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Taking gardens to posterity with lino prints

Taking gardens to posterity with lino prints


Dipti Nair
Doha
Those blessed with the spark of creativity often find different means to express their artistic yearnings. Lou Lauwery has chosen printmaking to transform her love for nature into a fine art form.
A graphic designer from the UK, Lou worked at many design studios in London before moving to Qatar in 2015 with her husband and daughters aged seven and four. While in the UK, she dabbled in different forms of printmaking like screen printing, letterpress, etching and monoprinting but what captured her imagination is lino printing.
Lino printing is a form of fine art printmaking where a design is cut and engraved into a block of linoleum, which is then used as a printing plate to create designs on paper. Her prints are focused on botanical elements like plants, flowers, leaves and fruit.
œBotanical elements have been the subject of art forever but the joy is that there are endless ways to interpret them. I hope I am finding new and interesting ways of doing that. I'm inspired by flowers with distinctive shapes and lines - hydrangeas, dahlias, peonies, alliums, succulents. I've also been doing a series of fruit prints recently that have very simple shapes but rely on colour to make an impact,  said Lou.
The starting point of Lou's printing process is to decide on a design. Once she has worked out the composition, she traces the mirror-image of the design onto the lino, so that it comes the right-way round when it's printed. The design is then carved out on the lino block using specialised tools. Once done, the lino block becomes a stamp from which the same image can be printed as many times as wanted. Lou creates her colourful designs by adding ink to her lino block and then placing them directly on the paper and pressing it using a baren- a tool with a wide handle and a flat bottom to spread the weight evenly. The lino is then peeled back to reveal the beautiful print.
œI enjoy each part of the process. The drawing and composition stage takes a lot of concentration. The carving is more relaxed but it can take a long time. I usually like to listen to audiobooks during this part of the process. The lino block I carved for my ˜Potted Succulent' print took all 21 hours of Moby Dick to complete. The printing part is more physical and I like to listen to loud fast music that keeps the tempo up and keeps me moving. The exciting part is when the prints are done and I put them up on the studio wall to dry. If I'm doing a lot of prints then all the walls are covered with work,  she said.
Her lino prints include hydrangeas, dahlias, peonies, ranunculus, honesty, cherry blossom, bougainvillea, frangipani, desert rose plants, succulents, roses, poppies, agapanthus, pears, figs, pomegranate, lemon and mint. Her prints are framed to become wall-art or turned into greeting cards and covers for hand-stitched notebooks.
A nature-lover, Lou had a fascination for gardening and grew a lot of plants in her London home but couldn't do the same when she moved to Qatar.
œAt our London house I grew a lot of flowers and we had an allotment with herbs, vegetables, soft fruit, sweet peas and nasturtium. I missed that when we first came to Doha, but instead of trying to grow a garden here I decided to make prints instead. I've also found it interesting to look at the plants and flowers you find here in Qatar. I've made prints of bougainvillea, frangipani and the ubiquitous desert rose (adenium) that grow in pots everywhere in Doha and are in bloom in March and April. It was fun to seek out the yellow desert flowers among the sand dunes on a recent trip to the Inland Sea as well. 
Lou is a professional graphic designer and still takes on small projects from time to time. However her main interest now is printmaking. And though she has been printmaking for a long time, it is only after she came to Qatar that she started selling items rather than gifting them to friends and family.
œMy very first sale in Doha was back in 2015 at the Doha Mums Market. This was a big market with a large number of expat customers. I sold a lot more than I expected so it was really encouraging when I started out. I am also a member of QatART which is a community of artists and makers. We have markets during the winter months at Katara. People tend to buy my prints for their homes here or in their home countries. They're also bought as leaving gifts for people who are moving on. The ˜Hydrangea' prints have been a big hit. A lot of people seem to have had hydrangeas as their wedding flowers and like to have a memento of that. And people buy collections of the greeting cards to stock up so they can send messages to friends or include with gifts,  she said.
With two young children, it is not surprising that Lou's days are packed, but she still finds time to work on her designs.
œI work in the mornings when the girls are at school. I have about 16 hours a week in total. It's not enough though as the work is very time consuming. If I didn't need to pick up the girls from school I would happily work all afternoon and all evening. I'm lucky enough to have a studio space here that I could only dream of in London. My girls love to come and see what I'm doing in the studio and get involved when they can. We've been in Qatar for three and a half years now. I enjoy living here. It's a normal life with our routines and friends. The girls love their school and even I'm enjoying a change of scene from London. The best thing here is the light. It creates amazing shadows like works of art projected across every surface. Palm tree shadows moving across the ground, pots of bougainvillea projected against a wall. Also, I think because there are fewer distractions here I've been able to focus and concentrate on my work. I also feel braver about sharing my work as I wouldn't have had the guts in London. 
You can check out Lou's botanical designs on Instagram @loulauwerys. Her work is now also available at the Gift Shed at Doha Festival City, where a collection of eight of her handprinted greeting cards will be available alongside other stationary and gifts. .

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