January Print Sale!

I’m having a January sale! To celebrate the New Year you can get 25% off all items in my Etsy shop until 31st January. There are a few colourful collages, prints and artist books in there to brighten up your winter! Head over to my Etsy shop (https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/kathryndesforges) and use the code HAPPYJANUARY25 at the checkout. Happy January all!

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Stone Lithography – Step by Step

I’ve spent some time in the studio at Leicester Print Workshop recently, taking photographs for a basic step-by-step guide to stone lithography. While the photos were meant to be used as still images to illustrate the process, I realised they might look good put together as a little animation sequence – so here it is!


Things are clicking into place…gradually

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted about progress on here. Months have been flying by as if they were days, and now it’s November and I’ve only got a couple of months left of my internship at LPW. My ideas have been gradually developing over the last few months, and I think now are finally beginning to form into new work.

This year, more than ever before, has reminded me how precious time and space is – both to think and to make. Some days I can spend a good few hours intermittently standing and staring at bits of work, thinking about composition, colour, intention, etc. Other days I can be intensely immersed in doing – printing, graining stones, drawing. Both of these sorts of days are essential. Too much thinking, especially with lithography, means that I can think an idea through to an end point, but when I try to replicate it, it can never materialise into what I want it to be. Too much time spent making, and there is never an opportunity to stop, look, and re-evaluate the work.

During the summer I was at a mid-point in the internship – having learnt the basics of the lithography process, It was now time to start thinking about how I could apply these techniques to my own work. I was a bit stuck with this. Everything I’d done so far was just to test out particular techniques or materials, but I wanted the work I made to have more substance to it than that.

At the end of July I spent a few days at the house where my Grandad used to live in Weymouth. It’s a place I used to visit ever since I was a kid, and have fond memories of. The house has remained in my family since my Grandad’s death, but this year it was looking like it was going to be sold. The house was lying empty during the summer, so I went down with a few friends for a few days to make use of it. During that time I realised that this was possibly the last time I would be in the house, and I decided to return a few days later by myself. I didn’t really know why or what for, but it I decided to just take some photographs and do some drawing while I was there. This became almost a process of documentation. The house had hardly changed over the years – it was exactly as I had remembered – all the same furniture as when my Grandad had lived there, even photos of him dotted around. But no bodies. No people. None of the originals. Only memories, all fuelled and prompted by inanimate objects, sitting there just as they had done for so many years. But it wasn’t sad, it actually filled me with a kind of peacefulness which I rarely experience. A sense of time passing, slowly but surely, but also a strange sense of permanence.

I also ended up taking some film footage, which has actually become the basis of the work I am currently making. At around 5 or 6 pm each evening, the sun would bounce off the water in the harbour outside, and come in through the window, creating a constantly moving image on various walls in the house. So I set my camera to record, and sat back and watched. Sometimes the sun went in, and the dancing lights disappeared, then they came back stronger, and then faded away again. Sometimes a boat would pass, agitating the water and making the light move faster and jump around. But the dancing light was always kept within the confines of the windows which it passed through – contained within shadows.

When I got back to work after the break, I was preoccupied by the film footage I’d taken of the dancing shadows, and decided I wanted to incorporate them into my work. So I started to project still images from the footage onto stones, and trace them using rubbing block – a lithographic drawing material which creates very soft, subtle marks and tones.

During the summer I had also been doing quite a lot of drawing, some of it very detailed, and some of it very scribbly and quick. It was whilst I was drawing one day, that I realised I had been contentedly scribbling away for over an hour. All I was doing was filling in a shape with HB pencil. But I loved it. The sense of peacefulness I experienced during this was not dissimilar to that which I’d experienced whilst watching shadows on the walls. A feeling of total immersion in the moment, in the present, the right now. I realised that these scribbles were the physical manifestations of that, and so was the film footage I’d taken. So it seemed right to try to tie these two elements somehow.

It’s all made me realise that time spent researching, practicing, experimenting, documenting, playing, thinking, exploring, is never wasted time.

Below are some image of the work I’ve been doing. I’ve got an exhibition starting on 8th January 2014 – ‘Momentary Permanence – Works in progress’, at the LCB Depot Print Room, so the next couple of months will be busy! Looking forward to it…

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Photo Plate Lithography Workshop at WYPW

A couple of weekends ago I ran the first ever Photo Plate Lithography workshop at West Yorkshire Print Workshop. It was great! It was so lovely to be able to introduce a new technique to the workshop.

It took a good few days of preparation to get everything ready and set up – as always with printmaking the only way to really know whether something will work is just to practice. So I spent some time making some test plates on our exposure unit, eventually coming to the conclusion that a standard exposure time of around 5-6 minutes is sufficient for most images. The plates I ended up ordering for the workshop and to sell in the shop were called ‘Europlate’, and a very nice chap at the company advised me on what would be best for our purposes. I also bought in some developer, which we mix down half and half with water for standard plate developing.

