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The Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Hi! Holly here, I thought I would write a little blog here about a big project of ours that we worked on this summer - the 'not so' Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly.

This print is both mine and Eleanors first time doing a reduction print, so of course I decided the best thing to do was to make this an A2, 5 layered print (go big or go home huh?)


The idea behind this print came from a conservation perspective, 20 butterfly species are now on Britains red list as critically endangered. As well as being totally gorgeous, butterflies are important for maintaining a healthy ecosystem as they are a natural pest control and pollinator. The small tortoiseshell butterfly in particular has seen large declines in the last few years and is expected to be hugely affected by the rising climate. In light of this, 10% from each sale will go to the 'Butterfly Conservation' charity to help with their efforts (website linked below).


So, what is a reduction print? and what was our process throughout this print?

A reduction print uses the same linoleum block to print every colour on the image, this means the prints made are limited edition and totally unique, almost like the butterflies themselves! After researching and coming up with my idea I decided to do a detailed coloured pencil drawing of the small tortoiseshell, with the same sizings and colours that I would want to see in the print itself...



Once I had finished drawing we started to think about the colours I would need to mix and in what order, we decided on this process:

  1. Cut out the white areas and print the blue/purple spots

  2. Cut out the blue/purple and print yellow

  3. Cut out yellow and print the orange. For this layer I ended up using two colours, the orange, and a redder orange for the edges

  4. Cut out the orange and print the brown. Again I mixed two colours for this, a lighter brown for the middle body and a darker brown for the tips of the wings

  5. Finally I cut the brown areas out and printed the black

I started off wanting 50 prints in total, which means I would be running the block through the print a total of 250 times before they were all finished. Unfortunately when printing the first layer I noticed too late that the block had moved slightly from all the times I had run it through the printing press. We created reinforcements around the sides of the Lino block with cardboard and a lot of tape to keep it in place, and checked it hadn't moved after each subsequent print. However it did mean that a lot of the butterflies where too far off when we then went to print the next layer. We ended up with 23 useable prints and 8 only slightly less than perfect seconds, which we are still very happy with. It's all a learning process at the end of the day!


I have attached a video of the process and colours as well as some pictures and videos of the final product. I do plan on making this a series for other endangered species, so keep your eyes pealed! If you are interested in buying the print you can do so on our website or Etsy which I will also link below...


The whole process:

Showcase video:


And finally some pictures:




- The Butterfly Conservation charity: https://butterfly-conservation.org

This website has lots of information on the currently endangered as well as the conservation statuses of butterfly species if you are interested.

- Our Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/uk/people/lgoxasrw4pp9mcap?ref=hdr_user_menu-profile











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