The Valentina Experiment


That’s Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. It is, really, and you definitely don’t need to do anything like finding photographs of Tereshkova to compare it to so you can check. I made this linocut print as the latest in my attempt to make a print a week and then post it on Twitter on a Monday. Don’t check against a photo, really. I have my own hashtag and everything (#linomondays) and though it is wrong and bad of me I’m a bit glad that no one else thinks that doing the same is a good idea because it makes it easier for me to find all of my linocut tweets. I’ve also just started putting all of my lino pictures in an album in Flickr

I am struggling not to strike a cap-doffing, ever-so-‘umble, crawling tone here because I know it isn’t attractive, but if it isn’t obvious (it is) I have no artistic training.  Well, I mean, I went on a one-Sunday course at the amazing Thames Barrier Print Studios to learn the basics of linocut. Here’s a brief explanation of the linocut process by a proper printmaker, if you’re interested. Since then I’ve found doing this really satisfying – I’ve already written here about my belief that the more things you know how to make the more at home you are in the world – but I think I know why this suits me so well. My drawing has always been tentative and I tend to rework the same line over and over and over till I get it right. This means that my drawings are a smudgy horrible mess, but if I’m going to print that doesn’t matter because I can pick the line I eventually land upon and carve that out of the lino. Once the drawing bit’s done, all that’s left is the cutting, and that’s a task that seems to need just the right amount of attention to be relaxing.

So Valentina here took me about 2 and a half days, and I was quite pleased with her, particularly as this was the first print that I made where I was happy with how the colour lined up.  I thought I’d try an experiment:

Here’s what I learnt:

  • They went quickest to people I know and like and spend time with. I imagine this is the equivalent of ‘yeah, you’re funny enough to make your friends down the pub laugh but probably not funny enough to be a stand-up comedian’
  • Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were a couple of people who’d never heard of me who wanted a copy and just as pleasing were the people retweeting to get the message out.
  • There is no way not to feel daft and presumptuous as you are signing and numbering prints if you are just an idiot who has hacked something together at her dining table:IMG_2417
  • There was absolutely no dissent to my For Tha Gurlz framing of this. But I ended up feeling guilty about some going to young girls I know who have brothers so next week’s lino Monday will feature some dinosaur bones.
  • It really is rewarding and pleasing to give things away, and prints are nice for this because compared to, say, hand-knitted jumpers they’re not as big an investment of time and in this case I knew ahead of time whether the recipient wanted it or not. It is nice to think of things you’ve made being out there in the world.
  • of course I should say that people who actually know how to do this – people in possession of skill and training and dedication – should be paid for their work. I hope I am more dilettante than Art Scab, but it’s not something I will make a habit of.  In the meantime, in the unlikely (stop it) event that you ever want a copy of something you see me tweeting, you might as well ask.
  • It’s made me think that I would really love to take part in a local handmade swap, and I might put some thought into organising this once winter’s over and everyone’s in a better mood.
  • I love Valentina, but she is beginning to haunt me now:

I’m drawing a line under this experiment now because frankly it’s undignified to beg people to take things you’ve made off you, but I gave away 9 of the 10 (get in touch if you want the 10th, mind).  The posted ones went off yesterday, and I’m a bit nervous that the new owners won’t like them as much once they see them in the flesh, but I have at least one promise of a picture of a picture on a wall.  I hope they bring the recipients luck if not inspiration, but preferably both.


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