Meet the Maker: Gill Thornton

I’m a linocut artist based in a small village on the Norfolk/Suffolk borders. Art was the only subject I enjoyed at school and actually felt I was good at. However, it took nearly 40 years plus voluntary redundancy and children leaving home for me to find the time to rekindle that love.

Describe your printmaking process.

I work with grey lino, mainly using the reduction technique, to produce multi-coloured prints from a single piece of lino. My print runs are very small, usually with a maximum edition of around 12. I love the many processes involved in creating a linocut, starting with an initial sketch and photographs, transferring the image to the lino and gradually carving and then inking up and printing the image in its various layers. Sometimes, only a very small printable area remains for the final, darkest tone. As the block is essentially destroyed during the process, a reduction print can never be reprinted.

How and where did you learn to print?

After a lot of trial and error on my own, I stumbled upon the workshops at Handprinted. In 2016 I attended a two-day reduction workshop with Ian Philips and what a difference it made. Suddenly all the things I’d been trying to do came together. Since then I have attended three more of Ian’s workshops at Handprinted, the last one being multi-block printing which opened my eyes to even more possibilities. I also did a two-day workshop (again at Handprinted) with Nick Morley, another two days elsewhere with Laura Boswell and one day with Alexandra Buckle. Every time I’ve attended a workshop, I’ve learnt something new, but I guess Ian’s style suits mine the most.

My first reduction print at Handprinted July 2016

Latest finished print March 2020

Why printmaking?

Completely unexpectedly, my daughter’s boyfriend (now my son-in-law) gave me a basic lino-cut kit for Christmas 2013. I had fun over the holidays playing around with it and gradually became hooked. Until then I’d been doing a lot of botanical art and it surprised me to discover that the precision needed for that easily transferred to lino cutting. My only experience of printing up to then was a bit of linocut at school and things like potato printing with children.

What I love about reduction printing is the unpredictability of it, and how until the final layer is revealed, you never know quite how a print is going to turn out.

Where do you work?

In my studio, converted from the back half of a single garage attached to our house. Good job nobody nowadays seems to use a garage for their car. Until we moved here in 2018, my studio space consisted of a large barn attached to our house in France, which meant whenever we went to France, I spent most of my time in the barn! Trouble is now when we go to France, I miss my studio in England and there’s only so much printmaking equipment I can take back and forth. Although I’m lucky to have a small press there too.

Describe a typical day in your studio.

Well, other commitments allowing, I get out in my studio as soon as I can. If I’m working on a print, I’m afraid time just disappears and apart from regular cups of tea I might be out there all day. I sometimes have to force myself to take a break or go for a walk, often so I can just think through the next stage. I love going out into the countryside, especially nearby nature reserves, to sketch and take photographs. I started using Instagram last summer and have found myself a bit hooked, mainly because I’ve always photographed my printmaking process as I go along and it’s nice to be able to share that and feel part of a community. Admin, including updating my website, is one of my least favourite jobs.

I also open my studio to visitors whenever I can, but at the moment with being under lockdown due to the coronavirus, sadly that’s not possible. I find the opinion of visitors really valuable when I’m printing and it’s nice to have someone to discuss ideas with instead of having to rely upon my long-suffering partner.

How long have you been printmaking?

I received a basic kit for Christmas in 2013, but printing in earnest since 2016.

What inspires you?

My inspiration comes from nature, the countryside around me and other places I have visited. Lately I have been fascinated with the reeds and birdlife on the nearby fens. I also love capturing reflections in water.

What is your favourite printmaking product?

That’s a difficult one, I guess Ternes Burton registration pins are the thing I couldn’t do without, but also my Blue Boy press and Caligo Safewash inks.

What have you made that you are most proud of?

Another tricky one. I feel proud when I find that people like my prints enough to want to buy one. The print I think I am most proud of it this one, which I wasn’t sure about at first, as it wasn’t quite what I intended, but now I’m really pleased it. What annoys me though, is that it was an even smaller print run than normal and I didn’t keep one for myself.

Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?

My favourite place to show my work is in my own studio, but my work is also available to buy via my website . I usually take part in local exhibitions and some art fairs and display my work in various local galleries and venues. I take part in Norfolk Open Studios and also give demonstrations to local groups. Currently, to the coronavirus restrictions, this is all a bit limited so I’m looking into the likes of Artfinder and Big Cartel. You can also find me on Instagram Gill.Thornton.Art and Facebook.

What will we be seeing from you next?

There’s still a lot of techniques I want to explore, including jigsaw linocut and fabric printing. I particularly want to try mud-resist printing on fabric as this is something I tried during a recent trip to India.  The print I’m currently working on is a seascape based on a sketch from a holiday in Shetland.

Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?

Go for it! Do what you enjoy and if something doesn’t quite work out the way you expected, learn from it, and use Handprinted!!

To see more from Gill:
Instagram Gill.Thornton.Art