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Featured Shop: Little Print Press

Mar 30, 2016

by Valerie Rains

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Emma Lawrenson of Little Print Press never had any doubt that she was destined to be an artist — that much was established from the start. “I was passionate about art from a really young age,” Emma says. “Even as a child, I knew that was all I ever really wanted to do. After my A-levels, I did a foundation course, which is a grounding in many different subjects — a bit of ceramics, a bit of textile design, all sorts of things — and when I had a go at printmaking, I was hooked straightaway.”

Still, the UK-based artist’s signature style — one she’s been building on for more than 20 years — came about as a bit of a fluke. “When I was doing some printmaking during my foundation course, I’d made a really detailed drawing of a classical building with columns and loads of plasterwork,” she says. “But when I took the etching plate out of the acid bath, I looked at the underside, and it had this amazing cross pattern; instead of inking up the top, I decided to ink up the back, and got this really gorgeous abstract print. That’s when I started to get more interested in very simplified shapes and forms. In fact, the whole reason I got into abstract and minimal work stemmed from that moment, which was actually a mistake.”

Based on the artist’s critical accolades and wide-ranging popularity — Emma won the prestigious New Light Art Prize Printmakers Award last year, and her work has appeared on sets for Mad Men and Parenthood and in countless collectors’ homes — that “mistake” was anything but. Read on to learn more about Emma’s process and get a peek inside her West Yorkshire workspace. 

emma-001

What drew you to printmaking originally?

I like processes, and I like to be really methodical and precise, and that’s what printmaking, for me, is all about. You’ve got to have everything pre-planned and worked out before you start. It’s not like painting, where you’re working directly on a canvas. And if you’re doing an etching or a screen printing, there’s always that anticipation before you lift the screen up, because you can’t know exactly what’s going to happen. That’s part of why I like printmaking so much.

After my foundation course, I went on to do a four-year degree in fine art; I did printmaking and quite a lot of drawing, working in a very similar style to the one I’ve got now. Back then, I was living in London with a group of artists and musicians, and what really spurred me on was that a guy I lived with was doing print textiles at the Royal College of Art, and he said, “Why don’t you come to college with me one day?” As soon as I walked around the printmaking area, I was shocked at how amazing the work was and in awe of the students.

From that moment on, I knew I had to go there after I finished my degree, which I did; I got in and did a two-year program in printmaking. It was such a fantastic opportunity and a privilege to go there — I was taught by Tracey Emin, people like that. It’s kind of crazy, looking back, but it was fab.

emma-beautiful
emma-ink-horizontal

How has your work has evolved over time?

My inspiration has always come from my immediate environment. When I was in London, I was looking at an urban environment; now, I live in the countryside, and when I go on walks, it’s all nature. So even though a lot of the geometric, minimal work I’m doing now, I was doing then, I didn’t have any of the organic-type work that I do now. But my style has always been the same: quite abstract, colorful, understated, and simple. If you saw my work then, you would know it was mine.

In the last couple of years, I have changed the way I make my stencils, though. Before, I used cut paint stencils, so everything was really hard-edged and quite graphic; now, I’ve softened it a lot — all my stencils are hand-drawn using chinagraph pencils or pastels. The prints themselves are a lot softer in appearance, and they look more handmade. So that’s changed, although the actual compositions and colors haven’t much.

emma-studio-002
littleprint-extra

How do you go from a glimpse of a sheep pen to an abstract image? How do you translate the elements of the landscape around you to these wonderfully simple compositions?

I approach every new print in the same way I always have, and my inspiration comes from the environment I’m in at the moment. I’m constantly scanning as I’m walking around every day, taking photographs; my geometric work comes from stone barns and doorways and pathways, and my organic work comes from things like leaves and seeds.

