Meet the Maker: Melanie WickhamPosted on 23rd March 2021
Tell us about your business, what is it you do and how did you get into it?
I make limited edition lino prints of dancing rabbits, pot plants, favourite places of mine and naughty dogs. Sometimes they end up as tea towels, totes and greetings cards too.
I studied Illustration at UWE, Bristol and as I left was mainly working with printmaking. Without much money to get set up when I graduated Lino Printing proved the perfect way to make limited edition artwork without needing a studio or lots of equipment. Luckily for me a couple of galleries were happy to stock my early lino prints (they were pretty terrible!) and were really encouraging and so I have been lino printing ever since. It is a brilliant medium for me to translate my ideas into artwork and share them with others via shops and galleries and online stores.
What do you find the most and least rewarding aspects of being your own boss?
The most rewarding is coming up with ideas for new lino prints – often slightly eccentric ideas – and then finding brilliant, supportive customers who love them and also find them funny – yay.
The least rewarding aspect is having to do all the different jobs of running a business as a one person show – some jobs are definitely less fun than others, but I have usually got myself organised enough to keep up with it all (sometimes I do find myself absentmindedly drawing bad cats instead though…)
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love being outside, whether it is sitting in our back garden or going off an a big walk or at the sea. This year of on-off lockdowns has given me a chance to re-organise the allotment that I took on when my now teenagers were babies – changing the layout around, more no-dig beds, more fruit and also one end is turning into an edible hedgerow to add to the local wildlife habitat but also give us rose-hips etc to ‘forage’ from our own mini-hedgerow. It’s a great project to get stuck into.
Can you talk us through your making process from start to finish? How does each of your pieces come to be?
Once I have come with an idea for a new lino print and drawn it out I trace it onto a linoleum block (in reverse…) and then using cutting tools carve the design into the block.
Any areas that I want to stay white/un-printed need to be cut away. When it is ready i then lightly roll a thin layer of ink onto the lino block using a rubber roller. I then place a sheet of printmaking paper gently on top and using a special boxwood burnishing tool I rub the back of the paper, making sure to press on all of the areas of the lino block with ink on. Then I peel it back and get to see if it has worked…
I lino print limited editions, so I repeat the inking and burnishing of the block until I have the right number and they are all left to dry for a couple of days before being numbered, titled and signed. I am printing at home at the moment so there are lino prints drying everywhere. Some designs are easy to print and others require a bit of time and extra effort to get a good print from the lino block, they really make you work for it!
Then they are ready to send out – as a lot of my customers are now online I wrap them up in tissue with a hand printed gift card and some sturdy mount board backing to help keep the print flat. My neighbours also now bring me all of their cardboard from deliveries as I try to use all recycled materials and paper tape for my packaging so my hallway is always filled with boxes 🙂
Each of your designs is unique and original – how do you sustain that diversity? What inspires you?
I love using sketchbooks, both for realistic drawing and also doodling and scribbling funny phrases or things I have seen or children have said, or a lyric from a song etc. Three eared rabbits, flocks of starlings, retching dogs, people in cafes… Often these drawings don’t look promising and go off on some funny tangents but some evolve into ideas for lino prints, often a long time later – my latest big lino print ‘Hedge’ evolved from a much smaller one that I made a few years ago, but the idea has been refining itself in my mind all of that time.