|Birkin Beakheads II|
Several years and one house move ago, before we sold it on ebay we were the inconvenienced owners of a coal-fired Rayburn. It was great for slow cook stews and the warming oven was ideal for softening lino prior to carving but it was pretty rubbish at the central heating thing. After one too many winters of lugging coal through the snow we decided it had to go. Since then I've taken to giving my lino a quick warm through in a very low oven. However the other night I'd absent-mindedly turned the dial around to 220 and promptly got sidetracked by a slightly bothersome email exchange. Twenty minutes later I remembered to retrieve the lino and it was well and truly baked. In the past my oversights have led to a rather floppy and crumbly lino plate that soon restores to it workable state, but this time I had pushed it too far. As it cooled the surface began to bubble ominously and eventually the texture turned rather brittle and difficult to cut. Normally I would have called it a day at that point and started afresh but this was the second phase of a reduction lino print and I really couldn’t face beginning again and abandoning the 20 prints I had started. So on I carved. It was not nice, the surface kept lifting, I had to make much shallower cuts and I was convinced the whole piece would crumble before my eyes or at least start lifting once I ran a roller loaded with tacky ink over the surface. Once the carving was complete I flooded the cut areas with PVA in an attempt to stabilise the lino “baulks”. Fortunately the design didn’t have large areas of the second colour or the blistering would have been a really problem. When the PVA was nearly dry I put the lino under a little pressure in my nipping press in the hope that it would consolidate long enough to get through the edition of 20. When it came to printing I used slightly more oil that I usually would to reduce the tack. I am relieved to say that the carving survived the 20 inkings and pressings!
Ok enough of the rambling and more about this print…
The piece is inspired by the stunning beakhead ornamentation carved around the doorway of St Mary’s Church, Birkin. I came across this on a bike ride earlier this year and was stunned by these imaginary beasts. One of the beakhead beasts is slightly misaligned as if he might fly away at night and rejoin the flock at first light. Someone kindly pointed me to this article http://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/beakhead/beakhead.htm which suggests there is a little pocket of similar work in this part of North Yorkshire. I really need to find the time to see the others.