Course Programme Diaries • Letterpress and Calligraphy

As part of our programme of lettering events throughout March, from the 9th – 11th March 2022,
The Art of Letterpress course with Ellen Bills and Nick Hand of The Letterpress Collective, as well as our Copperplate Calligraphy course with Meticulous Ink on the afternoon of the 11th, took place here at Clayhill Arts.

Day 1

During the Art of Letterpress course, Ellen talked our participants through a brief history of letterpress, accompanied by old picture books for examples. They were taken through how the variety of tools and processes come together to create unique and intricate lead and wood type designs. 

Ellen and Nick started the course off with a group activity; everyone was given a line from The Wurzle’s song “Good Old Somerset”. The participants handpicked letters to complete their phrases – slowly and delicately, it all came together to produce a beautiful letterpress printed rendition of the song.

The group were fed a beautifully presented and delicious lunch of roasted sweet potato with salad, grown and picked from Clayhill’s very own Walled Garden, to fuel their bellies ready for an afternoon of learning! After lunch, the group were introduced to the Adana presses – Adana Printing Machines were manufactured from 1922 to 1999 in Twickenham and is one of the most popular letterpress presses worldwide. This was definitely reflected in the workshop, as the Adana prints were on the go for the rest of the afternoon, mass-producing a variety of beautiful prints, created by the participants.

At the end of day 1, the group were set (optional) homework; given a square of lino, cutting tools and tracing paper to then go home (or back to their en-suite accommodation, for those who stayed with us) and make their own lino-print design, to bring in the next day to test them out!

Day 2

Feeling inspired after day 1, the participants were full of ideas (as well as tea, coffee and Letter-shaped biscuits) and raring to get on the presses. 

The second day was about the participant’s own individual projects – talking to Nick and Ellen through their ideas and how to achieve them. Nick and Ellen were always on hand to guide and support the participants and to encourage their ideas; wanting everyone’s project and vision to be successful; something they could take away and be proud of.

The support and encouragement also came from the participants – showing their work to each other and also helping one another, from mixing the ink to reminding and showing others how to use the Adana presses and other tools. 

During this course, there was always something to do, which kept the hustle and bustle of the studio thriving and buzzing with creativity. Clayhill’s resident artist Emma Housley put together a Lee Krasner quote around her existing artwork; seeing the two art forms of painting and letterpress come together felt like a happy marriage (or an “act of love”!).

Gemma Trickey created an intricate lino-print design, which complimented her “work with your hands” posters beautifully. Rachel Rogers, Ava Reeves, Cara Jackson and Jayde Elliott transformed their poetry using a mixture of lead and wood type and Bridgwater College student Jess Collins cleverly incorporated letterpress and lino-printing into her own college work, emphasising the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nick and Ellen are incredibly patient teachers and all round good eggs. They looked after us by day, and in turn we were all looked after by Deborah and Michael who own and run Clayhill Arts. The vibe here is one of being at the heart of a big arty family who care about a. your artistic development as well as b. feeding you to bursting with homecooked and homegrown seasonal cuisine.
Gemma Trickey

It was fascinating to see how everyone interpreted letterpress and even though the participants were using the same tools, materials and inks, all of the work created was so unique and also personal to each individual.

Everyone said how nostalgic the course made them feel – like being back at school; having fun experimenting with equipment and supplies – just being around friends and good company.

Clayhill is set up to run craft based workshops. The rooms are super comfortable. Deborah is a super talented chef (very good food all week). I can’t tell you how great it is and I’m sure it will become an important part of the art and craft landscape. Please take a look at their programme. If you need a break from the world, I’m going to say along with ffforest in West Wales, there is nowhere better.

The Letterpress Collective

Day 3

Day 3 was a shorter day, as the Clayhill Arts team were getting ready for the Copperplate Calligraphy course with Athena Cauley-Yu of Meticulous Ink.

During the morning session, the Letterpress participants finalised their projects and started packing up – making sure the lead and wood type, rollers and presses were cleansed from ink, all letters were returned to their rightful type cases and the work created was collected by their rightful owners. The participants also did a small “show and tell” so that they could all look at what they created over the 3 days – some gifts were also exchanged so that they could remember this experience and the friendships made along the way.

What a great course. Loved the whole experience, the gorgeous people, tutors, food, ambience… And came away with so many ideas and really inspired!
Ava Reeves

Afternoon Copperplate Calligraphy Course

As the Letterpress course was coming to an end, Athena set up the tools of her trade in the Granary; having the long table in a different area of Clayhill made for a more intimate workshop and a very relaxed environment for learning about Copperplate Calligraphy!

The workshop with Athena was very chilled out and calming; with the meditative motions of gliding the calligraphy pen and ink across the paper and with everyone concentrating on perfecting their letters and technique, the afternoon flew by, but at the end of the day everyone had completed their calligraphy alphabet as well as writing their name on a place card.

The participants left with the pen and ink that they used in the workshop, to carry on practicing calligraphy at home and to develop their writing skills further.

Seeing our tutors and participants in our buildings is such a heartwarming moment for us and seeing creatives thriving, making, experimenting and networking is what we’ve been looking forward to for many years and has made the wait all worthwhile.

From us at Clayhill Arts, we just wanted to thank everyone who was involved and also to thank you for using our spaces at Clayhill; seeing our 2022 course programme in full swing is so exciting.

We can’t wait to see where your practice takes you, so make sure to keep in touch and tag us on socials (@clayhillarts) in anything you create! We’d love to follow you along in your journey!⁠

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