Lichen letters – hand-made book


Printmaking has always been an important part of my artistic life, and after a break of a couple of years, I am printing again. I started without a particular plan in mind, except that I probably wouldn’t be aiming for making editions that would be framed and hung on a wall, but something more three-dimensional and one-off.

The initial plate was a drypoint, which is made by scratching marks on an acrylic sheet, then inked up and printed on a press. It is not easy to control the marks, so my intention was for fairly random, irregular marks. The inspiration came from a black and white printout of a photo I took of lichen on rocks.

The plate was overprinted twice on both sides of a sheet of heavy printmaking paper, using earthy colours, turning the plate around each time to intensify and layer the marks. I prepared another plate with an image inspired by a seed head from a flax plant, used that for overprinting, and incorporated more small images from etching plates I had made some time ago. In the end I had several sheets of printed paper, so the next stage was to work out how to use them.

After trimming down the first piece, I cut it in half horizontally then joined it with an off cut to make a long narrow strip. Once the glue was dry, I folded it to an 8 page concertina, and started cutting. There were numerous possible approaches I had in mind for the next step, but was open to taking unexpected paths that came to me as I worked. Strips were cut and wrapped around a pencil to form a curl, more windows were cut and filled with other print images, attached in a range of different ways. I decided I didn’t want to glue anything as it was too final, so all the loose pieces were held in place by strips inserted into slots or notches, decisions forced by the way that each piece fell. I tried to vary and echo imagery within the resultant windows. The small pieces tucked in the windows reminded me of letters, so I decided to call the book ‘Lichen Letters’.

Below are more views of the completed piece.

Lichen_letters2web Lichen_letters4web Lichen_letters5web Lichen_letters8web

Each page is 9 x 12 cm, so the book when flattened out is 72 x 12 cm

Author: anna warren portfolio

I draw, I paint, I am a printmaker. Always searching for the interesting detail in the world around me.

31 thoughts

  1. I have only one thing to say, more pictures please, I want to see more and in closer detail. There is so much here I want to pick up the book at look at it. Just lovely work Anna, the prints are great and thanks for sharing the process, then you make it into this quirky little book full of details, just beautiful. If this is your printmaking keep it coming. Karen


    1. This was a really tricky one to photograph Karen – I’m pleased that people have been able to get a bit of a sense of it, but yes, really you need to hold it in your hands to see all its elements! I must say I am loving doing this – in the past my prints have been very tight and controlled, these are much much random, I am just enjoying lucky accidents in the way the colours and marks work together. Thank you for such a wonderful response!


  2. This is a beautiful object both in 2-D and 3-D, and your techniques are inspiring. Craft and artistry in one gorgeous project…


  3. Call me biased but the very first thing which came to my mind when seeing these pictures was a Japanese aesthetic.
    So much which is Japanese seems to contain panels – whether screens, tatami mats and even kimono (with their panel-like obi). This work is so subtle – and complicated and simple at the very same time. The colours remind me of earthenware.


    1. I can see exactly what you mean, and I agree, there is a Japanese quality to this book. I love the idea of the screens and panels, the tatami matting, they resonate with this piece. Paper is a material I very much associate with Japan too. Thanks for your insight!


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