared to the once-a-week churchgoers. However, it is still believable and has Catholic tones. Things take a darker, almost insidious turn. The locals seem vaguely sinister but not slasher ‘backwards country’ villains, they seem slightly to be following older, less well know ethos.

Hurley builds up the tension towards a climax that is ambiguous yet no less heart-stopping than Edward Woodward’s poor old virgin policeman being burned to death on remote Summerisle while the islanders dance and sing, in Robin Hardy’s iconic 1973 movie The Wicker Man.

HOW DOES THIS PIECE OF WORK FIT INTO THE DEVELOPMENT OF MY PROJECT?

Once upon a time, the West was indigenous. I want to ask the question of what happened to that path and those teachings? Was it that the old Western ways were so wrong and full of witches that it had to be destroyed and replaced by religious that were so much purer? Thousands of years on, is it irrelevant? In my bachelor’s degree, I did a study into the morals refected by authors in children’s literature and one chapter questioned is this influence (if religious or social) Was it an infringement upon or supportive of our culture.

The book by Sharon Blackie called ‘If Women Rose Rooted’ focuses on women finding their voices and their stories again. A quest to find their place in the world, drawing inspiration from the wise and powerful women in native western mythology. She states at the start of her book“We have our own guiding stories, and they are deeply rooted in the heart of our own native landscapes. We draw them out of the wells and the waters; beachcombing, we lift them out of the sand. We dive for them to the bottom of deep lakes, we disinter them from the bogs, we follow their tracks through the shadowy glades of the enchanted forest. Those stories not only ground us: they show us what we might once have been, we women, and what we might become again if we choose. … If women remember that once upon a time we sang with the tongues of seals and flew with the wings of swans, that we forged our own paths through the dark forest while creating a community of its many inhabitants, then we will rise up rooted, like trees.” (Blackie, 2019, p6) Anthropological Folklore and Feminist Criticism Blackie aims to influence our respect and revere feminine outer-selves, and so bring about a culture in which women are respected and admired, recognised once again as holding the life-giving power of the earth itself.

There are plenty of good stories about men in our native European traditions, too. Think of the Grail legends, where only a knight who understands the meaning of compassion – who understands the necessity to gently ask the question ‘What ails thee?’ of the wounded Fisher King – can hope to attain the Grail and help restore the Wasteland.

Lewis Carroll believed that beyond their entertainment value, mental recreations such as games and logic puzzles conferred a sense of power on the solver. This trait, he felt, enabled them to analyse any subject clearly and, most importantly, to detect and unravel fallacies. (V&A, 2019) Do children today still respond to the quest of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis in a self-reflective way? Would they be influenced to act out character traits shared with lead characters from stories? Would our heroes and heroines in our heritage be influential enough? And would literacy devices or trends like ‘Folk Realism’ allow me to engage with young readers sufficient for publishers to care?

Introduction to Screen-Printing on Fabrics

History and Process

Screen printing is one of the most popular printing methods we use to create custom designs, patterns, and logos on clothing. The process of Screen printing involves a fine mesh “screen” that is stretched around a frame. The areas that masked out on the screen are not printed. We used the photo-emulsion screen printing process, which is great for printing text or images with fine detail. To create the print, we took a black picture that we drew on the translucent Mark resit paper, place it against the screen, and then expose the screen to UV light. The light causes the emulsion to harden and bind to the mesh. It was explained that where the light strikes the screen, the emulsion will bind, making a solid layer. Where the light is blocked (black image) the emulsion remains water-soluble.

My drawn image on the mark resist paper. I used Posca pen which is an acrylic paint ball pen. As you can see from the photo, I had difficulty with anticipating the drying time and cause smudges which had to be sanded away.

After exposing the screen, we spray down the screen with water, washing off the emulsion. Where black of the image was is a clear area is where the ink will be pressed through the screen. The framed screen is positioned over the item to be printed, along with a spoonful of thick ink. A squeegee is then used to press the ink through the screen. The masked areas prevent ink from passing through, but the unmasked areas allow the ink onto the material. I didn’t have any issues up to this point having done Screen print at University of Worcester however id never done fabrics, technical issues around “pinning out” the t-shirt and dealing with coarser, denser fabric than cotton was new learning for me. Pins needed to be flat to the print bed surface so not to damage the fine mesh of the screens nor catch the track of the squeegee passing the pint through. The main technique was to pin the fabric at a sharply acute angle and Masking tape over the pins seeming to be the best way to ensure no damage to the mesh in the screen. Also finding an even pressure using the squeegee one-handed was an issue for me. I discovered I was better left-handed in this process.

