Starting points for print

Making printing blocks for relief printing

This can be done simply by choosing, arranging and gluing off cuts of card, cloth or other thin material — string or netting, for example — to a card base and taking a print. Gluing smaller shapes on top of larger ones creates a suggestion of depth and multiple layers. The ink can be rolled out smoothly and evenly on a sheet of hard plastic and transferred to the printing surface.

Discussion on the finished print could centre on the positioning and balancing of the shapes and textures, for example, and children soon notice that their compositions turn out reversed. This can be followed by a lesson in which the children draw, cut out and arrange shapes to their own design, adding texture and line (for example string) as they see fit. Abstract as well as theme-based compositions may be encouraged. Small-scale blocks made in the same way can be used for stamp printing, for example to create a repeat pattern as a design for wrapping paper or for fabric. Fabric-printing ink can be used if printing on fabric.

A relief block can also be made by cutting away areas, as in the traditional potato print. In this the scale is small and hard to manage for very young children. The teacher should avoid providing stereotyped symbols such as stars, moons, triangles or shamrocks and encourage children instead to experiment with an open-ended abstract type of cut, which can be easier to achieve and can be made to combine with itself in more interesting ways.