CORNWALL ARTISTS: WOODCUTTER ANGELA ANNESLEY
Being inspired by poetry to create visual works is a dangerous business – but for a visual artist who has spent her professional life working with word, it is incredibly successful.
I have always had a fascination with etchings,’ says Angela Annesley, who has launched her new studio Ravenstongue. Even as a teenager I was drawn to the detail of them. I bought an etching press with my first pay packet when I was 23. It was only a table top one, but it was extremely heavy - which didn't help when I had to take it home on the bus!’ Since then Angela has produced etchings in her own time, while following a career in journalism – latterly a lecturer at Falmouth University teaching writing and film journalism. My heart has always been with printmaking,’ she admits. Even though I've spent most of my professional life working with words.’
A house move which provided a spare-room-come-studio space – and that well-known online auction site provided the A1 sized press made by an engineer from Perranporth for his printmaker wife.’ It's an industrial work of art and was obviously made with love,’ says Angela. Which makes it all the more exciting to use and own.’ The press had to be dismantled and reconstructed in my studio.
Most of my previous work has been very small scale, but the press inspired me to try something a big bigger,’ she explains. The process is very addictive. I don't think my approach is very orthodox and might not please purists. Traditionally, woodcuts are planned meticulously because the woods can be very expensive and it's hard to rectify any mistakes, but I prefer a looser approach. I experiment rather than plan, which I find very exciting.
The process of revealing the print – peeling the paper off the top – is always magical. My work evolves on the wood so I never really know how it will print. The process of printmaking is very satisfying, and unlike etching, I find that woodcuts give you a very tactile relationship with your piece of wood or board, and it's a very physical experience.’
Angela partners each of her prints with a fragment of poetry that reflects its spirit. Lone Wolf, for example, comes with a fragment from Robert Frost:
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But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep
The words help to interpret the print and bring out the feelings that it evokes in me, and hopefully anyone looking at it’
Angela is now planning a book of original poetry and prints with my sister, Sarah, who lives near Falmouth.
So how is this ancient artwork created? I draw out the main components of the design and start cutting with my gouge tool, a chisel with a curved cutting edge, straight away. The gouge is used to scoop out little strips of the wood, which will then be white in the printed image. Any areas you leave will take the ink and print; it's the opposite of an etching, where the areas you remove are the areas that print. There are lots of woodcut tools, but a gouge leaves a great texture behind it, as little ridges take up the ink when you print.
Once the design has been cut into your wood (not forgetting that the image will be reversed when you print it), you roll out your ink on a piece of glass using a soft rubber roller and transfer an even layer of ink to your woodcut. You then lay it carefully on your press, place the paper on the top and roll it through your press
You are aiming to produce an edition of prints so each one needs to be printed and inked in the same way, then numbered and signed. Although they are all the same, the prints are also all different. The patina of the ink is different on each one, and sometimes you get little imperfections from dust on the surface. These aren't digital prints, they are all unique and all flawed in their own delicious way. I love this about handmade prints.