When I get back to the studio — I’ve got a studio at home, and a separate studio that I go to print at — I sort through my images. Usually if I’ve seen something that day, I’ll start working right away while it’s fresh. I begin by drawing the image out on paper; then I kind of strip everything back, until I’ve got just the bare essential there from the idea or the photograph that I started from.

Then I make collages: I have inks and bits of paper everywhere, and I paint loads of swatches and start cutting them up. I always print on a flat, colored background — usually cream — so I’ll start moving the collaged pieces around on one of those until the image resolves itself. Sometimes I love what I have straightaway; other times, it can take me a couple of days to get it right.

Once I get to that stage, I’ll start to mix up the paints and inks again so that I’ve got enough to use on the screens, and then I make the actual stencils. If I want them to be larger, sometimes I’ll scan a collage into the computer to adjust the size, then trace it through the screen and make my stencils from that. If a design is going to have 15 colors, I need 15 separate stencils, and it takes time to build them up and make sure they’re all going to fit together — a bit like a jigsaw.

emma-clips
emma-mount

How long does it take you to make a piece with 15 colors? 

I can print that in a day — maybe seven hours — because I’ve been doing it for so long and the water-based inks I use dry pretty quickly. And I usually work on two prints simultaneously, so while one layer is drying, I’m working on the next one. It takes quite a long time, but I do a new edition every week, so maybe 15 will print in a day. Although it takes me a week or two just to get it to that stage — to get it ready to go to the workshop.

So you have a studio at home, and a facility you go to for printing. Do you have plans to build a printing facility at home one day?

Well, I’ve got this gorgeous barn just at the back of the house that’s got nothing in it except junk, and I’ve started buying things to make it a printing studio — a drying rack, some bits and bobs. But it’s such a big project, and I’m so busy; I’m working six days a week. So I think it will happen, but maybe not for a couple more years; and besides, it’s working for me, the way that I prepare at home and then go into the workshop. It makes me focus. I print on Fridays, so all those inks and my stencils have got to be done; I think if the studio was just behind me at the house, I probably I wouldn’t get as much work done, because there wouldn’t be that deadline every week.

emma-sketch
littleprint-extra4

When did Etsy enter the picture for you, and how has that affected your work or your creative process?

I used to teach art before I had children, and when the children got a little bit bigger and started play school, I didn’t want to go back to teaching; I always knew I wanted to focus on my work. That was in 2010, almost six years ago; I went to this workshop, and that’s where I met a girl who’d been selling on Etsy for a while. I built up a little portfolio of prints, maybe about 20, and she said, “Why don’t you open a shop?” I hadn’t heard of Etsy, but I opened my shop and got the work up, and I think the first day I sold nine prints.

Everything kind of spiraled from there. I think for me, I wouldn’t be able to be an artist without Etsy. I exhibit in a lot of galleries and quite prestigious exhibitions, but you hardly ever sell anything — I don’t know why. I have tried to sell on other sites, but I might sell one or two a month where on Etsy I sell 80 a month. It’s just got such a bigger audience. And I do work really hard on my shop: Every day I renew items, and I might do a treasury or two. I spent more time on that at the beginning than now, since I have so many customers who repeat-buy.

emma-hanging
emma-studio

What’s the most challenging part of the printmaking process for you?

Color, for me – sometimes the colors just work, and it’s happy days, and then sometimes I think, ‘Oh my God, what’s going on? Nightmare!’ Last week I did one of the nicest prints I think I’ve ever done, but it took me seven hours to get the colors right. I think people might look at my work and think, ‘I could do that. What is it? A few shapes and a few colors on a piece of paper.’ But it is a lot more complicated and can quite easily go wrong. If you get one color that’s slightly too dark, it will throw the whole print off because it stands out so much. And then if all the colors are too similar, it will look washed out, it won’t show up very well on the screen, and I know that it’s not going to sell. There’s a lot riding on the color for me.

What’s the most exhilarating part of the printmaking process for you?