Above is my design printed on to paper in mustard colour and on cotton blend in blue. Both pieces have come through the screen with most of the detail still intact. In parts of my border and halo, my line was not dense enough, and the UV light was so intense as to burn through the resisting area. The composition has worked well, and I felt comfortable mimicking the romantic 19th-century ladies and Morris’ flora style. When thinking on possible additional elements during the design stage, I opted to leave the flower head the lady is admiring missing. I plan to use digital embroidery to make the flower head, thus incorporating a modern process with a more traditional. My reasoning was to reflect on the struggles Morris felt about the industrial influence of his ere upon the textile production at that time.

Artist influence

Having been at Birmingham Art Gallery and Musume the day before I was keen to bring some of the William Morris designs, I’d looked at into the print.

[Photographs of Morris’s ‘Honeysuckle’ 1881 I took on my visit to Birmingham art gallery] Morris’s original design for ‘Honeysuckle’ hangs in Birmingham’s art galley. This design became a set of linens sold in the shop on Oxford Street in 1800’s after Edward Burne-Jones insisted on have the print for his own home.

William Morris was a famous 19th-century designer notably recognised for his nature-inspired wallpapers. My interest in his work leans more to his collection of book designs. Morris also produced tapestries, tiles and textiles with an expressed love of hand-produced items and a craft-based artistic community.

“A key figure in the Arts & Crafts Movement, Morris championed a principle of handmade production that didn’t chime with the Victorian era’s focus on industrial ‘progress’.” (V&A, 2019)

Despite never needing to earn a wage due to the inheritance of the large Woodford hall family estate in Essex, Morris was a hardworking and prolific.

In 1875 Morris became sole director of the renamed and restructured Morris & Company. Over the next decade, he continued to design at an impressive rate, adding at least 32 printed fabrics, 23 woven fabrics and 21 wallpapers – as well as more designs for carpets and rugs, embroidery and tapestry – to the company’s range of goods.”  (V&A 2019)

Much of Morris’s childhood was spent exploring local parkland and forest his love of nature always apparent in almost all his work. Also, at an early age, he showed a passion for the church, including its architecture, something he would later explore as a career. Morris went to Oxford University to study for the Church. It was there that he met Edward Burne-Jones, who was to become one of the era’s most famous painters, and Morris’s life-long friend.

A lesser know influence that was consistent, but didn’t become his passion until later in life was his love of fantasy. As a young man, Morris was enamoured by the writings of the Scottish fantasy author Walter Scott. Rumoured to be his favourite of Scott’s work was the Lady of the Lake, a poem published in 1810.

In 1891 Morris was offered the Poet Laureateship after the death of Tennyson, remarkably he turned it down. Instead, Morris chose to set up the Kelmscott Press. The books the Press produced only totalled 66 before Morris’s death in 1896. The appeal was these books were beautiful and prized. Printed and bound in a medieval style, with Morris having designed their typefaces, initial letters and borders it is not hard to see why. Ever since I was lucky enough to see The Book of Kells, a precious 9th-century manuscript, at Trinity College Dublin in 2018, I have been influenced to make better use of framing devices for the text in my work. The Book of Kells is an exquisite combination of ornate Latin text and intricate illuminations. One of the world’s most famous medieval manuscript and the images are rich symbolism worked into the layouts and subject matter. Morris too made translations of ancient and medieval texts, but his love was poetry. ‘The Wood Beyond the World’ a fantasy story by Morris is considered to have heavily influenced C. S. Lewis’ ‘Narnia’ series, while J. R. R. Tolkien is said to be inspired by Morris’s reconstructions of early Germanic life in ‘The House of the Wolfings’ and ‘The Roots of the Mountains’. (Scull and Hammond, 2006.) All three authours are writers who heavily influence my writing of Young Adult fantasy, but Morris in particular also affects my ideas of illustrating for the Young Adult genre.

Above is the more famous of Morris’ Kelmscott Press published books.  An illustrated edition of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, which was published in 1896, a few months before Morris’s death. (item C.43.h.19. at British Library)

How do the works and artist fit into the development of my project?

“I began printing books with the hope of producing some, which would have a definite claim to beauty.” Morris, W. A Note by William Morris on His Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press. (Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1898)

This direct quote from Morris directed my A’level work back in 2000. I knew soon after I completed my studies that art was my way to contribute to society in a meaningful way. I had/have to work extremely hard at academic studies; it is not a natural learn way of thinking for me. Having great artist, their works and dedications in life to follow and guide gives me a way to talk passionately and communicate why my artwork is so important to my place in the world. As dramatic as it sounds, I do risk a lot in pursuing my goal at a writer and illustrator. Morris didn’t have to fight or peruse the quality of production and beauty he achieved; he could have had a more comfortable life. He chose to give everything he could of himself to not only his work but also the defence of handcrafted and traditional skills. 19-century had its fight with the industrial period, and some skills have been lost forever; currently, we can view the digital and computer-controlled elements as a threat or as Morris did eventually, learn to incorporate them into techniques as a support, not as a replacement to the traditional.

