I Love Mull

Volunteers MullA few months ago I was asked to design a logo and ID pass for the volunteers on Mull who have been delivering shopping to residents who are unable to do so themselves due to their health or age during the Coronavirus situation. The idea of caring for our community was foremost, and so having Mull in our hearts was the concept for that design. As if by magic, when I looked at the shape of the Isle of Mull, which I had done many times before without noticing, I realised that Mull itself, without too much imagination, fits the contours of a heart, slightly rotated to one side.

Very recently, one of the world’s most inspirational designers, Milton Glaser, died. Most people will not have heard of him, but I think nearly everyone will be familiar with at least one of his designs. The one I am thinking of in particular is the iconic I ❤️ NY design. Glaser provided this design, which he drew in crayon in the back of a cab in 1977, free of charge. The New York State Department of Commerce was trying to reinvigorate the city to encourage tourism and needed to brand their campaign. It was never imagined that the enduring popularity of the design would outlive the campaign by many decades.

In homage to Milton Glaser and following on from my design for the Mull volunteers, I have created a simple new design which will be used on some items of merchandise for sale here on my website and hopefully in other retail spaces on the island in due course. Initially I have had a small run of fridge magnets and car bumper stickers printed, and plans for T-shirts are being made now. If you are interested in retailing any of these items please get in touch.


Rainbow Prints

The rainbow motif is prominent at the moment, representing hope for the future as we all cope with the restrictions that the Coronavirus pandemic puts on us. I recently found a little time to make a few little rainbow linocuts.

I couldn’t resist making my own rainbow print. The print is made up of three overlapping blocks, in red, yellow and blue. Where they overlap the colours blend to make orange and green. Artistic licence allowed me to forget about indigo and violet! The ink took days and days to dry, so I’m just getting round to dealing with them now.

I have given a few prints as gifts, and they have been really well received. As the usual galleries where my work is sold are not open, I’ve added some to my online shop here. If you would like one I can post it out to you, or someone you’d like to gift it to, anywhere in the UK. Prints will be wrapped in a clear envelope with some stiff mount board to protect it from bending. They are priced £20 including postage.

The prints measure 5″ x 7″ and fit in standard off-the-peg frames for that size. There are only 22 rainbow prints in the edition, so once they are gone, they are gone for good! Each print is numbered and signed. Click to go to my shop.



Masked Heroes

Nowhere is escaping the impact of Covid-19, and that includes us here on the Isle of Mull.

I had made some simple masks for the staff in our biscuit factory who are still working, albeit at a lower capacity than normal. The picture above is one of those masks. Word of my industry had spread and I had a phone call before long from our local community trust (MICT) about helping to develop some standby surgical masks for use in the local hospital in the event that they ran out of their own supplies. 

A team of volunteers came together to research the efficacy of various fabrics and designs, and it was decided to opt for a design that would be a pouch to hold a HEPA filter fabric that one of the volunteers had sourced. The masks could therefore be washed and re-used, with the filter later disposed of each time.

I worked over the phone and internet with a lovely lady called Diana who developed the pattern itself. My job was then to make prototype masks and deliver them (at a safe social distance) to a nurse practitioner, who lives near me, for feedback. Three prototypes were made before we got to the final design. Then I had to prepare an instruction sheet for the making up of the masks so that it could be shared with eager volunteers who would sew them in quantity.

Despite my best efforts, I got some panicked messages from some folk who couldn’t quite follow the written and photographed instructions. So yesterday, I persuaded a somewhat grumpy son to video me making a mask every step of the way. I spent a few hours in the edit suite and then posted the results to my husband’s Your Tube account to help matters.

I thought I would share the link to the videos here, in case any of you, anywhere, feel the inclination to make a mask for a hero you know. Someone who is out doing your shopping, or delivering vital supplies in your community. There are a lot of heroes about these days, not just the amazing NHS workers. I am sure you know several!

Remember, masks are not a substitute for regular hand washing and social distancing, which we must all continue to observe. But if more people wear masks, the risk of the virus spreading is reduced. They are more effective at stopping us breathing the infection OUT to other people than at stopping us breathing it IN. Of course if you have symptoms of the Coronavirus you should stay inside!

If you wear one of these masks yourself, wash it at 60ºC after every wear, and use a piece of kitchen paper towel as a filter to improve its barrier.