In the workshop we already use the Hawthorn Printmakers stay-open inks for intaglio and relief printing. It says on their website that they are also suitable for lithography, so I thought I would try using this even though I’ve never used them for lithography before. They actually worked well, although they do contain very high amounts of pigment, so it is necessary to extend them quite a bit with their ‘transparent ink’, especially for very detailed images. We printed the plates on our Hunter-Penrose etching press – bumping the pressure up a bit by putting a larger litho plate on the press bed, (as the plates are quite thin), which worked a treat.

We had a full course, and I was really happy to see a lot of familiar faces – members who wanted to learn the technique or had done it years ago and wanted a refresher, and also a some non-members who were completely new to it.

The day was fantastic – so enjoyable to be passing on the skills I’ve been learning at Leicester Print Workshop over the past year! And everyone was so excited by the ideas and possibilities that the technique generated. We’ve already had one member come in and start making plates since the course, and we’ve already got bookings for the next course at WYPW in March next year, here: http://www.wypw.org/shop/photo-plate-lithography-march/

Here are a few photos from the day…

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A fantastic little film about stone lithography

Over the past few months filmmaker Bill Newsinger has been in and around Leicester Print Workshop, filming and documenting the lithography process. This film is the end result.

Working with Bill has been a pleasure – a funny, strange and intriguing process, with his endless enthusiasm for the subject matter always shining through.

From the start we both seemed to have a similar vision of how we wanted the film to come across, and I’m so pleased with the end result. The film portrays the lithography process exactly how I see it, and will hopefully help those who watch it to understand exactly what the process involves, and why I love it.

Big thanks to Bill for having the idea in the first place and being so cool to work with, to Leicester Print Workshop for being so accommodating and encouraging the collaboration, to West Yorkshire Print Workshop for allowing me the opportunity to take up the internship, and to Serena Smith for teaching me everything I was doing in the film!


Printing my first stone…

I’ve gone a bit off-track with my posts of late – excitement about artist books took over for a bit there! So back to lithography. I’ve got a backlog of posts about various processes I’ve been learning. So here’s the first – printing my very first litho stone. (This was actually over a month ago now – how time flies!).

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The drawing on the stone was made using hard and soft litho crayons and rubbing block. Unfortunately I forgot to document the processing of the stone – I’ll have to do that with another one. When it came to taking the first prints, I was amazed by the amount of detail the stone retained – it was so true to the original drawing, but after a few more the image started to fill in in the non-image areas, and it was evident that the stone needed some more etching, (despite having had two gum etches already). This is in order to de-sensitise those areas to grease, so that when the oil-based ink is rolled on, it only adheres to the greasy image-areas.

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Stone filling in – evident from the grey tone on the non-image areas. This is why it’s important to really look at and try to remember your image before processing and printing, so that you know which marks should and shouldn’t be there.

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Applying a further gum etch to the stone with a paint brush. A strong mix of gum arabic and nitric acid is applied to the strong areas of the drawing and non-image areas to clear out any grease, and a weaker mix is used for delicate areas of tone, so as not to clear these areas out completely.

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Stone etched back and ready to proof again.

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The stone is printed with a 50/50 mix of ‘Noir a Monter’ (non-drying black ink) and Crayon black ink.

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A leather nap roller is used to roll the ink. When using any black ink other than non-drying, the roller should be thoroughly scraped after use to avoid it drying out and ruining the roller.

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Pulling a print from the stone – Ink is rolled on to the damp stone, damp paper is placed on top, and once run through the direct transfer press the paper is pulled from the stone to reveal the printed image.

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My first run of lithographs! I was really happy with how they turned out – especially seeing as they were only a test.

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So amazed by the fine detail – something unobtainable with any other print technique. The key is processing the stone so that all the subtleties of the drawing are retained.

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Morris under his favourite lamp.


Week two learning lithography – Photo-litho test plates and drawing onto my first stone. And a cat called Morris who likes to sit in the kitchen sink.

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A test plate exposed to an ink wash on drafting film for varying amounts of time, ranging from 9 – 18 light units. Very much like photo-etching in that the longer you expose the plate, the lighter the image becomes. But SO much more detail than photo-etching, and no need for aquatint or halftones as these plates produce continuous tone because of the way they are printed.

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Resulting prints from the test plate. Due to the nature of the printing process, more detail is revealed from the plate the more prints are taken – showing here the first print taken above, and the 9th print taken below.

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My first drawing onto stone, experimenting with dry drawing materials such as litho pencils and crayons and rubbing block to create subtle tones. We also put a first gum etch onto this stone, so it will ready for it’s second gum etch next week.

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Morris.