There is something exciting and intriguing about not being able to predict a result of something even though you’re in control entirely. One can employ printmaking craft skills and follow a tried and trusted process but if the materials vary even slightly and are not uniform, the precise outcome can only be guessed at.
Take the traditional letterpress printmaking process for instance involving wood, oil and paper: the wood finish may never be quite the same, the oil source or consistency may vary and the paper – well the paper can differ in so many ways. Source material, density, finish to name but three. It’s everything Xerox isn’t and anathema to mass production. A craft, yes, but also an inexact science.
In Elspeth’s work, she has set out to explore a range of permutations and materials within the 2D and 3D environment; the pieces produced are not meant to be results but an expression of a process of inquiry. She has been investigating the anatomy of letterforms and working with plaster, plastics and paper structures and combining these with the letterpress print process. The natural properties of paper give me opportunities to manipulate shapes and structures that in turn become more three dimensional in quality and sculptural in nature. In addition, the experimental quality of letterpress printmaking plays an essential role in the process and adds an exciting random element as only a small number of prints are successful.
New technologies can be put to use through the investigation of individual font design altering shapes and forms where appropriate. Designs are further exploited through the translation of the woodblock as they evolve into more traditional and recognisable letterforms found within the letterpress environment. Allowing mistakes to happen and not being unnerved by the element of chance is central to the development of the design. The serendipity or ‘happenstance’ is where the aesthetic process begins to form and emerge. A trans-disciplinary approach to the design development, employing traditional and contemporary processes allows the work to interact almost instinctively with the media and materials.
Looking closely at form, capturing the moment when the paper emerges as a structure, when the paper transforms into paper porcelain, when the letters evolve into structures – these moments of revelation are what the designs intend to harness. The results could be described as jottings as they are never intended to become final outcomes nor finished articles: just a snapshot of the moment. So the chance marks, letter parts, hints of paper edges and shadows that come about accidentally are to be celebrated. The imperfections are what make the pieces interesting and the accidental takes precedence over the considered.
2014-2016 Issue Press, Artist Book of Printmakers
2007 Conversations, experimental typography book
2000 Artists Newsletter
1999 News from Somewhere
“Flora and Fauna” Bluecoat, Liverpool
Institute of Physics, Portland Place, London, Latitude 67
Comme Ca Gallery Manchester
Abbot Hall Art Gallery
Review Artists Newsletter
The Mall Galleries, London