Rob Ryan

Ditchling ‘Big Steam Print’

Posted by on Tuesday 28th June, 2016

On Saturday 18th June Rob and his wife Lorna travelled down to the beautiful village of Ditchling, near Brighton, to take part in the ‘Big Steam Print’.

The event was organised by Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft which is home to an acclaimed collection of work by celebrated artists and craftspeople who worked or lived in the village. The museum hosts events and talks featuring contemporary art and craft and is seen as an important centre for the visual arts and crafts in Britain.

Crowdfunded by the Art Fund and the ‘Art Happens’ campaign, ‘The Big Steam Print’ was created to celebrate the process of printing and give each artist the opportunity to create a screenprint on a large scale using a vintage Steamroller.

Rob, along with other artists including Freddie Robins, Angie Lewin and Anthony Burrill had been invited earlier in the year to create a linocut or woodcut artwork especially for the project.


In preparation for the main event, Rob created a large print plate measuring 210 x 88 cm out of plywood. He used a thicker ply for the base of the plate and a very thin birch plywood ontop which the design was cut from.

Firstly, he drew the design, an adapted version of the ‘Let People Live and Work’ directly onto the fine birch ply. With this type of printing, it is crucial the plate is the mirror image of the design to ensures the artwork isn’t printed ‘back to front’ on the paper.

The design was cut out with a bandsaw section by section and each piece was carefully positioned and glued in place. Libby and Josh, Rob’s assistants and Lorna helped Rob to create the plywood plate which took four full days to complete. Once everything was firmly in place, the plate needed to be sanded to remove any sharp edges which might puncture the paper in the printing progress. Finally, the plate was cut in half so that it would fit in Rob’s car before it was ready to transport down to Ditchling for the weekend’s event.


making process


Rob cut wooden dowling to create a half tone effect in the printing process.

Close up3



Close up2

On the day of the Ditchling Village fair the Artists and Designers involved were allocated a time slot, each artist took their turn to ink up their plates, lino cuts or wood cuts, with the help of the other artists and Ditchling Museum team. Large rollers loaded with ink and cloth rags were used to ensure the plate was evenly covered with ink, ready for the steamroller.

team ink up

Inked up 3

The plate was then laid onto the ground and Rob attached the two halves back together.

Inked up

inked up 4

Next a large sheet of paper was gently placed over the top.


printing process

printing process 2

Here is a video clip of the steamroller in action. The vintage machine was driven over the print, with a protective layer or plywood on top. The huge weight of the steam roller presses the paper onto the inked up plate, so the image is transferred the onto the paper.

Next came the big reveal…

finished print

Rob’s screenprint will be on shown alongside the other large screenprints in an exhibition to conclude the project at the Phoenix Gallery in Brighton from the 6th – 21st August 2016.

Find out more about Ditchling Museum and the ‘Big Steam Print’ as well as their other projects through their twitter page.

Briony Mullan
Studio Assistant

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