My obliging husband models one of the prototype masks

You can view the pattern instruction sheet here:
Making a Pouch Face Mask Update


Little Yellow Boat

Making final work today for the Am Birlinn Christmas Craft Fair by printing a small boat linocut. I hope it will be dry by Friday!

The inspiration came from a summertime daytrip to Iona earlier this year. There was an eyecatching bright yellow boat moored on the Mull side of the Iona sound which I thought would look great as a colour print. I had intended to make this for the current exhibition at An Tobar ‘Yellow’, but I just didn’t manage to.

I decided to opt for making a reduction linocut rather than a screenprint as I wanted to develop my skills. Colour linocuts are something I often shy away from and I must try to go beyond my comfort zone.

The trouble with the yellow boat and reduction linocut was that really the yellow wouldn’t work with the process. Generally you work from pale to dark colours, but if I printed yellow all over the block the blues would turn out quite murky and not very vibrant. I could have cut a separate block for the yellow but I was concerned that the registration would be off. I opted to make a stencil for the yellow, where I inked the approximate area of the boat and its reflection only, on the block after I had made the first (white) cuts,  and then used a paper stencil to keep the edges neat. The next stage was a blend for the sea background and a dark blue final layer. I had planned an intermediate colour layer but I decided to change this plan as I could see the print was  going to lose definition when I did the first proof of the mid tone.




By Invitation

My eldest niece is getting married later this summer. I was asked to make her wedding invitations a few months back and was very chuffed to be asked. Chloe wanted something that was special and personal for her and her fiance, Sean. At first Chloe asked me for a what sounded like a simple print on a card, and I was imagining doing a small linocut or screenprint, but things are never as straightforward as they at first seem!

She and Sean are farmers and animal lovers to the core. They work with sheep and have 4 working Border Collies as well as 3 pet dogs, one of whom has amibitions of a working life too. So when the brief began to emerge, of a design comprising both Chloe and her fiancé Sean, some sheep, and all seven dogs I soon realized that a single linocut print with all of these elements would not be feasible within the confines of a postable invitation size!

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_4348Chloe supplied me with endless photos of her dogs, sheep and of herself and Sean. The nicest portrait of the two of them was with a white horse, which then became part of the gang as well. I began sketching the dogs and preparing to make them into linocuts. For each dog I printed a small edition on 5” x 7” paper in black ink. It was lovely to work through all of the dogs and I could see each of their personalities even just from photos. I have met some, but not all, of the dogs which helped a bit, but now they have moved to a different part of Scotland I was confined to working from photos only.

My method was to print a linocut of each dog, two sheep and Chloe, Sean and the pony, then scan the image and then reduce it so I could make a composition of all the animals and people to fit on the 7” square cards I had bought to print onto. I planned to print these on my digital printer.

As well as the images, I worked on the wording and typeface of the invitations which would be on the inside of the cards. Typically, but without knowing, Chloe chose the version in a typeface called ‘Farmer’! It obviously appeals to the farming market!

Once I had arrived at the arrangement that seemed to be the best balanced, and Chloe was happy, I printed a few test cards. They were nice, but I was a little underwhelmed with the result after all the work that I had put into drawing, carving and printing all the linocuts. The digital print was not as nice as the hand made prints. The black wasn’t quite black enough. They looked quite flat.

I was probably being too critical. Chloe would probably have been happy with them as they were. But these were important invitations to be sent out to the whole family and lots of friends. They also represent my work. I wanted them to be the best they could be.

I knew letterpress printing could transform the look.  The debossed prints can be so lovely with such a tactile finish. After a little bit of googling for letterpress printers I made an enquiry with Cotton Letterpress who came back very quickly and enthusiastically. Their work looked good from the pictures on their website and the video of the printing process. I was sold! I knew this would be the way to make the most of the work I’d done and give Chloe & Sean some invitations they could be really proud of. Soon we had finalized the optimum size and agreed a price to print the final number of cards, printed on 2 sides. We just had to wait while they were printed and posted out to us.

On the mantlepiece
Look at that gorgeous texture!
Pride of place

I am really delighted with them, and I hope Chloe, Sean and their guests will be too. Now I just need to find something to wear for the big day!

I can be commissioned to create invitations for your event. Get in touch to discuss your requirements.

There are a small number of limited edition doggie linocuts available to purchase at Calgary Arts and The Glass Barn at Isle of Mull Cheese. You can get a lovely lunch in both places.