Adding the final color and seeing that it’s worked: I’ll lift up the screen for the last color on the first print of the edition, and then if there’s no one in the workshop, sometimes I’ll start dancing, going, “Oh, yes, I did it!” So that’s the best bit; but also selling it, because some just sell like hotcakes, and I don’t know why they’re so much more popular. There was one I did ages ago, and I used to sell one every day of the week — I think it was the colors, all bright pinks and oranges and reds.

emma-work-wall

What’s the most popular piece in your shop now? 

Now, my most popular piece is called “Ploughed”; it’s the smaller ones, around the 40 pounds mark, that sell the best. People will buy two or four, and then you get a nice set of prints for an all right price. My other bestseller, which I’ve done now in three different colorways, is one called “28 Leaves.

Ever since I opened my Etsy shop, I have kept a little notebook, and every time I get a sale, I write down the name of the print, the price, and where it’s gone. I’m now in about 35 different countries, I think, and I am up to about 5,000 prints sold now. It’s madness, thinking of where they’ve gone: Iceland, Australia, Denmark, and especially the USA and the UK.

What’s next for your shop?

I’m just keeping going with what I’m doing. I know what my buyers want, so I’m always making that kind of work, because obviously that’s the business side of it. But then I’ve got my real artist side of it, which is the stuff at the exhibitions. But I like to put everything in my shop, because everything does sell; it may not all sell quite as well as the smaller pieces, but I’m an artist at the end of the day, so that’s what I do.

Keep up with Little Print Press on Pinterest.

All photos by Little Print Press.

Shop Little Print Press

 

