For quite some time I approached the idea of printmaking with my younger classes with a degree of trepidation. The bottles of sticky ink, the messy sheets for rolling out the ink on, the pupils walking around with their inked-up lino blocks and all the sheets of printed images lying around the room. Potentially there is so much that can go wrong. And it is exactly that which was making me nervous. An understandable worry perhaps, when it is room of thirty 13 year olds that you are working with.
But I’ve got over it, it seems I didn’t need to worry. The strategy is simple, clear instructions and a good demonstration of the various steps. But perhaps above all it seems, explaining that I am a bit nervous about the lessons ahead and asking the class to prove to me that I didn’t need to worry.
After that I step back and watch. Of course, I am on hand to help with technical problems and advice on how to get the best results. But perhaps simply because of the necessary classroom mobility that is needed, there is actually a tremendous amount of helping and learning from one another go on.
As I stand in the corner of the room watching it really does look pretty chaotic, but look again, there is also order and organization as twenty-five to thirty pupils busy themselves with the steps through the process: the designing and drawing, the cutting of the lino, the inking up, the printing, the washing of the block, more cutting, a second colour of inking and printing, the list goes on!
Each step brings extra knowledge, insight and understanding. Each printing moment brings that exciting moment of the reveal of the printed new printed image.
Why did I have to worry? Sometimes I wonder, especially as I gather the work of the class together at the end of our series of lessons. Each pupil has made a series of two colour prints and added to this in the last session we made a large group work using single colour prints made in a grid formation. I’m left feeling happy and the children perhaps ever so slightly amazed at what they have made…….although most of them find it fairly difficult to admit it!