ArtistsWood

Plywood lapwings take flight!

Plywood lapwings take flight!

My name is Kate Millbank, and I’m a printmaker and designer. I contacted Jane at LaserFlair to help me make a range of plywood birds on which I could print some lino print designs. Jane was amazingly helpful. Following the success of my first bird design ‘flying geese’, I have returned to seek Jane’s assistance in producing a second bird to add to the flock.

Coastal inspiration

I am lucky enough to live near Aberlady Bay in East Lothian, with its diverse population of coastal birds. It’s a constant source of inspiration. You only have to walk down to the shore to see oyster catchers with their bright orange beaks, wading redshanks, curlews and lapwings. Thousands of pink footed geese arrive every autumn.

I chose to base my second bird design on the lapwing. Its distinctive head crest and bold feather patterns would make an ideal subject to recreate in print and birch ply.

Cutting the lino for artwork creation
Cutting the lino for artwork creation

Planning my lapwing design

I wanted the lapwing design to be similar in size to the flying geese so that both designs of bird have the potential to hang together. When considering the size of the birds, not only did I need to make sure they were a suitable size for displaying in the home, I also had to take into account the dimensions of the plywood sheets. I wanted to maximise the amount of birds that I could cut from each sheet, keeping the production costs of each bird to a minimum.

Once I was happy with the silhouette of the lapwing, I scanned it. Using Adobe Illustrator, I created a vector based file that the laser cutter would be able to read.

Checking the lapwing print against the ply cut out
Checking the lapwing print against the ply cut out

Finding the right printing technique

Next I designed, cut and printed the lino print to give the lapwing some distinctive markings and feather patterns. I love the bold and slightly naive impression lino prints create, and I wanted to use this style of print for the lapwings.

Having tried to print directly from lino onto ply when developing the goose design, I realised this was not going to work well. The ink tended to bleed into the grain of the ply. It was also a very time consuming process. Being a mum with two small boys, time is the one thing I don’t have a lot of! If I wanted to produce and sell these at an affordable price, I needed a different solution.

This is when I discovered The Print Block. It was a breakthrough to realise that my lino print artwork could be screen printed. This technique works beautifully for printing onto plywood. I also found the prospect of working with another small and exceptionally talented UK based business very exciting.

Creating a file ready for screen printing
Creating a file ready for screen printing

The moment of truth

With the artwork completed, all I needed to do was wait to see my completed product. When the parcel arrived at my studio a few weeks later, I was delighted to see how wonderful the lapwings looked. It is very exciting to think that the plywood birds I sold are making their own migration across the UK. They’re laser cut in Fife, screen printed in Kent, and then they fly off to their new homes. Feedback to date has been overwhelmingly positive and I’m already having to cut and print a second run!

The lapwings and geese can be purchased from my online shop and are also available from two galleries in East Lothian, Norden in North Berwick and The Found Gallery, Dunbar.