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  • Michael Smith

Wayland's Smithy, Oxfordshire - the making of an original linocut print

Wayland's Smithy original linocut print by Michael Smith

In searching for inspiration for my art, I am often attracted to taking the "Old Road" as walked by our ancestors long ago. In 2023, I twice visited Wayland's Smithy on the Ridgeway in Oxfordshire to make preparatory drawings for my latest linocut in a series featuring some of the ancient monuments of the British Isles.

What is Wayland's Smithy?

Wayland's Smithy, Oxfordshire, England
Wayland's Smithy evokes an astonishing atmosphere at any time of year

Wayland's Smithy in Oxfordshire is a chambered barrow from the early Neolithic period. According to English Heritage, the current guardian of the site, "Human remains found on the site indicate that 14 people were interred in an earlier burial structure between 3590 and 3550 BC. Between 3460 and 3400 BC a second far larger barrow was constructed on top. It is the ruins of this that can be explored by visitors to the site today."

Wayland's Smithy, Oxfordshire, England
Frontal view of Wayland's Smithy in its grove of trees

The monument is thought to have derived its name in Saxon times, Wayland or Wolund being a mythical blacksmith whose origins derive from Germanic mythology. Today, set in a grove of beech trees near the Uffington White Horse and atop the immense chalk ridge which overlooks the Vale of the White Horse, the monument possesses an astonishing atmosphere.

Making an original linocut print of Wayland's Smithy

As with making all my linocut prints, I create a key block first. This is the most detailed of all the blocks, creating the outline for every detail to come from all the other blocks which make up the print.

Once the key block of the linocut print is created, I ink it up and offset the image onto a number of different plates. From these, I cut away different elements depending on the colour to be used and where that colour will fall.

I decided I would make three different prints of Wayland's Smithy - two in full colour and one featuring only two colours.

The full colour prints were produced by a careful process of either registering and printing fully-inked blocks or by masking some of the blocks (e.g. the blue block) so that (in this case) blue only appears in the sky. Five different colours were used to create the final image.

Wayland's Smithy linocut print by Michael Smith
The final print of Wayland's Smithy in five colours with black key block

The prints in full colour are the same except for the final inking of the key block. Three of the edition have the key block printed in black, giving a sharp definition to the colour layers (see above). Four are finished in a dark aubergine colour, this delivers a softer, more natural finish to the image.

Wayland's Smithy original linocut print by Michael Smith
Linocut of Wayland's Smithy by Michael Smith, finished in two colours

The two colour print (above) gives a distinctive "arts and crafts" feel to the composition. Using only gold and aubergine, the image evokes the type of imagery used in works of the late Victorian period.

Highly limited numbers available

The gallery below shows the many different stages involved in the production of the linocut. The preparation and production of this series of prints took many months; I am delighted with the results. Because of the time involved, I have only been able to produce a small number - if you would like one, please order yours as soon as you can!

See the process of making a linocut print! Scroll through the images...


About this blog's author, Michael Smith

Michael Smith is a translator and illustrator of medieval literature; he is also an accomplished printmaker, whose work is in private collections worldwide.

His books, including a translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Alliterative Morte Arthure, are available through all the usual outlets. All Michael's books feature his linocut prints as their illustrations.

For more details of Michael's books and how to purchase signed copies, click here.



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