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Paper-works* @ The Ness

Paper-works* led  two free workshops for The Ness project at unit 22 The Britten Centre.

Participants were invited to two separate printmaking workshops. In the morning Linocut and in the afternoon Drypoint.

Within each 3 hour workshop participants were given instruction to create and print their own prints in each technique. The results were brilliant!

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Paper-works* @ First Light

Paper-works* led Cyanotype workshops at the First Light Festival on Lowestoft Beach on the 23rd and 24th of June

Participants were invited to make prints using driftwood and sunlight using paper treated with iron salts.  Operating from a beach hut on the beach the workshops werw provided from 12noon til 5pm on the Saturday and from 8pm til 12 noon on the Sunday.

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Paper-works* @ The Scores

Paper-works* working with Hilary Barry led a full day linocut course as part of the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust Scores Project in Lowestoft.

Participants were invited to explore the Scores making sj=ketches and then return to the Lowestoft Heritage Centre to develop their designs into unique linocut prints.

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Exploring Ferric Chloride Etching

The ethos of paper-works* is to use low tech, low impact techniques so we were immediately drawn to avoid the strong acids, organic solvents etc used in traditional etching processes . Reading around the subject the use of a Ferric Chloride solution to etch copper plates seems like the way to go.

Advantages of ferric chloride

Ferric Chloride has immediate advantages. It is a salt rather than an acid. It is a less noxious chemical to have in the studio than an acid. However it still needs to be treated with care!. Also when etching copper it produces no gaseous by products so fume extraction is not an issue. It can also produce a good quality clean etch. However it has suffered a couple of drawbacks which has limited its use historically as an etching medium. Namely the slow speed of etch and the way that the sludge that develops as a by product can inhibit the etching process.

At its simplest a copper plate can be etched in a shallow tray of a ferric chloride solution. Occasional agitation of the tray will help move the sludge out of the way of the etching process. The etch can be achieved but it is slow. The slowness of the etch increases the chances of breakdown of the resists used in the etching process resulting in etching of the copper plate in areas that it is not wanted.

A better etching tank

Electronics enthusiasts have used ferric chloride as a means of etching copper circuit boards for many decades. Their approach to improving the etching process has been to develop vertical tanks rather than horizontal trays and to equip them with aquarium style air bubblers to provide constant agitation and aquarium heaters to speed up the etching reaction. We have looked at a number of such tanks and opted for the “Velleman ET20 etching tank” which complete with air bubbler and heater can be purchased for as little as £90. It is capable of accepting plates up to 300mm x 200mm.

Ferri chloride etch tank

A better etching solution

Printmakers have meanwhile adopted a differing approach to improving ferric chloride etching by experimenting with the solution itself. The result has been the “Edinburgh etch” a combination of controlling the strength of the ferric chloride and adding citric acid to obtain an etching solution which both acts faster and minimises the production of sludge.

To progress our experiments we have decided to go for the combination of the improved tank system tank and the improved etching solution.

Acrylic resists

The other element in copper plate etching is of course the resists being used. Again our desire for a low tech, noxious free approach led us straight to acrylic based resists. Acrylic resists can be quite simple from the use of acrylic based floor varnishes to a variety of proprietary acrylic resist systems. For our initial experiments we have opted to test Lascaux acrylic resists which come in a wide variety to provide hard ground, soft ground and aquatint style formulations. The full set are obtainable as a relatively modestly priced boxed set of nine 85ml bottles obtainable for around £60.

Chemical Disposal

Edinburgh etch solution is reported to remain potent for up to a year even with regular use but at some point it will need to be replaced. Unwanted Edinburgh etch should be disposed of appropriately. The following advice was obtained from MG Chemicals website

“The solution must not be put down the drain because of residual copper ions left in it. To make it safe for disposal, you can add sodium carbonate (washing soda) or sodium hydroxide to it to neutralize it, until the pH value goes up to between 7.0 and 8.0, testing it with indicator paper. Copper will be deposited as a sludge. Allow the sludge to settle, pour off the liquid, further dilute it with water and then it can be poured down the drain. Collect the sludge in plastic bags and dispose of it as required by your local waste authority”.