Abstract art print, screenprint, geometric print, pink and orange abstract, original, handmade art. Mid Century modern, Emma Lawrenson
Abstract art print, screenprint, geometric print, pink and orange abstract, original, handmade art. Mid Century modern, Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$60.50 USD
Screenprint, Large geometric print, original screenprint, hand drawn, abstract art, multi-coloured art by Emma Lawrenson
Screenprint, Large geometric print, original screenprint, hand drawn, abstract art, multi-coloured art by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$302.50 USD
Large abstract screenprint by Emma Lawrenson. Modern, minimal, original art
Large abstract screenprint by Emma Lawrenson. Modern, minimal, original art
littleprintpress
$356.28 USD
Minimal abstract original hand drawn screenprint in orange, pink & yellow 'Chatty Shapes' by Emma Lawrenson
Minimal abstract original hand drawn screenprint in orange, pink & yellow 'Chatty Shapes' by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$73.94 USD
Fine art print, Matisse inspired, original abstract screenprint. Yellow, leaf motif. Gift idea art print by Emma Lawrenson
Fine art print, Matisse inspired, original abstract screenprint. Yellow, leaf motif. Gift idea art print by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$53.78 USD
Simple flower print, minimal abstract modern botanical in pale cream and grey by Emma Lawrenson
Simple flower print, minimal abstract modern botanical in pale cream and grey by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$52.43 USD
minimal abstract pastel blue original screenprint, Scandinavian home, contemporary art, modern print by Emma Lawrenson
minimal abstract pastel blue original screenprint, Scandinavian home, contemporary art, modern print by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$92.77 USD
Retro print, original screenprint, Mid Century Modern art in sherbet colours by Emma Lawrenson
Retro print, original screenprint, Mid Century Modern art in sherbet colours by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$83.36 USD
Turquoise screenprint, original handmade abstract minimal print in turquoise pink brown by Emma Lawrenson
Turquoise screenprint, original handmade abstract minimal print in turquoise pink brown by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$69.91 USD
Emma Lawrenson original silkscreen print pastel colours, Small 'eggs' abstract screenprint, handmade modern art.
Emma Lawrenson original silkscreen print pastel colours, Small 'eggs' abstract screenprint, handmade modern art.
littleprintpress
$73.94 USD
Silkscreen print, Abstract green, modern handmade art, Scandinavian home. Modern wall decor by Emma Lawrenson inspired by Matisse
Silkscreen print, Abstract green, modern handmade art, Scandinavian home. Modern wall decor by Emma Lawrenson inspired by Matisse
littleprintpress
$56.47 USD
Original art, handmade, abstract limited edition screenprint in soft colours, nature, organic, minimalist print by Emma Lawrenson
Original art, handmade, abstract limited edition screenprint in soft colours, nature, organic, minimalist print by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$208.39 USD
1950's inspired screenprint, abstract original handmade art, fifties, mid century modern, Miro, Hepworth by Emma Lawrenson
1950's inspired screenprint, abstract original handmade art, fifties, mid century modern, Miro, Hepworth by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$208.39 USD
Geometric screenprint, abstract grid print, original, handmade art in greys, neutrals, green, yellow and blue by Emma Lawrenson
Geometric screenprint, abstract grid print, original, handmade art in greys, neutrals, green, yellow and blue by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$168.06 USD
Screenprint, Abstract composition, large original abstract art, Mid Century Modern, living room decor by Emma Lawrenson
Screenprint, Abstract composition, large original abstract art, Mid Century Modern, living room decor by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$315.95 USD
abstract geometric, colourblock original handmade screenprint in muted colours by Emma Lawrenson
abstract geometric, colourblock original handmade screenprint in muted colours by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$302.50 USD
Geometric screenprint, abstract grid print, original, handmade art in greys, neutrals, pale yellow by Emma Lawrenson. Contemporary print
Geometric screenprint, abstract grid print, original, handmade art in greys, neutrals, pale yellow by Emma Lawrenson. Contemporary print
littleprintpress
$329.39 USD
Small screenprint, abstract screenprint in green, grey/blue and cream. Simple, modern art.
Small screenprint, abstract screenprint in green, grey/blue and cream. Simple, modern art.
littleprintpress
$38.99 USD
small red minimal screenprint. Handmade abstract art by Emma Lawrenson
small red minimal screenprint. Handmade abstract art by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$38.99 USD
Silkscreen print by Emma Lawrenson. Abstract, bright, minimal modern art, Mid Century Modern
Silkscreen print by Emma Lawrenson. Abstract, bright, minimal modern art, Mid Century Modern
