Potatoes + linocut tools = potato printing fun!

Reading several vintage books on printing from the 1960s and earlier, I kept thinking about exploring the versatile potato when teaching some simple printing classes. As a youngster, I never got to make potato prints, because carving the designs involved sharp tools.

For my current explorations, I discovered linocut tools, which any adult or almost-adult with good hand-eye coordination will find easy to use. The surface of the potato is easy to carve and happily accepts fabric paints applied with a brayer or brush. (I use ProFab fabric paints from ProChemical & Dye. These paints can be applied over fabric with existing patterns, or with your own custom-dyed and -printed fabrics.)

I found the whole process to be delightful. Note: my designs are fairly crude. I’m sure that a skillful, patient approach could result in finer lines. Sides of the potatoes can be cut to designated shapes. Don’t forget: this is a one-shot deal, one potato, one printing session. Then watch them shrivel into interesting sculptural objects, finally disposed of in a compost pile.

These images are from printed napkins or hankies from students in various teaching situations. Red star above was made using cross-sliced apple. Images below show the negative-space effect of filling a field with printed images, and with two printings from one inked potato.