Meet the Maker: Lizzie Mabley
My name is Lizzie Mabley. I live and work near Stroud in the Cotswolds. I have a passion for pattern which I find in nature and my surroundings, I translate this love to my lino and screen prints.
Can you describe your process?
All my designs start life in my sketch book. When I am happy with an idea I transfer it to lino and carve it out. Some of my designs stay as art prints, but some I develop for printing on to textiles for cushions, tea towels napkins etc. If I intend to print a design on fabric I usually transfer it to a silk screen – I find this much more efficient if I need to print larger quantities, it also gives a more ‘solid’ image than a lino print stamp.
While studying Textile Design and Surface Decoration at university I did a screen printing project and obviously used all the proper kit – exposing units, drying cupboards and wash out booths. For ages I thought this was out of the question to do at home, but after a bit of research I found I could successfully expose my screens at home using only the sun. Even on a relatively dull day there is enough U-V to expose an image on a screen coated in light sensitive emulsion.
To transfer a lino print to a screen I first print my lino block on to acetate using an oil-based block printing ink, this will give the screen print the look and texture of a lino print.
I then coat a screen with Speedball photo sensitive emulsion and let it dry in a dark cupboard. When it is dry I lay the printed acetate on to the screen, followed by a sheet of glass. This is then put on to a board covered with a sheet of black paper. I then have to wait for a bright day as I expose the screen to sunlight for approximately 50-60 seconds depending on the strength of the sun. This is enough to expose my image onto the screen. I then wash out the ‘un-exposed’ areas with a hose to reveal the image.
How and where did you learn to print?
I did my degree in Textile Design and Surface Decoration at what used to be called Buckinghamshire College in High Wycombe.We worked in a massive textile studio affectionately known as ‘The Red Shed’ – it was a big red tin building! Screen Printing and mixed media were my thing. I spent my time printing, sewing, sticking and painting.
Later on I became absorbed in family life and although always making and creating did not call it ‘work’ for a long time.I needed a creative outlet so decided on lino printing which I could easily do at home and fit in around my children.
I really love repeat and pattern. I am very observant, as any visual artist is and look for pattern everywhere. It is amazing where you can find beauty, just keep your eyes open. Print is the perfect medium for me, each print is the same – but not quite – as the last. I love printed pattern in home furnishings so I am aiming to take my own work in that direction.
Where do you work?
I am lucky enough to rent a tiny studio at Victoria Works Studios in Chalford which is nestled in the Golden Valley near Stroud. It is an inspiring environment in a beautiful place. This is only a recent development however, I moved there last September from the little Blue Shed in my garden at home – hence the name of my business ‘My Blue Shed’! My new studio is certainly an up-grade on my damp old shed and I love it there, although I do miss the little slice of the Cotswolds that is my garden. It is great for me to leave the house and go to work every day – it makes me more efficient and I appreciate home all the more now.
Describe a typical day in your studio
After I have seen my children off to school I head off to the studio and arrive about 8.30am. Each day is different – although they all start with coffee, then it might be carving a new lino block, working on a new design in my sketch book, screen printing a batch of tea towels or cushion covers and ironing prints to fix them…
Then I tend to leave about 3, back in time for the children to re-appear.
How long have you been printmaking?
I began lino printing about 10 years ago. When my children were small it was an ideal hobby which fitted in with life. After a few commissions and stalls at various fairs and markets this has gradually escalated into a little business. I moved on to screen printing about 3 years ago.
What inspires you?
I am strongly influenced by nature and gardens. I love plants and the shapes and colours that nature so cleverly puts together. I used to think I couldn’t design anything without using flowers! As a mum at home with small children, trips to the allotment were frequent so I suppose I have been immersed in this environment for so long that it always finds its way in to my work. I also find pattern in man-made objects and I like to photograph objects like floor tiles, railings, gates and old street lamps while out and about.
What is your favourite printmaking product?
Having re-discovered screen printing I am a big fan of Speedball’s photo screen emulsion kit which works brilliantly with my ‘low-tech’ method.
For printing on fabric I love using Permaset Aqua Screen Printing Ink (it works well for block printing with lino too) when it is heat fixed with an iron it washes and wears really well.
For printing my lino blocks on paper I use Caligo Safe Wash Relief Ink. It is a natural oil based ink and gives a good crisp print even without a printing press. It smells lovely (evocatively taking me straight back to art college) and as an added bonus it washes off equipment with warm soapy water.
What have you made that you are most proud of?
I was so proud of myself when I found I could successfully expose my printing screens at home in a ‘low-tech’ way with a very limited budget and very little space, it really was an exciting moment! I am very proud of the prints I have achieved using this process like my Dodo, Paisley, Bee and Mackerel to name a few. I love the fact that my screen prints almost always begin life as a lino print, where all this began!
Where can we see your work?
Being a self-confessed technophobe my website, which has always been on my ‘to-do’ list is still under construction – soon to be rectified! But I do have an online shop on Folksy and I’m getting pretty good at social media – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
I usually post new work and work in progress straight away on these platforms.
Email me on email@example.com
I also sell locally in shops in Stroud, Gloucestershire and of course I always welcome visitors to my studio.
I teach Lino printing workshops to beginners which is great fun, even people who think they can’t draw and believe themselves not to be artistic go away with something lovely that they have created. It is immensely satisfying to pass on my craft to others.
What will we be seeing from you and your work next?
I am loving printing my designs on fabric, so I will definitely be heading in that direction and developing my range of cushions, tea towels and aprons. I am also planning to make lampshades using my fabrics.It is my ambition to eventually get a bigger space and be able to print with larger screens and longer lengths of fabric. I would love to design gift wrap and who knows maybe one day, wallpapers!
What advice would you give to other creatives and printmakers?
Have faith in what you are doing. Engage with other creatives on social media, it will boost your confidence and reassure you that you are going in the right direction. Until I looked on facebook and twitter for other lino printers I thought I was alone in my obsession, but I was so wrong! There are loads of us out there producing beautiful and inspiring work.
Above all, do what you love doing and don’t give up!
Photography by Britt Willoughby-Dyer and Lizzie Mabley.