littleprintpress
$69.91 USD
geometric/grid abstract  screenprint in nine colours, simple modern geometric abstract art by Emma Lawrenson, handmade on paper.
geometric/grid abstract screenprint in nine colours, simple modern geometric abstract art by Emma Lawrenson, handmade on paper.
littleprintpress
$266.20 USD
screenprint large modern 'Blue Stem', handmade original art by a Emma Lawrenson Scandinavian, simple, retro
screenprint large modern 'Blue Stem', handmade original art by a Emma Lawrenson Scandinavian, simple, retro
littleprintpress
$100.83 USD
Scandinavian style Red Form, bright modern minimalist abstract print. Original screenprint, hand pulled on lovely paper by Emma Lawrenson
Scandinavian style Red Form, bright modern minimalist abstract print. Original screenprint, hand pulled on lovely paper by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$60.50 USD
minimalist orange abstract, hard edged screenprint, modern original art by Emma Lawrenson
minimalist orange abstract, hard edged screenprint, modern original art by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$52.43 USD
Matisse inspired abstract screenprint, yellow and pink modern wall decor by Emma Lawrenson. Original art.
Matisse inspired abstract screenprint, yellow and pink modern wall decor by Emma Lawrenson. Original art.
littleprintpress
$52.43 USD
Botanical print, screenprint, handmade  original Matisse inspired art on lovely Paper by Emma Lawrenson
Botanical print, screenprint, handmade original Matisse inspired art on lovely Paper by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$56.47 USD
blue silkscreen print, modern, original handmade abstract by Emma Lawrenson
blue silkscreen print, modern, original handmade abstract by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$56.47 USD
Abstact original art, pretty painterly print, soft colours, handmade screenprint, grey, yellow, beige by Emma Lawrenson.
Abstact original art, pretty painterly print, soft colours, handmade screenprint, grey, yellow, beige by Emma Lawrenson.
littleprintpress
$92.77 USD
Organic, abstract, circles handmade screenprint, green and grey modern art by Emma Lawrenson.
Organic, abstract, circles handmade screenprint, green and grey modern art by Emma Lawrenson.
littleprintpress
$92.77 USD
Set of four original abstract screenprints. Trees, leaves, seeds, nests, eggs. Handmade by Emma Lawrenson
Set of four original abstract screenprints. Trees, leaves, seeds, nests, eggs. Handmade by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$295.78 USD
Abstract screenprint, handmade, duck egg blue, original silkscreen print, original gift by Emma Lawrenson. 'Stems' Scandi home
Abstract screenprint, handmade, duck egg blue, original silkscreen print, original gift by Emma Lawrenson. 'Stems' Scandi home
littleprintpress
$52.43 USD
Abstract screenprint/ original art, green spotty 'Three Nests', hand pulled, minty green, cream, orange by Emma Lawrenson.
Abstract screenprint/ original art, green spotty 'Three Nests', hand pulled, minty green, cream, orange by Emma Lawrenson.
littleprintpress
$53.78 USD
Large abstract minimalist screenprint in green and brown by Emma Lawrenson. Modern printmaking
Large abstract minimalist screenprint in green and brown by Emma Lawrenson. Modern printmaking
littleprintpress
$154.61 USD
Large abstract original art, modern botanical, soft colours, handmade screenprint, modern wall decor by Emma Lawrenson.
Large abstract original art, modern botanical, soft colours, handmade screenprint, modern wall decor by Emma Lawrenson.
littleprintpress
$87.39 USD
Fairy Seed, large original abstract screenprint, modern botanical, Scandinavian home by Emma Lawrenson.
Fairy Seed, large original abstract screenprint, modern botanical, Scandinavian home by Emma Lawrenson.
littleprintpress
$127.72 USD
colourful square original handmade screenprint. Abstract, modernist printmaking by Emma Lawrenson. Abstract landscape.
colourful square original handmade screenprint. Abstract, modernist printmaking by Emma Lawrenson. Abstract landscape.
littleprintpress
$329.39 USD
Handmade original screenprint of a plant stem ink drawing, in charcoal grey and cream on finest quality Fabriano Paper
Handmade original screenprint of a plant stem ink drawing, in charcoal grey and cream on finest quality Fabriano Paper
littleprintpress
$52.43 USD
modern abstract screenprint, original and handmade in green and cream, small and simple hand drawn print by Emma Lawrenson
modern abstract screenprint, original and handmade in green and cream, small and simple hand drawn print by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$38.99 USD
Modern art screenprint, Large silkscreen, abstract original print, pink, yellow, grey,orange. Large wall decor by Emma Lawrenson
Modern art screenprint, Large silkscreen, abstract original print, pink, yellow, grey,orange. Large wall decor by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$315.95 USD
Large minimal abstract screenprint. Handmade original print in tangerine orange by Emma Lawrenson
Large minimal abstract screenprint. Handmade original print in tangerine orange by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$248.72 USD
