Linocut Printmaking 101: My Story

linocut printmaking 101 my story

Growing up I never considered myself an artist. But looking back now I see that I was surrounded by makers and was one myself. My mother is an artist, a painter, and also spent hours making handmade dolls and other crafty things. My grandmother was an excellent seamstress and entered her crocheted afghans in the county fair for years. I even remember my grandfather, who was a lovable but ornery bear of a man, once sitting and making a giant latch hook of a native american chief. I spent my free time doing cross stitch, latch hook, and baking. When I took art in high school and college, my teachers told me that I should be an art major, but I thought nothing of it. I was a math and science geek! Numbers, spreadsheets and todo lists were a few of my favorite things. 

vegetable garden

In 2007, I had two small children at home, a part-time (numbers) job, and kept myself busy with projects - painting rooms in the house, gardening, baking and sometimes doing a bit of an art project. I first noticed the art of block printing when I saw the gorgeous wallpaper designs of Galbraith and Paul in a magazine. I picked up a beginner set of carving tools and lino and made cards for my family. I found that carving lino blocks in the evenings after my kids were tucked into bed was a great way to relax; the work of carving things away is almost meditative. I soon began to print more than I could keep and began to sell my work.

linocut printed goods by samantha hirst

My first collection of items for sale was small and simple: tea towels, Inky (a sachet for stinky sock drawers), rice pillows for sore muscles. The prints I carved were inspired by the flowers and plants in my yard, and the items I made were things I wanted and could use at home. The sparks of ideas I had were just enough to get my work featured on some big-name blogs - Design*Sponge, Sfgirlbybay, Swiss Miss, back in the days when a simple email and not-too-terrible photos were enough to get noticed on the internet. Over time I grew my collection, and sold my work at Renegade craft fair, which led to wholesale orders from small boutiques around the country, and I got busy!

hand printed growth chart by samantha hirst

When I created a simple, modern growth chart, I had no idea how many of them I would end up sewing and it still puts a giant smile on my face to think of the kids growing up around the world keeping track of their years with my work. By 2013 I had calluses on my hands from all of the places where my sewing scissors touched them, and I'd become much more a seamstress than a printmaker. It was time for me to slow down. I decided to refocus on the art of printmaking, and since then have been developing my skills as a linocut printmaker.

maidenhair fern linocut print by samantha hirst

My work now is inspired by the things I see - mostly botanicals, but also the occasional everyday object. I am a self-taught printmaker which brings with it a certain amount of freedom from expectations. My linocuts tend to be more modern and clean than other work I see, with my inspiration coming from line drawing and illustration, rather than historical printmaking. The process of trying new ideas, failing, and then trying again can be long but is ultimately rewarding (and fun!). Beginning or ending my days carving a lino block or testing a new block with ink and paper is a calm, slow space in my day, and I'm excited to share that process with you. 

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing much more about my specific printmaking process. Whether you are curious about my work, or are interested in learning more so that you can make your own prints, I will be glad to see you here!