Mark Wilkinson: The printmaker and the fox

PORT travels to Lincolnshire to meet printmaker Mark Wilkinson to discuss the timeless appeal of wood engraving and how he created a Gothic-inspired logo for new watch brand Sekford

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Mark Wilkinson’s work is limited edition by necessity. As a Lincolnshire-based printmaker specialising in linocuts, his entire creation process – from wood-carving to ink-print – is done by hand. Once the print run is complete, he scores his lino block, ensuring no further images can be produced.

Wilkinson’s work has roots in many places – from Japanese woodblock prints to the art scene of 1930s Europe. After a career with the RAF, Wilkinson discovered printmaking when he unearthed an old book and went on to find his own company, Inkshed Press. As part of a recent collaboration with new English watch brand, Sekford, Wilkinson created a Gothic-inspired fox, which has since become the brand’s logo and is engraved on the back of its debut watch series, the Type 1A.

We caught up with Wilkinson to chat about his craft, the printmakers he values, and the inspiration he draws from the skies of northern England.

What brought you to printmaking?

I was looking for a new direction to take in life having just left the Royal Air Force and a ‘thoughtful’ present for my wife’s birthday. I was on the verge of applying for a job collecting trolleys in a supermarket car park (and buying a bunch of petrol station flowers), when I rediscovered an old book I had of Eric Gill’s engravings. The pure, clean and deceptively simple lines inspired me to go out right away and buy a woodblock, a cutting tool, an ink roller and a tube of ink. The result was a dreadful woodcut of a letter L and a enduring love of printmaking.

Why do you think wood engraving endures in popularity?

For the same reasons that first drew me to it; its timelessness and the deceptive simplicity of line and form it allows. To my eye, it’s clean, pure, deeply satisfying and, when done right, completely beautiful.

What inspires your work?

The British and Irish wood engravers of the 1930s are at the core of everything that inspires me. Printmakers such as Eric Ravilious, Eric Gill and Edward Bawden are justifiably well known today, but others, such as Robert Gibbings, Leonard Beaumont, John Farleigh and Reynolds Stone, are, I think, deserving of much more recognition.

For the rest, my influences are eclectic and range from medieval woodcuts and 18th-century engravings to Japanese woodblock prints.

What brought you to Lincolnshire?

It was fortunate circumstances that brought me to Lincolnshire. I originally bought my house here as a result of being stationed whilst in the RAF, but I’ve kept it because of the big skies, wide open spaces, relaxed pace of life and beautiful mellow limestone villages.

sekford fox design

How did designing the Sekford fox differ from your other recent projects?

The Sekford logo was the first truly collaborative project I’ve undertaken.
With the Sekford fox, what I was trying to create was central to the company’s identity, and I felt the responsibility keenly. Thankfully the brand’s founder, Kuchar Swara (also a co-founder of PORT), had a very clear idea of what he wanted and, even more thankfully, we saw eye to eye on most things.

His input helped lead the project in directions it might not necessarily have gone otherwise, but with rewards that I hope are self-evident in the finished logo.

What’s next for Inkshed Press?

I’ve just completed a commission for a range of Christmas cards that will be shortly be hitting the streets and I’ve been invited to exhibit at the prestigious annual Fry Art Gallery Exhibition and Sale in Saffron Walden, which I’m hugely excited about.

Beyond that, Christmas is always a very busy time of year, with commissions already backing up, but in the New Year I hope, for what seems like the first time in an age, to be able to get on with some new original work of my own…

Photography Tobias Harvey

Sekford watches launched in autumn 2015. Prices start at £695