Printing by Hand by Lena Corwin
Hardcover spiral-bound, 144 pages
Publisher: Stewart Tabori & Chang
Lotta Prints: How to Print With Anything, From Potatoes to Linoleum by Lotta Jansdotter
softcover, 120 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Since the crafty community is very close-knit and supportive, I doubt there’s an actual battle between the two New York City-based designers Lotta Jansdotter and Lena Corwin. And chances are if you love one of these talented ladies’ work you love the other too. Lotta Jansdotter’s abstract aesthetic reflects her Scandinavian roots, while Lena Corwin’s designs are more detailed and representational. But they are both cut from the same cloth, offering fresh, modern, organic design sensibilities.
However, both of their books on handprinting techniques came out around the same time and cover similar territory. Maybe you can’t afford both and are wondering which to get. The short answer: It depends on your own crafting style. Go Lotta if you’re a more experimental type who usually buys craft books as an inspirational jumping-off point; go Lena if you like more hand-holding. Of course, some printing methods are only covered in one of the books, so if you’re interested in a particular process, your choice is easy. Most of these processes are very easy and self-explanatory, but some aspects call for more fiddly detail — how to print repeats seamlessly, how to choose and mix inks — and Lena Corwin was the one who delivers in that regard.
Lotta Prints covers rubber stamping, iron-on transfers, leaf printing, stencils, potato printing, linoleum block printing, and screenprinting. The design of the pages is spare and clean, with lots of white space and inspirational photography. Instructions are provided for each technique, followed by pictures of finished projects. These projects are just accompanied by little blurbs containing very little instruction. The book helped me consider printing surfaces (e.g. umbrellas) that never would have crossed my mind otherwise. Instructions are illustrated with some pictures but in some instances I wanted more visuals (for instance, the contact paper screenprinting section doesn’t have any pictures of contact paper, which you kind of need if you haven’t used it before).
I adore Lotta’s style and I loved getting a glimpse into her creative process. I especially appreciated seeing her sketches next to photographs of the everyday scenes that inspired them. A minor gripe: The book comes with stencils and a pocket in back in which to store them, but you have to cut the stencils out of the book, which I’m reluctant to do. I don’t like to hurt books! Then again, you could trace the designs onto your own paper.
Printing by Hand covers custom and carved rubber stamps, foam stamps, freezer paper, contact paper, mylar stencils, and three varieties of screenprinting. Ms. Corwin provides lots of detail for the layperson. She shows what the same stamp looks like printed onto six differently textured surfaces, provides two helpful charts: one on how to choose the proper printing method for your surface and artwork type, and one on what kind of inks and paints are compatible with each printing technique. There is even some basic information on how to make repeating patterns and how to mix inks. She gives helpful information on outsourcing stamp- and screenmaking — it’s good to know those services are out there, because burning your own screens can be tricky and expensive. Stencils are provided on separate sheets in an envelope attached to the inside back cover, and the book is spiral-bound so you can have it open flat next to you as you work.
Each method Ms. Corwin presents has detailed instructions with step-by-step photographs. Two (wonderful) projects accompany each printing method, and each project has its own detailed instructions. This is just the ticket for meticulous folk, visual learners, and people who want to know ahead of time about common mistakes and how to avoid them.
I’m glad I have both books, because I can look at both for the fabulous inspiration, get more thorough instructions from Printing by Hand, then look to Lotta Prints for the “just do it” encouragement that I need since I tend to get so bogged down in finding the right supplies and fiddling with designs that I never get going on anything!
Do you have one or both books? What are your favorite projects? What did you learn? I’d love to hear your own thoughts in the comments.