Cambridge Open Studios 2016 - Jackie Duckworth

Jackie Duckworth Printmaker
It's that time of year again, when Karen & Mandy get to meet and interview some talented artists for Cambridge Open Studios. We were delighted to see Jackie Duckworth's colourful prints and textiles in her lovely home in Fulbourn, and find out all about her practice. 
When people come to visit you at your Open Studio this summer, what can they expect to see?
I make bold, graphic linocuts, often featuring birds and other animals, some of these are printed over richly textured gelatine monoprint backgrounds. 
There will also be some pieces made by printing onto recycled or vintage textiles, and one large commissioned textile wall hanging on display.
I will have my tools, press, carved lino and work in progress on show; if you are lucky you may catch me doing a demo or even print something yourself!
In addition, Sarah Cain and Roxanne Ryan of Beadstorm Designs will be exhibiting their lovely silver jewellery, including silver clay pendants imprinted with images of animals and leaves.
Finally, if the weather is nice, people are very welcome to enjoy our garden. It’s a lovely place to sit and  we will have refreshments available. There are chickens and a veg patch to look at if you have children that would like to explore. 
nipping press
Describe your workspace and how your ideas are formulated.
I work in a dedicated area of my kitchen (I use Caligo Safewash ink which is non-toxic!) with my nipping press handy in the conservatory next door. I like to work in short bursts with lots of thinking in between so this is ideal for me. When I am in the final throes of a big project I spread all over the house! 
Most of my linocuts are no bigger than A4 – I find that it easier to work at that scale - and the gelatine monoprints are even smaller, but on my textile pieces I can get bigger, sometimes much bigger – one commissioned wall hanging was 6’x4’. 
I work on ideas all the time, whether I am in the bath, walking the dog or on holiday. I always have several sketchbooks and notebooks on the go. I will draw many tiny thumbnail sketches of ideas and compositions before starting to work up into a bigger piece. 
I love storytelling and narrative; I studied Illustration rather than Fine Art for that very reason. (Cambridge School of Art  - Anglia Ruskin University). I always hope to tell a story even in a single image.  I am fascinated by all kinds of myths and legends, plus history and books – I’m a bit of a geek!
What is it about lino and print that appeals so much?
I have always been a person who likes to make things with my hands – I used to make clothes for the children when they were smaller, I make bed quilts, I knit, and I’ve even made my own broody coop for the chickens. Working in lino, with the physical skill and patience needed to carve out the shapes, employs the part of me that loves craft to make art, rather than something useful. Working in textiles has an even more obvious link to my more practical hobbies.
Also, for many years I used to love doing jigsaws, I would spend hours on them. Since I’ve been printmaking I’ve completely stopped, I think constructing the puzzle -  the layers of colour and shape - tickles the same bit of my brain! 
From start to finish, how does your process generally work?
First I spend a long time – sometimes months – playing with ideas in little thumbnail sketches. I often use photos – my own, or other people’s with permission. Sometimes the ideas originate in the photos themselves (for example my Prince of the Air linocut of the peregrine falcon) and construct my ‘story’ around that image. 
Once I have chosen the best of the thumbnails, I work up to a larger line drawing of that idea. At this point I use photos again to inform and guide my drawing. If there are several elements in the image I will draw them out separately. The drawings are then all scanned in and I use Photoshop to arrange them in the final composition – is the crow going to the left, or the right hand side of the castle? How big does it need to be? Would it be more dramatic cropped? 
Next I work from my line drawing into lights and darks, and decide on the colours – it would be very annoying to use up lots of expensive ink and paper and then realise that the background would have been better blue instead of green!
This is particularly true when you do a reduction linocut – this means that instead of using a separate piece of lino for each colour, you just use one and pare it away stage by stage as you print. The advantage of this is that it is easier to get good registration (the colours all lined up perfectly on the paper), but it means you can never go backwards – once you’ve carved it, it’s gone!
