This week I am going to try to create a set of interlocking colour blocks for one of the torsos. Then if there is time I’ll go back to carving the basket designs at the end of the week.

It’s funny, but I really needed the weekend to let my hands recover! Even though a lot of the larger areas can be taken away using the power carver, and I keep the tools pretty sharp, I still have to use a huge amount of force. A few times you can see the birch plywood bowing on the Fast-Forward videos, despite it sitting on top of 32mm MDF board. I am putting most of my bodyweight behind me as I carve. I’m also going down quite deep- through the first 2mm layer and often through the second, in order to make-sure no drooping paper contacts areas I don’t want to print.

Many friends and colleagues suggested I create the whole process mechanically- either with routers, or at least with detail and power carvers. But I’ve chosen to keep handmade drawn lines in the work, as they look so much more like the source material – the early wood engravings.

This project is called “Off-Press” because it’s an attempt to create enough pressure and accurate registration without a printing press. It is also called “/Printing Restraint”, because without a press it feels important to reduce, “punk” if you like, the complexity of the printing process to reflect its origins, at the same time as attempting something considered almost impossible using standard print techniques.

But I am far away from seeing ink on paper yet or building the components of my punk press.

To the bandsaw!


I’ve decided to re-use some of the prototype parts I created in the lead up to this projects. Some of the elements  can be cut up and re-used in new ways, others used just as they are. This one is part of a whole figure based on the “Bird for a hand” photo from Ullapool.

I spent friday creating accurate rubbings and numbering the colour zones that will become the single layer of interlocking colour blocks.

So next week I will starting cutting out these pieces to line up with the black line layers already done. There will be almost no carving with the colour layers as they are simply block colours in each area.

No Fast Forward from Friday i’m afraid, but more to come next week.

Re-use and adapt.


Following the Ullapool residency I began making woodcuts- the prototypes for this project.

I tried naively to create multiple colour layers that each needed registration, and I cut holes through the blocks that helped (slightly) to align each layer in turn by spotting marks on the paper below.

But the results were so-so, and easily mis-aligned. A 1mm gap at the top of a 3metre roll of paper would be a 12cm gap at the bottom, so it was a real nightmare. Mis-registration almost killed the whole project.

It didn’t help that I was creating a ‘hard-bed’ for the paper and laying the blocks face-down onto it to help me register each block individually. But then I was able to arrange a meeting with the organisers of Spike Print Studios in Bristol. They pointed out that I was using these print blocks, well… like bock-prints! Also they suggested I start with a layout on the bed (in acetate or similar) and place all of the blocks face up, carefully laying the paper over it to press. This is still an unknown element of the project as I have only done limited tests, and the final works I am aiming for are 3m x 1.8m, but this seems like the most feasible approach.

But, their very logical solution was to print only once and rule out the registration altogether. Unfortunately I like the textures and patterns of the blocks, so this would mean choosing between b&w with patterns, simplifying the whole work for colour, or attempting to make thousands of small interlocking detail blocks.

In the end I have decided to go with a combination- reducing all colour layers into one multi-block layer of a few dozen colour blocks, and a second black ink layer registered over the top. So that is what I will start on Next week, re-making interlocking colour components for the prototype figure.

Registration is  going to be a huge nightmare so I will continue this theme another time. Any suggestions much appreciated!


I started laying out for one of the basket heads, that of a goose. When I created a prototype figure for this project a few months ago, I realised that weaving willow and drawing it are very things! All the over-under stuff does your head and eyes in a bit. I ended up spacing out the verticals in Pencil, and getting them wrong a lot despite the earlier practice…

Carving I made a lot of mistakes, I think I hit a soft patch of the top birchwood layer and it flaked away in areas. I tried repairs with PVA but only a few will be unnoticeable. Flew threw it though, halfway through the goose neck…