Making an impression: the artist behind our lino print

Whilst we chose to make a number of changes to our label designs recently there was one aspect of all our labels which we definitely didn’t want to lose – our lino print!  When we first started Middle Way we got in touch with artist Helen Maxfield to discuss the possibility of commissioning a bespoke lino print of Loch Lomond to serve as a backdrop to all our labels.  The result was a stunning piece of art which we are able to adjust digitally to make our labels match our flavours.

This is the photo of Loch Lomond which we provided to Helen (taken near Gartocharn)…

Loch Lomond middle way

And this is the fantastic lino print Helen created for us…

Loch Lomond Helen Maxfield Middle Way

We caught up with Helen to find out more about her lino print artwork.

Helen Maxfield Lino print

Can you tell us briefly about the process of making your lino prints?

My process always starts with a drawing or painting of mine which I then develop into a lino design.  At the design stage I am making a lot of practical decisions to do with the technical considerations of using lino as a medium e.g. how I will render certain areas through my cutting patterns and what order I am going apply colours.

Lino printing is a form of relief printmaking.  This means that I carve away what I don’t want to print and apply ink with a brayer (a type of roller) to what remains of the lino.  The paper is laid over the the inked lino and pressure applied either with a press or a baren (a flat disc, designed for applying pressure by hand). 

I make my colour linoprints through a process called the reduction method. This is where I carve away any areas I want to be white, then print the lightest colour.  Then I carve away what I want to remain the lightest colour, then print the next colour on top of the first.  I then repeat this process with successively darker colours until I’m happy.  Often there isn’t much left of the lino at the end!

What made you decide to become a lino print artist?  What is it about working with lino that you like?

Firstly I love the look of linocuts.  When I look at a linocut by another artist I enjoy imagining what it was like to make it.  What order the different layers were created in and what each stage might have looked like.  For what seems like such a simple technique the possibilities are endless…and there is so much to learn!  I enjoy all stages of producing a linocut; the inspiration and design stage, the carving and the printing.  And I like it that I don’t know exactly what it will turn out like at the end, because I can change my mind at all stages of the process.

Why do you think lino prints work so well for labels like Middle Way?

Linocuts have become very popular in food and drink illustration.  I have created a sense of form, depth and distance through tones rather than realistic colours.  This means that Middle Way were able to alter the colours digitally to suit the flavour of the water kefir.

Where else can we see your other artworks?

I have a website  where I sell my prints and list my exhibitions and workshops.  I am based in Suffolk in East Anglia, so I have exhibitions and shows in that area. I will have prints in the Art Exhibition at the Suffolk Show which is on 29th and 30th May.  You can also see my prints in the Peter Pears Gallery in Aldeburgh as part of the Suffolk Craft Society Summer Exhibition in July/August.  I will have stalls at FolkEast on 16th 18th August, Art-on-the-Prom in Felixstowe on 1st September and the Wood and Craft fair at Ickworth House on 5th-6th October.  I also created the artwork for the labels of Big Drop Brewing Co who are winning lots of awards and getting great reviews.

Royal Harwich Yacht Club from Orwell Country Park Helen Maxfield
The River Gipping Helen Maxfield
Havergate Island, towards Orford. Helen Maxfield

Royal Harwich Yacht Club from Orwell Country Park

The River Gipping

Havergate Island, towards Orford

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