Week One at La Ceiba Gráfica has been about gathering equipment and materials to begin setting up my temporary screen print studio. And as I have been given a space on the beautiful new mezzanine overlooking the new ‘Taller de papel’ (paper workshop) I could help my curiosity into a key material I use in my printing – paper.

And so, I have added another ‘string to my bow’ by learning to make various papers was a week-long papermaking course with Tomas, a German guy who has been living here in Mexico since 1982. The main paper they make here at La Ceiba is 100% cotton using towels and sheets from the hotel industry.

Per Anderson, who has an extraordinary mind for working out how to do things, designing the lithography presses and paper mills; gave me my first lesson in forming the sheets.

On the course this week we boiled up 3 fibres – jute coffee bags (of which there must be millions in the area known for producing the best coffee in Mexico), banana (not the peel, but young trunks) and a palm called ‘izote’ which I recognised as a house plant. They also grow Papyrus palm, which we used to weave paper (first cutting the stalks to the same height, stripping them of their outer skins, splitting them into lengths and soaking them for five days to get rid of the cellulose;). They’ll now sit in a book press for 5 days.

As one of the founders was trained in the Japanese woodcut technique of Moku Hanga, they also grow the Kozo plant which is processed in November when the sap is lower (though I think the plants are confused here in Mexico without as definite seasons!)

Thinking about how to use what I have learned when I get back

  • How to mill the fibres without the medieval looking machines?
  • While I could make a frame and mesh, how would I suction the water out so efficiently?
  • What curved surface could I use to help transfer the paper to the felt boards?

Back to my mission of setting up a screen printing workshop…

I have manged to source most bits and bobs, such as borrowing glass from their frame stock to use to sandwich my positives in exposure; a work light stand (with a lamp for 500w… so now I have 2, thanks to Mexico City’s Downtown with its streets of electrical lighting shops – you ask where to something and there’ll be a whole street of shops selling the same thing!)

I love the ethos here at La Ceiba – use any tools you find as long as you look after and return them, If you don’t have the commercial equipment – work out how to make it! They are so generous with their space, tools, materials and most importantly their knowledge and time.

And so, my light-tight (ish) Drying cabinet came into being lining the legs of a table with leftover old banner plastic and some sturdy black plastic from a cheerful man at Coatepec market.

Just before posting this I’ve been cracking on with the next bit – exposing the screens… using the power of the sun…

Today’s mains electricity power cut helped dare me to continue to experiment exposing screen in the daylight, despite the overcast day (and spatter of rain!) with to my surprise was successful and even more surprising was that the Azocol Z1 (kindly supplied to me by Screen Stretch Ltd) exposed well in just a couple of minutes – still to refine the different timings for different materials such as graphite, Indian ink, and printed acetates using the office laser printer).

While I’m using some sturdy foam (from the Bristol Scrapstore) also used for packing the screens, the glass isn’t quite thick/heavy enough to get good contact with the positive. It’s also bigger than the screen – maybe I need to get some 6mm panes cut to the size of the mesh… perhaps my next mission into Coatepec…

Another unexpected bonus of this week was meeting Per’s wife the ceramist Elsa Naveda who ever so kindly brought me s selection of earths, some from Oaxaca and a particularly red one from near where they live (in the hills between Coatepec and Xalapa). So my little collection of earth pigments grows… I can’t wait to get started grinding them and using the various natural binders I am hoping to experiment with.

And finally.. a bit of life at La Ceiba…


Thanks for friends and tutors putting me in touch with some great people and everyone I meet generously offering further contacts, I’ve been lucky to visit ad meet printers from various walks of life. Starting with La Buena Estrella, an artist-led space with an etching press and gallery space in what I’m discovering to be a lovely neighbourhood (shhh… don’t tell the hipsters!) in San Rafael. César has kindly offered me the space for an exhibition after my residency at La Ceiba – eeek! How exciting, if not a little daunting… let’s hope the experiments turn out well!Watch this space!

He suggests I contact Arturo Negrete, the master printer with a studio in Doctores/Obrera area (where I learn all the commercial supply shops are based). Taller 75° is down a small road and to my luck, just as I find the number, a taxi pulls up and out jumps a guy holding a screen… I must be in the right place. I am indeed. El Torro (the guy from the taxi) and Flacco (not so slim) and other kind and patient folk abide me watching them print and asking questions in my terrible Spanish.It’s great to get a perspective from the commercial end of the spectrum of studios and print jobs.  In fact, they even show me the ropes of printing with solvent-based inks.

Did you know the inks get warm after you’ve printed such a big edition? Ha! Tricked into my baptism of solvent-based screen printing!

My third visit is to TPT Grafica, set up in the 1970s by Martha Hellion & Jan Hendrix and run by master printer Pablo Torrealba. This is my taste of a real fine art screen printing studio who have specialised in large-scale screen printing and using various metallic leaf and inks.  The breadth of work is astonishing and I have great discussions with Pablo over halftone techniques.

I am completely honoured by my final Mexico City studio visit, this is to Martha’s studio itself. It’s always magic to see other artists’ studios, what inspiration they keep at arm’s reach, the books on their shelves – it’s where the magic happens.


One of those serendipitous moments while I was waiting to hear about possible dates for making a trip to learning about natural dyes and pigments here in Mexico, I’m just collecting my bag after going to an excellently curated show of Mexican crafts by Claudia Fernadez at Museo Tamayo, to my glee I see a sign for a two-day course in just that – Tintas Naturales  – natural pigments in the gallery’s education space – and told there is plenty of space, just turn up! Thank you universe!

Over the weekend we learn how to make dyes from yellow from Pericon (a dried flowering plant), red from grinding Cochnilla bugs that live on the nopal cactus and of course indigo (añil) for blue. We use a fibre from the maguey cactus called ‘ixtle’, wool and someone kindly gives me a bit of cotton canvas to do some shibori folding.

Alberto, who leading the workshop encouraged us to experiment and find out how different things like adding lime juice or bicarbonate soda effects the colours (cochineal mainly, and also to over-dye.

The educations space is a real find and is being run by Mariel whose family run a model making company, as she describes – making Mexico in miniature! We talk a lot about what things are made of – she’s interested in indexing materials and for the space has made a materials library encouraging visitors to feel and smell them.

Colour samples on the wall catch my eye – then I realise they’re just what I’m looking for – Earth samples, all different colours with labels of where they’re from!

Just being in Mexico has been such an inspiration in the use of colour. There is much more freedom of expression through colour and the combinations – pink yellow and blue houses. Big, bright and bold. Check out my Instagram for more pics…



So part of this project is gathering ideas from far away and exotic lands, but much of it is also about using what you have in a sustainable way that’s good for the planet… or better at least.

So before I left for the Land of Green Ginger, (well accurately, the Land of Chipotle, Chocolate and coffee… ) I went to visit a great pal who had discovered a dyer’s patch in the gardens she is tending this summer, and so we hatched a plan inspired by an article sent between my dear Ma and her sister over 30 years ago… THE GREAT WOAD HUNT!

So, over the Summer Anna will be nurturing hedgerow colours of the plants from her garden and we’ll get together in September to harvest, process and print these natural wonders at Schumacher College in Devon. Can’t wait!


Part of the thinking about using natural pigments in my work is about being consciously aware of where they are from, geographically, how they are formed, placing them in relation to myself and in relation to the visual content of my work. And so I visited Rodney Harris back in May 2017 to talk about his relief prints of geological maps and to get a few tips on grinding up rocks and mud myself.

Thanks to Rod for sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm with me and giving me the courage to get out the pestle and mortar!