Design studio Superfolk are passionate explorers of the natural world. Local rambles feed their process and have led to magical results. Craft is at the heart of what they do. Working slowly and deliberately, they take their time to create objects of real beauty, integrity, and soul.
Exploring the art of lino printing and colour tempering has been a process they have taken to with enviable ease. A simple yet sophisticated practice, they have used it to imbue their results with a wonderful poetic optimism.
Relief printing has been around since the Egyptians used carved wooden blocks to print on fabric. It is a printing technique whereby a design is cut into a surface and the protruding area represents a mirror image of the desired print. The raised surface is then inked and pressed onto paper or fabric to produce the final piece.
The shaping of the wood and metal blocks originally used was a slow and tedious process, and it was a group of German artists, Die Brüke, who invented linocut printing as a quicker and easier alternative.
Linoleum, a man-made floor covering made of oxidised linseed oil and ground cork, had been manufactured since the 1800s, but it wasn't until 1905 that Expressionists artists from Dresden began to use the material for printing.
Die Brüke were influenced by primitivism and worked with urban themes and strong colours. To affirm their national heritage, they revived the historic German print medium of woodcut and invented a modern alternative to the traditional technique in linocut. They translated older skills for use with a new material (even though they initially described their printing as woodcut to sound more respectable).
‘It’s imagery made by hand.’
For linocut printing, a sheet of linoleum acts as the printing surface and is carved into with a knife, v-shaped chisel or gouge. The cut out area is left absent of colour while the relief areas are inked to create the image. Colour is mixed on a plate of glass to ensure that the ink is free from lumps and debris, and a special roller called a brayer is used to spread the ink evenly onto the lino. The linocut can be printed mechanically, or by a simple screw press, or by hand.
Superfolk make modern a primary process overlooked in today’s digital world. Their hand-burnished, direct lino prints are themed around wild food foraging. Hand pressed onto speciality Japanese papers, the colour mixing happens on the printing plate so each print has its own distinct colour variation. Each print is unique, and their process welcomes irregularities and subtle depths of colour that cannot be achieved by any other method.
‘If Superfolk were to print it would be lino or wood, by hand anyway.’
Photography by Superfolk