Sunday, May 18, 2008

Feeding my printing frenzey - a review of Lotta Prints by Lotta Jansdotter

After a week of screen printing, and after having read Diane's review of Lotta Prints, I was super excited to have the book land on my doorstep over the weekend. I've already read it cover to cover (it's an easy read) and I'm chomping at the bit to get started on some of the projects. The book covers several different kinds of printing techniques, from as simple as stamping, to carving your own stamps (either in a potato or linoleum) and even covers the basics of screen printing.

Before the instruction even starts, though, I was fascinated with Lotta's introduction to the book. I loved reading about how she got started in printing - she was an art school drop out who fell in love with surface design and went off on her own to start her design company. Reading about how she got started, and how she's printed in spaces like an apartment bathroom made me excited to start trying some things on my own. Sometimes it's easy to feel like you need a big fancy studio space of your own to get started on something new, but it's a nice reminder that if you love something enough you'll make whatever space you have available to you work.

Also in the introduction is Lotta's explanation of where she finds inspiration. In a word: everywhere. And here's where one of my favorite parts of the book comes in to play - inspiration images. They are scattered throughout the book and include photographs and sketches from Lotta's sketch books. They offer a great view into her creative process and are beautifully fun and inspirational.

Lotta's materials and prep section is also great, and she includes a great resource section at the back of the book. Most printing supplies are inexpensive and easy to obtain, but for items that might not be picked up at the grocery store or home improvement store, she's included resources to help you find them.

The book covers rubber stamping, iron-on transfers, leaf printing, stencil art, potato printing, lino-block printing and screen printing. Here are my thoughts on each method as described in the book:

Rubber Stamping - This is as basic as it gets - a rubber stamp and an ink pad or paint and you're good to go. What's nice about Lotta's projects is that she shows you ways to use basic stamps in fun, fresh creative ways. Her ideas are modern and clean and simply gorgeous.

Iron-on transfers - I'm an iron-on kinda gal. I went through a hard core iron-on phase several years ago, and ironed stuff on to anything that would stand still for two minutes. But I still had something to get from this section of the book. It's not so much a technical explanation of how to iron-on a transfer (most folks can figure that out on their own with the instructions included with the transfer paper) but, once again, she shows some beautiful project ideas that will inspire you to go past the standard find-an-image-smack-it-down-in-the-middle-of-the-front-of-your-tshirt ideas.

Leaf Printing - hearkening back to the days of summer camp, this section shows how easy it is to print with leaves. It's got me looking at foliage in a whole new way.

Stencil Art - forget the country angles and hearts that floated around the ceiling borders of homes in the 1980s, Lotta's stencil project ideas are stunningly gorgeous, modern and organic. As someone who swore off stencils ages ago, this section of the book has me thinking I might need to reconsider.

Potato Printing - Who knew a veggie could give such cool results? Again, I was thinking this was something better left to kinder crafts, but her potato-stamped projects are breathtaking.

Lino-block printing - this section really interested me, because it's something I've been wanting to try. She makes it seem really doable, and offers some great advice on tools and supplies (my favorite, of which, is that she recommends the inexpensive set of cutting tools. Score! That kind of info makes my frugal heart happy.)

Screen Printing - having just come off a week-long screen printing class, this section was both happy and difficult for me to read. I think you could read it an get some basic ideas on how screen printing works, but if you are serious about further exploring this medium, I'd do yourself a favor and take a class. I think there are a lot of variables and places where things could go wrong, and it's worth it to learn this skill with someone right next to you who knows what they are doing. That said, after having taken a silk screen class, this section of the book made complete sense to me and will serve as a great reminder for everything I learned in class.

As Diane mentioned in her review, the clever Chronicle Books folks have included several beautiful templates at the back of the book and even have an envelope on the back cover where you can store them once you tear them out. Man, I love the Chronicle folks. Their design is always clean, simple, gorgeous and ingenious. You should check out the Chronicle blog - aside from having Craft Book Thursdays, they also have a day where they talk about book design. It's fascinating. One of my favorite things I saw on there was when they showed the tons and tons of cover mock ups that one of their designers made for a book. As a gal who has always wished she'd gone to design school, it's a nice way to get a dose of vicarious living.

Lotta Prints is a beautiful, well-written book that will expose you to a nice variety of print methods. While some of the methods are pretty basic, what sets this book apart is its style and project inspiration. Lott'as viewpoint and eye for simple modern designs makes this book a luscious treat for the eyes. It's a perfect book to add to your collection.


  1. Again, another great book review! You've inspired yet another book to be added to my wish list.

  2. One note on Lotta Prints -- in the lino block printing section, I don't think she tells you to clamp the block to your table, or have a brace handy to push against while you cut. Pencil that in -- I've tried to cut a block without this step, and have the scars to prove it! Those tools are sharp!
    It's a neat book, though, and I agree, SO chock full of inspirational images.

  3. We just bought this book, too. It has so many great (and simple!) ideas. We found the carving tools to use for a lino block at a Japanese bookstore, of all places, for about $7---a great deal.

  4. Hi, just wanted to let you know that the Crafty Daisies book club will have a virtual meeting to discuss Lotta Prints on October 22nd.

    Hope to see you there.


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