Shona Branigan discovered the possibility of relief printing wood itself by seeing the work of Brian Nash Gill and she followed his technique of burning the wood.
It is known as Shou Sugi Ban and is used in Japan as a method of preserving wood. Charring burns away the softer wood and leaves a raised surface which makes it relief printable. She clears out all the ash with wire brushes, seals it with shellac and is then able to ink it and print it. The prints are all hand burnished as the pieces are too large and uneven to go through her printing press.
She uses Fine Art Heritage Rag paper which is 100% cotton and archival, and if you look closely you will be able to see the ‘embossing’ which the hand printing produces. Each millimetre of the wood needs to be pressed into the paper to achieve a good print. It takes time and energy! Prints are made to order and as the wood itself dries subtle changes and cracks will appear which will allow the limited edition to reflect the continuing story of the wood.
Shona Branigan knows the provenance of the wood she prints so that you will be able to know its area of origin, and in many cases visit the site where the tree fell.
Shona demonstrates wood engraving and traditional printing at Cherryburn, the National Trust Birthplace Museum to Thomas Bewick, at Mickey Square, Northumberland. She has been featured in Flog It when they visited Cherryburn and Further Tales from Northumberland where she gave Robson Green the opportunity to engrave for the first time.