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A day in the life....

I recently completed an interview for Haychley Webb's the 'Meet the Printmaker' series. If you're interested in reading about printmakers in their own words it's definitely worth a look. When I wrote it I rather ignored the 'what does your typical day look like' question. At the time we were mid-lockdown and I was trying to squeeze an hour or so's printmaking into each day whilst also dealing with that most dreaded of situations: Home School.

Every day felt like a series of battles... first with Google Classroom (an awful web service designed by someone with a very chaotic mind and no logic) to extract the tasks set for each child, then the printer (which for some reason will print immediately from a phone - with the worksheet formatting from the dreaded Google Classroom being completely messed up - but occasionally takes 24 hours to decide to get around to it when sending the job from a computer, unless you find the elusive and very random setting hidden in the depths of the 'settings' menu to make it happen instantly, and then that resets itself occasionally for no apparent reason) to print the day's worksheets. The next battle was with my ancient iPad to load the 'educational games' for the youngest child. The iPad doesn't like Google Classroom, or doing things fast enough to satisfy an impatient child. This is before I mention the husband who seemed to permanently be on a video call using all the Wi-Fi capabilities and was highly unappreciative of the printer noisily chugging out worksheets next to him (school uploaded them daily at 7.30am, he starts work at 7.30am!) or the repeated interruptions of children 'sneaking quietly' (read: stomping incredibly loudly) upstairs to 'check on Daddy'.

Of course the final battle was long and often tedious and involved convincing the children (aged 4 and 6) to sit down and actually complete the afore mentioned tasks; this was done at the kitchen table, AKA my printmaking table.

Suffice to say that no one was terribly impressed with the whole situation and printmaking was my saviour, my refuge and my reward (along with Ferrero Rocher chocolates which I hid in the utility room and snuck off and scoffed when needed - made me feel much happier!). Since my youngest child only started school in September I hadn't really had time to get into a routine and then this chaos was thrust upon us, hence my swerving of the 'daily routine' question. The one thing I gained from this experience was to just do a little each day. My aim was to have some progress that I could chart on social media every day (aside from the printing, it seems you also have to master social media, marketing and website design at the very least to be a working artist these days). The social media rule is consistency, preferably once a day. This forced me to stop procrastinating and actually achieve something, Home School had a similar effect!

I was overjoyed (as were the children!) at their return to proper school where the teacher actually has a clue what the lesson is about and might not be attacking a piece of lino with incredibly sharp tools in the middle of maths. I had a blissful three weeks of something vaguely resembling a routine. This includes the (elongated due to staggered drop times) school runs and walking the pup leaving me with about 4 hours to 'work' each day.

This was my first day enjoying the whole table and no distractions (and sneaky chocolate treats without having to hide!). It felt so good to be able to lay everything out and concentrate properly! Finally I began to get into something vaguely resembling a routine: school run, walk in the forest, back home by 10.30, make coffee and inevitably empty the washing machine etc. set up by 11am and work until 2.30pm, back on the school run, children home, chaos reigns. It involves some discipline to ignore things around the house that need doing as I am an awful procrastinator, ideally I'd lock myself away in a studio with no distractions.... one day!

Making a linocut involves several steps:

  • Completing the design drawing

  • Preparing the lino with a light sanding and trimming to size

  • Transferring the design to the lino using tracing paper or drawing/painting straight onto the lino, this step may have to be repeated between the layers

  • Setting up the paper with registration tabs

  • Setting up the jig so the lino slots back into exactly the same place each time

  • Finally the cutting and inking

It takes at least two to three hours to mix the ink and pull the full edition (I usually do 10 plus a couple of proofs) and then tidy up. So unless there is very little cutting to do (as is sometimes the case) I separate my days into prep days, cutting days and inking days. This forces me to take my time a little more. One of the things I love about printmaking is that it's not a quick process, I am inclined to dash things off when I would have had a better result if I'd paused and thought for a little longer. Printmaking slows me down and makes me think much more than drawing or painting do. With printmaking you have to wait for each layer of ink to dry which is usually at least a day, you’re forced to consider the next step for longer than if you could do it all in one go.

I am trying to build 'thinking time' into my daily routine. Walking in the forest most days is very inspirational and I am looking forward to being able to pause for slightly longer and complete sketches without freezing my finger tips! I have a lots of ideas whirring around my head but do need peace and time to get them down on paper. The problem with only having a few hours each day is that it does add a huge time pressure to 'get on with it' and this is not conducive to thinking things through properly.

The other thing I haven't mentioned is that I also need time to do the packing and posting /delivering when I sell work as well as all the marketing so that people actually know the work exists to buy. I do a lot of this in the evenings and at weekends when I occasionally take my laptop and hide. With lockdown ending I am starting to prepare for craft fairs opening up again. I'm booked in on 24th April in Thame and have one fair booked each month for the rest of the year.

So it seems that just like the Easter holidays crept up incredibly quickly and planted the children back at home all day (but thankfully with no home school!), so the routine changes and there's always something else to do. Squeezing a little chance creativity into my days is something I seem to have become adept at, even if it's just a sketch while they're at the playground or paddling in a puddle. In fact, I think I could go as far as to say that my daily routine mainly involves doing everything that family life requires whilst constantly making small escapes into a world of ink, rollers, presses and paper... even if sometimes that escape is only in my head.

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