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Jennie Merrington 6

Gunning press printmakers of the week- Jennie Merrington

This weeks Gunning press printmaker is the wonderfully talented Jennie the owner of a Gunning press Number 2 Direct drive. Jennie with a career in banking escapes a world of figures and creates wonderful lino reduction’s a passion of her’s since she was young. She has perfected this skill creating landscape prints as well as prints of her gorgeous pets.

Tell us about yourself…Jenny Merrington featured in Ironbridge fine arts blog

“I am a learning and development consultant for the banking industry by profession, having studied languages at university.  None of that was art-related was it?!  I would love to make printmaking my profession, but I haven’t yet taken that plunge.  Mainly down to the dread of not being able to pay the mortgage, but also because I use art as my creative outlet, a passion and way for me to unwind at the end of stressful day. 

Jenny Merrington featured in Ironbridge fine arts blogAs long as I can remember, I have always needed to express myself through art and I have often turned to it throughout my life as a way of clearing my mind, celebrating the beauty around us and recalibrating.  I didn’t always have the time to do it as much as I wanted, as having children and a full-time job took over a bit.  Now, aged 42, I think I have realised that I need to make time for it. “

How did you or your organization get into printmaking?

Jenny Merrington featured in Ironbridge fine arts blog

   Jenny Merrington featured in Ironbridge fine arts blogJenny Merrington featured in Ironbridge fine arts blog

“I never went to art college, but I have loved lino printing since the age of 14, when I first tried it out at school.  My very first lino was a 3-stage reduction print of a portrait I had sketched of a handsome chap.  I remember being quite excited about the big reveal each time I cut away and printed different colourways.  Starting with carving the highlights on his nose, I had no idea how it would turn out, and it was actually rather good!  I discovered my brain works quite well for the slightly backwards thought process involved in printmaking.  My handwriting is exactly the same backwards and forwards, which tells you how weirdly-wired my brain is! 

I explored different printmaking techniques in later life, and discovered the joys of experimenting with drypoint etching, mono-printing and collagraphs, then other types of relief printing, like woodblock and using found objects.  Most recently, original print collage has really opened up my eyes to mixed media possibilities. Last year I finally made the decision to build myself a studio in the garden and get a Gunning Etching press and I haven’t looked back!”

How would you describe your artwork? 

Jenny Merrington featured in Ironbridge fine arts blog“Playful! Inspired by textures, colours, lines and shapes around me, from nature to architecture, I use whichever technique will best represent the subject, or best express the feeling that the subject evokes in me.  I will often sketch or paint first, and then use that as a starting point for my prints.  Living in the Essex countryside, the changing landscape through the seasons always provides visual stimulation, as do our 5 cats and regular trips to Cambridge and London.

Using lino, woodcuts, drypoint etching, chine collé and mono-printing techniques, I align the method I use with the vision that I have in my mind and I am constantly experimenting. I really enjoy the visual surprises and interesting graphic qualities that can occur purely by chance through the printmaking process, especially with mono-printing. 

I am quite spontaneous and curious with my artwork.  Some people might find that odd, as printmaking requires so much process, but for me a lot of the ideas come out through the process.  I rarely start out knowing exactly what I will produce at the end, it’s often a wonderful adventure and I still get tingles when I peel back the paper and reveal the final print. “

How do you plan to take your artwork forward?Jenny Merrington featured in Ironbridge fine arts blog

“I am taking each day as it comes.  I have had a hugely productive year, and I wouldn’t want to feel restricted by focusing in on one technique or one subject, which I know is probably what most professional artists would advise me to do.  I am lucky that I do not have to earn a living through producing my pieces, so I have the luxury of making whatever I am inspired to create.  Sometimes I will see something whilst walking along, for example the beautiful bark of London plane trees, and that will spark off some ideas about potential projects, ruminating in the back of my mind until I am back in the studio.  This feeling of liberty and embracing happenstance when printmaking is all part of why I love it so much.”

Why did you feel a Gunning Etching press was the best fit for you and your artwork?

Jenny Merrington Number 2 press featured in Ironbridge fine arts blog“On a workshop I went on a few years ago, I used a proper lino press instead of hand burnishing for the first time, and saw how the results are so much more professional. I couldn’t go back to hand burnishing after that.  I was using the lino presses and etching presses at the Curwen Study Centre, a half-hour drive away, but I really wanted to have the independence of being able to do all of these things any time of day or night.  I did a lot of research when looking into different presses, and I decided NOT to buy a second hand one, as I am a technical novice and needed to know it would work well, and I was keen to have a warranty etc.  When looking at the Gunning presses, they seemed perfect for both relief printing and intaglio, there was little to no maintenance involved, and one of the team would come and set it up and show me how to use it.  That final bit sold it to me.  I have to say, the team were absolutely fantastic.  I learned quite a lot on set-up day, and it was so exciting to finally be able to do everything at home.”

What’s your favourite feature on the Gunning Etching press that helps your printmaking process?Jenny Merrington featured in Ironbridge fine arts blog

“I think it’s the ease with which you can transform its set-up from relief printing to intaglio printing.  For relief printing, I have two different sets of runners for different heights of blocks, and then for intaglio it’s all about the blankets.  It’s a fabulous press, and I am delighted with it.”

Most printmakers has a name for their press, does your Gunning etching press have a nickname?

“Ooh, no, but that’s a great idea…  I will ask the kids to come up with something!  No doubt it will be cat-related….”

What would you say to someone thinking about purchasing a Gunning etching press?

Jenny Merrington featured in Ironbridge fine arts blog“Do it!  You only live once, and it will transform how you work.  Although beware of losing track of time – I have been known to carry on printing until midnight without realising.  Good thing my kids are assertive when it comes to asking for dinner etc!”

Where can our readers find your work? 

“One of my etchings featured in the RBSA Print Prize Exhibition earlier this year, and some of my lino prints are currently featuring in the Mini Print Competition at Southbank Printmakers Gallery in London.  I don’t have a shop, but may do in future.  Otherwise, I only currently sell to friends and family but you can see my work on Instagram under jennie_merrington_”

Any other comments you would like to share with our blog readers?

“Watch out – printmaking is addictive!”

To see more off Jennie’s work you can find her at…

Instagram: @jennie_merrington_

Thank you for reading!

Happy Printmaking!

All the best,

Ellie & The Team!

Tag us using the Hashtags…

@Ironbridgeprintmakers @Gunningetchingpress #GunningEtchingPresses  #GunningEtchingPress #JennyGunningPrintmaker

If you have read to the bottom of this blog you are entitled to a free gift, please email Jenny@IronbridgefineArts.co.uk with your preferred printing Relief or Intaglio to claim. Postage of £6.99 will still apply.

Please could you add any links to your social media sites and websites below?

https://www.instagram.com/jennie_merrington_/