Monday 21 October 2013

Printers Block

Last year, at the Selvedge Winter Fair, I was lucky enough to meet Cameron Short. I was bowled over by his glorious block printed designs...Varx and Treasure Tree.
Serendipity at work,a cushion for Magpie in Treasure intricate block featuring a Magpie in her tree, festooned with all manner of treasures looping over the twigs, snagged on branches.
'Treasure Tree' cushion

 Varx for Mr. Fox, her partner in crime! Varx being of course the Old English for fox...staring straight out from his camouflaged position amongst the Foxgloves!

Cameron is based in rural Dorset where he works in an old shepherd's hut...brilliant! He describes this flow of his surroundings into his work as ~

" a rich and magical designs are more than just arbitary patterns - I tell stories through them, often depicting the tension in nature between beauty and violence. For instance, in "Varx" we're confronted by the hypnotic gaze of a dog fox, veiled by foxgloves. Peer closer and we notice he's licking his lips as the remnants of his supper float away on the evening air."

You can find his work via The New Craftsmen a wonderful collective of artisans and makers.
I love the handmade feeling in his work, beautifully observed drawings cut out, working in the negative, it is a feat. I long to have a go...lino cutting for a term at college was as close as I have ever got to this art form. I feed my passion print and pattern here on my Pinterest board.
Here is Cameron at work on Varx...
Cameron Short
This image reminds me of another iconic photograph taken by Andrew Montgomery  (whom I also admire!)  of Marthe Armitage...printmaker extraordinaire. You can see more of Andrew Montgomery's wonderful images of Marthe and her work shot for Gardens Illustrated here.
Martha Armitage, Printmaker
As so often with serendipitous events the coincidences cascade...rather like Cameron and Marthe's prints. Turns out that Cameron served an apprenticeship with Marthe.

The thing that is so wonderful about Marthe is that she is still working and clearly enjoying the creative process. Watching her pleasure whilst she draws is so inspiring and reminds me why I wanted to be a surface pattern designer all those years ago at college. This is a beautiful short film, "Back to the Drawing Board" in which Marthe describes the process she uses...

Two of my favourite designs Oak Leaf and Chestnut.
Oak Leaf ~ Marthe Armitage Wallpaper
Chestnut ~ Marthe Armitage Wallpaper
There are some lovely pieces about Marthe Armitage to read if you feel so inclined, you could try:
The Bible of British Taste or Little Augury

You can peruse and or purchase Marthe's wallpaper at Hamilton Weston.

Block printing seems to preserve the human touch more than any other printing process. The maker's personality is stamped onto the reels of wallpaper or rolls of fabric.

Angie Lewin also cuts beautiful blocks for her gorgeous pictures, often including text which seems to me to be an impossible task!
Angie Lewin cutting a lino block

Sigh...brings me back to my neglected sketch book...
I can't write about print & pattern without mentioning the work of Abigail Borg. I am mad about her brilliantly coloured floral repeats
Abigail Borg collage
...Oh and then there's Sam Pickard. Sam designed Rosemary Russet back in 2007 and I have had a love affair with it ever after. I long to have it in my bedroom at the windows...with a 2 and a 1/2 metre repeat it is epic. The handrawn quality is gorgeous, beautiful inky, free outlines. The knitted effect in the background, the colours...

Happily Sam will exhibiting her work at this winter's Selvedge Fair and so we come full circle...I love it when that happens....serendipity!


  1. Oh, I love love love this post! I've been totally lost in it and thanks for posting it. I'm off now to get lost in the links and I'll go take a look at you on pinterest too. x

  2. Oh such a lovely post! I bought myself a piece of lino weeks ago, the tools waiting to be used but I'm still searching for a suitable pattern. I'm in love with the Varx fabric, so beautiful..thanks for sharing.

  3. Have you been watching 'The Story of Wallpaper?' is utterly fascinating. Maybe you should take a visit to Pugin's house in Ramsgate - if you get the chance.

    Nina x

  4. Thank you for sharing these. I just love looking at the hedges each morning on my walk with my dog, Muffy. I am attempting to paint a picture of a mix of Ivy and Pennywort, tangled with grasses, rather like a woodcut.

  5. Really interesting post, thank you! And when I have more time I shall explore the links you have put up. Wish I was going to the Selvedge Fair! ......well perhaps I still could....

  6. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing i really like this post.Handrawn quality is looking gorgeous, beautiful inky.The knitted effect in the background, the colours every thing is realy nice.There is a reputed online printing company UK, which have provided excellent printing quality in cost effective prices.

  7. All the designers you mention here are wonderful, but Marthe Armitage is the gal for me, I adore her work and would so love to meet her.

    Great post Sarah :)

  8. What a beautiful post. I am studying an e course on surface pattern now. I too loved those inky lines in the floral patterns. I was so excited to also see your post on great dixter. i visited a few summers ago and I still dream of it, pure magic. Catherine xx


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