Abstract square minimal screenprint. Original handmade modernist geometric art in greys and blues by Emma Lawrenson
Abstract square minimal screenprint. Original handmade modernist geometric art in greys and blues by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$315.95 USD
Emma Lawrenson screenprint, contemporary original art. Minimal, colorblock, Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly
Emma Lawrenson screenprint, contemporary original art. Minimal, colorblock, Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly
littleprintpress
$266.20 USD
Silkscreen print, abstract screenprint, pretty pastels mint green, grey, cream by Emma Lawrenson
Silkscreen print, abstract screenprint, pretty pastels mint green, grey, cream by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$56.47 USD
minimal art, original screenprint, small blue abstract 'egg' by Emma Lawrenson. modern abstract printmaking
minimal art, original screenprint, small blue abstract 'egg' by Emma Lawrenson. modern abstract printmaking
littleprintpress
$38.99 USD
Geometric handmade screen print in seven pretty colours, modern wall decor
Geometric handmade screen print in seven pretty colours, modern wall decor
littleprintpress
$194.94 USD
small ink drawing screenprint 'Three Leaves', original modern handmade art in black and white. Simple wall decor by Emma Lawrenson
small ink drawing screenprint 'Three Leaves', original modern handmade art in black and white. Simple wall decor by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$52.43 USD
small ink drawing screenprint', original modern handmade art in black and white. Simple wall decor by Emma Lawrenson
small ink drawing screenprint', original modern handmade art in black and white. Simple wall decor by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$52.43 USD
Pair of pictures. Two original screenprints, ink drawings, plant stems. Simple, modern handmade art in black and white
Pair of pictures. Two original screenprints, ink drawings, plant stems. Simple, modern handmade art in black and white
littleprintpress
$104.87 USD
original drawing, screenprint of a simple plant/bud. Large black and white minimal art by Emma Lawrenson
original drawing, screenprint of a simple plant/bud. Large black and white minimal art by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$102.18 USD
Large abstract Matisse inspired modern screenprint in grey. Large contemporary art by Emma Lawrenson
Large abstract Matisse inspired modern screenprint in grey. Large contemporary art by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$100.83 USD
Silkscreen print duck egg blue/green, original modern abstract, soft pastel colours, handmade by Emma Lawrenson
Silkscreen print duck egg blue/green, original modern abstract, soft pastel colours, handmade by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$53.78 USD
Retro pastel handmade screenprint, a colourful original fifties inspired screenprint on beautiful Fabriano paper.
Retro pastel handmade screenprint, a colourful original fifties inspired screenprint on beautiful Fabriano paper.
littleprintpress
$73.94 USD
Fine art print, screenprint, abstract original minimal, contemporary, geometric art by Emma Lawrenson
Fine art print, screenprint, abstract original minimal, contemporary, geometric art by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$302.50 USD
Abstract landscape, original drawing screenprint. Colourful modern art by Emma Lawrenson. Geometric art.
Abstract landscape, original drawing screenprint. Colourful modern art by Emma Lawrenson. Geometric art.
littleprintpress
$266.20 USD
Geometric art, large original screenprint by Emma Lawrenson in retro sherbet colours. Modern wall decor
Geometric art, large original screenprint by Emma Lawrenson in retro sherbet colours. Modern wall decor
littleprintpress
$248.72 USD
Scandinavian inspired screenprint, modern orange silkscreen print, 'Two Orange Stems'. Handmade original art by Emma Lawrenson
Scandinavian inspired screenprint, modern orange silkscreen print, 'Two Orange Stems'. Handmade original art by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$47.06 USD
Mid Century Modern, geometric original screenprint, handmade minimal abstract art by Emma Lawrenson
Mid Century Modern, geometric original screenprint, handmade minimal abstract art by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$60.50 USD
Abstract minimal spotty screenprint, handmade original art, pretty colours, gift for her, organic, modern by Emma Lawrenson
Abstract minimal spotty screenprint, handmade original art, pretty colours, gift for her, organic, modern by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$114.28 USD
Mid century modern, fifties style abstract screenprint. Original, handmade fine art print, yellow, grey by Emma Lawrenson
Mid century modern, fifties style abstract screenprint. Original, handmade fine art print, yellow, grey by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$64.53 USD
Mid Century Modern handmade screenprint. Square abstract art, handmade geometric by Emma Lawrenson
Mid Century Modern handmade screenprint. Square abstract art, handmade geometric by Emma Lawrenson
littleprintpress
$302.50 USD

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