Last weekend I was really fortunate to be invited to the Maldon Art Trail’s Children’s workshops – a day of free art and craft workshops for local families. Maldon’s Art Trail began in 2008 and every year is organised by an enthusiastic group of volunteers to showcase the work of the many outstanding local artists, taking over shops, cafes and public buildings all around the town.
I brought along my jelly plates, inks and rollers and taught about 50 children how to use jelly to print onto paper bags. I have to say that I was very impressed with how well behaved all of the children were and how fabulous their prints each looked.
As time was short and there were so many other activities for the children to try, we just focused on the basics of jelly printing (although there is so much more to learn, as the printers on our five week printmaking course are discovering at the moment).
I was also asked a few times throughout the day about other children’s workshops here at Slamseys, so perhaps I’d better put a few more printing dates in the diary – but in the meantime, we are supporting The Big Draw this weekend with our Children’s Dreamtime Art workshop, inspired by storytelling and Australian Aboriginal paintings.
For any of the parents who are interested in making more jelly prints at home with the kids, there are some directions and recipes here.
Find out more about the Maldon Art Trail here and check out the last few Essex Summer of Art events of the year here.
Thermofax is one of my favourite methods of printmaking. I like it because firstly it’s very quick and very simple, but also because despite this it gives great results.
One day I will own my very own thermofax printing machine, but new machines cost about £1,000 and old machines, although sometimes cheaper, can be a bit of a handful to keep in working order. At the moment I get my screens from a company in Northamptonshire – you can either design your own, or choose from a large selection of their premade screens.
Thermofax works in a similar way to traditional screenprinting, but is effective on even a very small scale. Your design is burnt into fine mesh which allows the ink to move through the screen. Using a lightweight squeegee, you push the ink through the burnt design to produce your print – simple!
This morning I have been playing around with my new screens and I can’t wait to start printing some new project ideas – I’m thinking about customising our Slamseys Art aprons, printing some new cushion covers to give my old sofa a new burst of life as well as printing a series of original prints to hang at home.
I love how each one is an original print and you get slight variations in the thickness of the ink. I’ve been using simple black ink this morning, but you can use any colour in your projects.
It started with a fun Introduction to Drypoint workshop in the barn with a couple of enthusiastic printmakers. Drypoint printing is an intaglio process, similar to etching, and is a fantastic way to make quick prints. We use our renovated mangle in place of an etching press – it’s a little hard going, but the prints always come out brilliantly.
After lunch there was just time for a coffee and chat with Lisa Temple-Cox and David Watkins from ENAS who are exploring creative connections in Essex.
On Sunday I packed my scruffiest clothes and headed into London for the Holi Festival, which involves bursts of colour being flung around in complete abandon and basically covering e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in paint – excellent fun!
One of my favourite things about Spring and Summer is that the butterflies start to flit around the garden. Last year I had one of those packets of seeds that encouraged birds and butterflies – although I have to say there were more insects than anything else. Still, worth a shot to have a couple of butterflies in the garden.
John Ray was a local naturalist – he lived just down the road from Slamseys Farm and spent his lifetime studying botany, zoology and natural theology, as well as completing important works on the classification of plants and animals. Butterflies were one of his greatest passions:
“You ask what is the use of butterflies?
I reply to adorn the world and delight the eyes of men;
to brighten the countryside like so many golden jewels.
To contemplate their exquisite beauty and variety is to
experience the truest pleasure”
John Ray, 1691
There are lots of things here at Slamseys that have been inspired by John Ray and his love of nature: From the bottles of my sister’s Slamseys Sloe Gin, to our upcoming Art Month in June, which is themed around ‘The Natural World’.
As part of our Art Month and Art Trail (part of the Essex Summer of Art) we will be having a sculpture park in Dovehouse Paddock, where local sculptor Graham Thrussell will be displaying his giant insects, including an interactive butterfly sculpture – sounds exciting doesn’t it?!
I’m also excited because we will be holding an Entomology class here in the barn at the end of the month with our taxidermy tutor Elle Kaye. In this relaxing workshop, we’ll learn how to preserve, pin, dry and assemble butterflies. There’ll be tea and cake and maybe even a little taster of gin!
So many things that I’m so excited for! For all the updates about our Art Month, sign up to our newsletter.