The next stage is to trace the completed design onto the lino... or rather Japanese vinyl. It’s a little bit softer to cut and I am prone to tendonitis. I carve the block with tiny Pfeil gouges, made in Switzerland. They are very sharp and have nice wooden handles that are easy to work with. You carve away the areas that you want to be white in the final picture. 
I ‘pull’ a proof in water based Nerchau ink onto photocopy paper, and check to see if there are any changes that need to be made, before cutting and prepping the substrate for the print.
For the linocuts  I normally use one of the Japanese printmaking papers; these are very thin and sometimes tricky to handle but they take the ink beautifully, and are easy to burnish by hand. I also have some heavyweight Somerset paper that I’ve been using for a series of art postcards – I use the nipping press for those.
Gelatine and Lino Print
For the linocut/monoprints, I paint and roll acrylic paints onto the gelatine plate and then gently press a piece of paper on top to pick up the colours. I have tried printmaking papers, cartridge papers, pastel paper – each one gives a different and interesting effect. I often repeat this several times to build up complexity of colour, or use stencils. This is then oveprinted with the linocut, using the nipping press. It doesn’t always print evenly over the acrylic but that is part of the attraction for me – it is such a contrast with the ‘straight’ linocuts.
When I am working on textile I will prepare the textile first, stitching fabrics together, maybe painting on screen printing onto them. I then dampen them very slightly before pinning them taut on a board. I put the inked lino upside down onto the fabric and hammer it on the back with my fist. Finally I may work further into the image with hand or machine embroidery, or image transfer.
I always use Caligo Safewash ink, with added driers to speed things up. I have a wonderful Heath Robinson drying rack that I made using an old chest of drawers, green house shade netting, and string. 
Where can we see you works for sale?
I have a shop on Etsy selling cards, gifts and prints, and I am in the process of setting up a shop on Artfinder as well. I have a website with examples of my illustration work as well as my fine art pieces. You can also find me at various fairs and markets – see my website for details. 
Prince of the Air
2016: I have a piece (Prince of the Air) in the Society of Women Artists exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London, and another (Merchants of Arabia) in an exhibition in St Katherines’ Dock, London (that one isn’t actually advertised on their site yet though!). In October I am having a joint show “Into the Woods”, with Allison Henderson at the Dot to Dot Gallery in Letchworth. I will also be exhibiting with Cambridge Drawing Society at the Leys School in October.
Arthur Rank Heart
Some of the artists have been given wooden hearts to design with for Cambridge Open Studios. Have you formulated a design for yours?
Yes! I have been working on it today, in fact. My design is of a little white fox trotting through a wintery wood at night – I don’t really do cute! I am doing it as a monoprint collage – today I printed the papers ready to cut up. The hearts are all going to be auctioned for the benefit of Arthur Rank House (hospice).
When we visited, you showed us an ingenious method for registering your prints, that would be hugely useful to other printmakers. Would you kindly share this wonderful trick!
The method uses Ternes Burton pins and tabs, which I got direct from the manufacturers. They are a small family company in the USA and were very efficient. 
However I have just discovered that a UK firm has started stocking them, which is even easier!
What works have you got planned for the coming months?
I always have too many ideas, too little time! For example, I am currently working on a large textile commission based on a pilgrimage;  I very much want to do a parrot linocut as a companion piece to Prince of the Air, but this will be Prince of the Seas and have a background based on old (pirate!) maps; I already have a lot of the preliminary work done for a very stylised linocut of the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam inspired by the grave markings on its floor; I want to do a monoprint/linocut piece of the Ox Meadow, on a nature reserve in my village, integrating the modern landscape with an imagined historical one...
Then there are my plans for 2017. I mentioned I am a bit of a geek. Next year, as well as exhibiting at the UK Eastercon SF convention in Birmingham, I am planning a major series of works specifically for the Worldcon SF art show. This is in Helsinki in August. I am making four wall hangings based on books by Ursula LeGuin. These will incorporate printmaking, image transfer and surface embellishment over pieced textiles. I have several sketchbook pages full of thumbnails for them already – they will take a long time to plan and make.
What weekends are you open for Open Studios?
Weekends 2 and 3

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About Mandy Knapp