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Pinhole Cameras on the Market

There are a wide range of pinhole cameras available on the market. They can be a useful guide to selecting appropriate sizes of focal length and pinhole size for making your own. Here is a selection grouped together by the size of the film/paper.

8″ x 10″ 

Zero 810, 80mm focal length, 0.35mm pinhole

Zero 810, 160mm focal length, 0.5mm pinhole

ONDU, 130mm focal length , 0.5mm pinhole

Lensless Camera Co. 150mm focal length, (pinhole dia unknown)

5″ x 7″

ONDU, 97mm focal length, 0.4mm pinhole

Lensless Camera Co. 125mm focal length, (pinhole dia unknown)

4″ x 5″

Ilford Obscura, 87mm focal length., 0.35mm pinhole

ONDU 65mm focal length, 0.35mm pinhole

Lensless Camera Co. 75mm focal length (pinhole dia unknown)

Harman Titan 72mm focal length, 0.35mm pinhole

120 Film, 2 3/8″ x 2 3/8″ 

Nopo 120, 35mm focal length, 0.25mm pinhole

ONDU 6×6 25mm focal length, 0.2mm pinhole

35mm film

Zero 135, 25mm focal length, 0.18mm pinhole

Lerouge 26mm focal length, 0.2mm pinhole


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Hand printed edition from an antique woodblock

paper-works* was recently been commissioned to create an edition from an original antique woodblock. The woodblock, thought to date from the early 19th century, was of substantial size and thickness. It remains true and flat so with careful adjustment, a thick blanket and a flexible pressure plate the block was carefully passed though our large manual press . The resulting prints reveal a delicacy and fine detail in stark contrast to the dark heavy nature of the block itself. Using our  water washable vegetable oil based inks the block was cleaned with vegetable oil only to avoid moisture movement in the block

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Dry Point Day Course at the Fisher Theatre


On the last day of our exhibition at the Fisher Theatre we held a dry point day course in the Gallery space. Following on from other events held away from our studio we’re getting quite used to providing a portable printmaking experience.

Our participants had a very productive day and printed great work. Many thanks to everybody who came along and to Nicholas, Leila and all the staff at the Fisher for making it happen.





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Paper-works* print exhibition at the Fisher Theatre

Exhibition at the Fisher Theatre ends 25th August

An exhibition of works on paper by Lisa Hurcum and Hugh Davies. Working individually they share a wide ranging exploration of techniques in their printmaking studio in Lowestoft. Lisa’s work takes inspiration both from her writing and the domestic realm. Hugh’s architects training fuels his interest in space and form in marine, urban and architectural environments.

The exhibition space includes- the Café, the Ramp & the Gallery.

Entry to the exhibition is free and it can be viewed between the hours of 10am and 3pm Monday to Saturday, and again from 6pm on show nights. Occasionally the gallery may be in use and not open for viewing. If you are travelling any distance please call the Box Office: 01986 897130 to check availability..

Prints are available for sale at the exhibition.


Trawl dock linocut


Fisher Theatre, Bungay, Suffolk



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Linocut at Fisher Arts and Social

Another great morning today with all the folks at Fisher Arts and Social Club

We brought our press along again, this time to do linocut printing. After a quick demonstration of the technique everybody got stuck in. Two hours later all the folks had finished their designs and printed off at least two prints!

Many thanks to Sophie for inviting us back and to all the participants who made it so enjoyable.

To find out more see their Facebook page

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Make your own Pinhole Camera

A brief guide to making your pinhole camera, taking your photo and developing it!

Not sure what pinhole photography is then read this

You will need:

General Materials: a light tight container, black paper or paint, aluminium foil black electrical insulating tape.

Tools:  a pin or a fine 0.3mm drill, knife/scissors/ paint brush, a measuring jug.

Darkroom:  Any room where you can successfully provide full blackout . A photographic darkroom safelight, 3 shallow trays a bucket of water and a length of chord and some clothes pegs to allow your prints to dry.

Photographic chemicals:  ( Harman Direct Positive paper, Neutol Eco Developer, Citiric acid, Adofix plus Fixative.