Moving forward I want to keep that beautiful and traditional protected both in the aspect of print techniques and process, also concerning stories and folk tales. Print can be lengthy in the process to get an image; images for children’s books and technical manuals are more commonly digital now. In advertising digital and photography is king. The traditional print is still valued for its quality and tactile nature. Individual prints methods have had a comeback as I found in letterpress. I will try to explore if it is a possibility that other print methods are back into fashion in children’s illustration; a sort of revised Golden Age of Illustration that the book publishing 19th century benefited from the industrial revolution. Might we get to see more engraving techniques? More Morris’ illuminations, Lear’s lithography and Rackham’s watercolour and ink?

Introduction to Lithography

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Lithography is a planographic printing process that makes use of the immiscibility of grease and water (the principle that oil and water do not mix). In the lithographic process, ink applied to a grease-treated image on the flat printing surface, done from a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a grained surface. (Attwood, 2003.) Due to the need for time management, our group did both processes simultaneously. I was able to grasp the basic non-image (blank) areas, would hold moisture and will repel the lithographic oil-based ink were the blacked areas the ink would be accepted — inking of one colour at that time.

Other parts of the process, I find complex and am struggling to understand. In the off-set process, my image moves on to the aluminium printing plates with the use of phytochemical transferences, much like the screenprinting process I’ve used in the past. With positive plate-making, a positive film is “the original” meaning the non-translucent, blackened sections of the film correspond to the ink-accepting surface elements on the plate.

Phil explained at this point if the images were transferred directly to paper from the plate, it would create a mirror-type image, but also, the paper would become too wet. Instead, the plate rolls against a cylinder covered with a rubber blanket, which squeezes away the water, picks up the ink and transfers it to the paper with uniform pressure. The blanket cylinder passes over the paper counter-pressure, and the image transferred to the paper. “Because the image is first transferred, or offset to the rubber blanket cylinder, this reproduction method is known as offset lithography” (Attwood, 2003)

The stone lithography process is a more lengthy technique and has taken me longer to understand. The process uses gum arabic. The purpose of the gum is to chemically separate the image and the non-image areas so that the greasy image areas become water repellent; which I found out is called ‘hydrophobic’ and the non-image areas become water receptive or ‘hydrophilic’, (Attwood, 2003) so that when printed, only the image areas receive the ink print. Phil explained this chemical change happens only in the very top layer of the stone, creating the ‘gum adsorb layer’ which is less than 1mm thick.

He further explained that Nitric acid is sometimes added to the gum to stop the grease in the stone from spreading. Nitric used in the gum its referred to as an ‘etch.’

It is usually necessary to ‘etch’ the stone twice. The first etch Phil applied to the stone with a clean sponge. Once Phil covered the whole stone was with gum, a clean sponge and then a clean rag is used to buff the gum down to a thin, even layer. Heat is then applied to dry the gum. The stone should then be covered and, left (overnight if possible) to allow time for the gum to chemically change the stone and establish the image within the stone. We didn’t have that time, so we used our lunch hour as the etch time.

Next, we were shown how to removes the drawing materials from the stone and replaces it with non-drying black ink.

For me, this was the most confusing part. I went to the internet to get a better understanding, [https://www.artprintsa.com/lithography.html].  A wet rag is used to remove the gum arabic from the first etch. A damp cloth is wiped over the stone to remove the excess water. The stone is then dried and dusted with fine chalk before a second gum arabic etch is applied. The gum etches, then buffed down to a thin layer and dried, and the stone should be left to rest for at least an hour before proofing.

The stone is washed out – as before. (The stone is gummed and dried, then washed, and the gum washed off.) (Attwood,2003)

At this moment we began to need two people to get a good print. While the stone is damp, the greasy printing ink is rolled on using either a leather roller (we used a Non-drying black ink.) until the image in the stone is clearly visible, We found a good technique was to re-damping the stone between rolls to keep the surface from drying out, thus needing two of us to work together.

The first few proofs were taken onto newsprint, and after that, damp paper is usually used to ensure the maximum amount of detail is picked up from the stone. The paper is laid onto the stone, and a few sheets of newsprint packing laid on top. The stone and paper are then rolled through the direct transfer press, and the paper is then pulled back from the stone to reveal the printed image.

Despite the long involved process of stone lithography, the image quality is awesome compared to the offset lithography. Every mark and wash I made transferred. However, its deeply involved process has made me reluctant to attempt it again on my own.

sue (2)

Research Source:

Attwood, M. (2003). Lithography. [online] The Artists’ Press. Available at: https://www.artprintsa.com/lithography.html [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].

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