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Engraving | Interview with Georgina Heywood-Smith

Jan 18, 2021 | Meet the Maker

Our first ‘meet the maker’ interview is with artist and engraver, Georgina Heywood-Smith. Georgina uses traditional hand engraving and hand printing techniques to create her signature black and white artwork. Her style is rooted in realism, whether she is depicting a well-known local landmark (Valentine Lamp, Frome) or creating huge seasonal flowers (Autumn Bouquet).

Engraving is one of the oldest techniques in printmaking and we ask Georgina how she got started and what’s next for her.

Qu: I have never seen the hand engraving process; can you talk us through what is it?

Historically engraving was an important method of producing images on paper. Engravers use engraving tools to cut an image onto a hard surface, in my work I use either engraving sheets or wood (Boxwood, Maple, Lemonwood), this process is a form of relief printmaking. The artist has to cut away the areas that will leave a white mark as opposed to the black mark that comes from a pencil, brush or pen.

Once the engraving stage is complete, ink is applied to the surface of the block/sheet and then the image is transferred to the paper, I hand-print using an etching press, a nipping press (small press used by book binders) or by hand-burnishing with a wooden spoon.

Qu: Hand engraving is something I think you need to see being done and then see yourself doing it. How did you discover hand engraving or was it something you knew you always wanted to do?

I have always been drawn to solid, black and white images. They can make a statement, add drama, they really highlight the subject matter. I love the saturation of colour you get with relief printmaking due to the prints being an original piece of artwork and not a reproduction. I always knew it was something I wanted to pursue.

Qu: Did you study under a teacher or artist? Who was the engraver who inspired you first or what was the print that inspired you?

I have studied under internationally renowned British artist Chris Pig, who is based in Frome.

An engraver who inspired me as well as Chris Pig is Gertrude Hermes. Her wood-engraving entitled ‘Undercurrents’ makes you feel the elements, you can feel the heat of the sun and the coolness in the depth of the sea.

Qu: Before you started engraving, what kind of art were you making?

Before I started engraving I was a textile designer so all my artwork was focused towards meeting design briefs for retailers.

Tools, techniques and top tips.

Qu: What tools do you need to become an engraver?

To produce an engraving using minimal equipment you need; paper, wood block, engraving tools, wooden spoon, ink.

Qu: For beginners, what would be your top tip for anyone new to engraving?

Take regular breaks during the engraving stage so you don’t lose concentration. If you make a cut that you didn’t plan you can’t erase it, you have to throw it away and start again.

Qu: Is engraving for printing, similar to engraving techniques used in jewellery making?

I need to compare notes with a jeweller to find out.

Your work.

Many people comment on how skilled you are at engraving when they see your work. Qu: How do you keep your skills sharp; do you draw daily in a sketch book or engrave every day?

I spend time sketching and planning, thinking of new ways to make a mark. I may have an idea but getting the idea to translate into only black and white can be quite a challenge.

Qu: How do you choose your subject matter? Do you work in collections?

I love the area we live in and I like to celebrate the history, scenery and wildlife we have in the South-West, therefore most of my work is inspired by our local environment.

Qu: Do you have any personal projects that is just for your own artistic development and personal interest…if so, what it is?

To help develop my work I keep a box full of my unused printing trials, trials that have produced interesting patterns and marks. I use them as reference for future ideas.

Qu: What collection or piece are you working on now?

I’m working on a heavily decorated collection that’s inspired by the Arts & Crafts movement.

Another piece I am working on is an engraving to add to my Wiltshire Scenes collection- All Saint’s Church, Westbury.

Qu: Do you make bank notes?

Hahahaha no… but now you’ve got me thinking..

Limited edition framed prints by engraver, Georgina Heywood-Smith are available at Spacecraft Westbury.