Optional extras: Pinhole Master for IOS  or Pocket Light Meter (iOS & Android)

Making your pinhole camera

1) Select a light tight box or tin

2) Use black paint or black paper to cover internal surfaces of container to minimise reflections.

3) Create your pinhole. If using a tin use a 0.3mm micro drill bit in a small hand held modelmakers drill. If using a cardboard box make a hole in a piece of aluminium foil with a pin or small needle. Then use black insulation tape to stick the aluminium foil over a small hole cut into the box.  ( NB after making your hole use a small piece of emery paper to remove any metal burr from the reverse side.

4) Make your exposure control using a small flap of cardboard using Black insulating tape as hinge and a separate piece to act as a means of securing your exposure flap in the closed position.

5) Choose how you will secure your photographic paper in the camera. It can be as simple as strips of self adhesive tape or use some card to make some retaining slots that you can slide your photographic paper into.

6) On our courses we have chosen to use Harman Direct positive paper. This is a black and white paper which avoids the need for an intermediate film negative. The ISO speed of the paper is about 1 to 3.

6) Go into your darkroom and using a low wattage photographic safelight put a single sheet of photographic paper into your camera. ( keep your paper at least 3feet from your safelight to avoid fogging the paper) Make sure that you put the paper in the right way round. (Most photographic papers have a glossy coating on the light sensitive side).

7) Before leaving the darkroom make sure that your exposure control flap is securely closed and the box is light tight. Use black insulating tape to seal up any opening edges.

Taking your pinhole photograph

1) Set up your pinhole camera so that it is pointing at the scene you wish to photograph. Avoid trying to hold it steady yourself as the exposure times are long and you will inevitably blur the image . The angle of view of your camera will depend on the shape of the box and in particular the size of the photographic paper and its distance from the pinhole. Once you have taken your first photo you will get an ida about how to arange your camera.  (The likelihood is that the pinhole camera will capture a much wider angle view than you at first anticipate )

2) Getting your exposure time right can be by

a) Trial and error!

b) Rule of thumb guides or

c) pinhole exposure apps.

Rule of thumb guides that come with Harman Direct positive paper suggest the following:

Bright sunshine  (summer) 1-2 minutes

Bright but not direct sunshine  3 minutes

Overcast (mixed sun/cloud) 5 minutes

Dull /Cloudy 6-10 minutes

Interior lighting1 hour

Pinhole exposure apps such as Pinhole Master (ios only) will require you to calculate your Camera’s aperture number . This is simply the focal length / pinhole diameter. The focal length is the distance from your pinhole to the photographic paper. ( where focal length is 45mm and the pinhole diameter is 0.3mm then the Aperture is 45/0.3 = 159. This is often expressed as  f/159.

Using this aperture figure and the ISO number of the paper (1-3) you can create a camera setting for your pinhole camera and then the app will be able to use your phones camera to take a reading of the brightness of your scene and give you a suggested exposure time a countdown timer to take the exposure and also log  the scene brightness imag , the date , time , exposure and the GPS co-ordinates !

3) Once exposure has your exposure flap and take your camera back to the darkroom.

Developing your pinhole photograph

1) Set up your darkroom with 3 shallow trays ( Develop , Stop and Fix)  and a bucket of water!

2) Mix up your developer ( On our course we use Neutol Eco Developer ) This is diluted 1 part developer to 4 parts water . We find 100ml of developer and 400ml of water making 0.5litre of developing solution is a good amount.

3) Mix up your stop bath ( On our course we use Citric acid ) This is made up with 5g ( about 1 teaspoon) of citric acid powder to 500ml of water.

4) Mix up your fixative  ( On our course we use adofix plus ) This is diluted 1 part fixative to 9 parts water . We find 50ml of fixative and 450ml of water making 0.5litre of fixative solution is a good amount.

5) Under safelight conditions take the photographic paper out of your pinhole camera.

6) Place into Developer tray and gently agitate for 90 seconds. You will see the image begin to form after the first 10 seconds or so.

7) Remove paper and place into stop bath for 10 seconds.

8) Then transfer into fixative tray for 60 seconds.

9) Transfer to bucket to wash for several minutes and then allow to dry.


Read about the history of pinhole photography.