Stone Tree Press: bringing lithography back to life in Leeds

In 2018, artist Nora Hammenberg established Stone Tree Press at Patrick Studios. With very few artists using the traditional practice of lithography in the region, Nora set out to bring the printing technique back.

Here she tells us more about lithography, its history and her own experience.

The history of lithography

“Lithography was invented by Alois Senefelder in 1798 in Germany. He opened the first successful lithography workshop in Munich in 1799 and at that point, was mainly interested in the commercial printing of lithography rather than the possibilities of using lithography as an art medium.

“Senefelder obtained a patent for lithography in Barvaria and through a partnership with a music publisher called Johann André, went to London in 1800. In 1801, he obtained a British patent and left Johann Andrè’s brother Philipp to run the new lithography workshop in England.

“The first lithographic print was created by Philipp André and was published in 1803. The series is called Specimens of Polyautography and is made up by 12 prints made by 12 artists. In the early nineteenth century, most major artist became interested in lithography as a medium for creating art.

“Historically, an artist that created lithography prints worked with a printer to do so. This is because lithography required many skills to master. In Europe, it was rare artist printed their work themselves and it was often taken for granted that an artist would be working collaboratively with a professional printer.

“Traditional lithography is printed from lithography stones, a special kind of limestone. Lithography functions on the fact that grease and water repel each other. It is a printing technique where the areas for printing are on the same level as those that will not be printed. This is unlike woodcuts where you carve the areas you want to leave white into the wood.

“In lithography you can mix a lot of different expressions and styles. You can print in black and white or a range of different colours.”

Where Stone Tree Press began

“My interest in lithography started during my time at Göteborgs Konstskola (Gothenburg School of Art, Sweden). I had previously worked with analogue photography and had a little darkroom where I spent many hours developing my work. I started to use some of the first photography techniques like salt paper, vandyke and gum prints and photos became more and more artistic. That’s when I applied to the printmaking programme at Gothenburg School of Art.

“I found that lithography really suited the way I was working, a mixture of photography and abstract art. I spent many hours in the little printmaking room at Göteborgs Konstskola where the lithography press and graining sink was located and I started to get more and more fascinated by the process.

“After two years of studies, I knew I’d like to become a collaboration printer and teacher in lithography. I applied to the Tamarind Institute, the only school in the world that offers a lithography programme for professional fine art collaboration printers.

“In 2014, I started my studies on the Printer Training Programme – an intense year where I learned all basics of lithography, how to draw on the lithography stones, how to process the stones, how to print a limited edition of high standards. We learned about the chemistry of lithography and how to work as a professional collaboration printer. We were able to collaborate with different artist, we learned how to support an artist through the work and print editions.”

Bringing lithography to Leeds

“After I finished my studies at the Tamarind Institute, I decided to move to Leeds. I quite quickly realised that there was no print workshops in the area that offered lithography. This was something I found frustrating and sad at first, as I had seen this many times before. Lithography, due to its hard nature, and the fact that there isn’t a lot of well trained lithographers out there any more, is often not included or removed from print shops.

“After a while my frustration and sadness turned into the realisation that this was my chance to fulfil a dream, to run my own lithography workshop. I recognised that I could provide artists from West Yorkshire and further away, with the first specialist lithography workshop.”

About Stone Tree Press

“I founded Stone Tree Press in 2018 to provide lithography courses to the art community through group and one-to-one tuition. The aim is to keep the lithography skills alive and stop them from being forgotten. Lithography is one of the printmaking techniques that is rarely found in art colleges, universities and other art institutions.

“Stone Tree Press also offers a collaborations service through contract printing. This is an unique way to create a lithographic edition where the artist get the chance to fully focus on their art with the support of an expert in lithography.

“Our printers support the artist through the process and makes sure that the work is technically possible. This is an amazing experience where the artist and printer work close together and share mutual ambition and purpose. A deep understanding is created between artist and printer. Through the artist’s creativity and the printer’s knowledge, an artwork that never could be made by one of them on their own is created. This is a very traditional way of creating prints and it is important for us at Stone Tree Press to keep working and creating those connections between artists and our printers.

“I think one of the most important inspirations for me is to see the success of the artist I teach and collaborate with. To see a lithograph getting formed through the long process and in the end getting amazing results.”

Hopes for the future

“I hope that the future will bring Stone Tree Press more local and national artists to collaborate with. With all the knowledge I have in lithography and collaboration printing, I would like to pass this on to the art community and for artists to experience a collaboration with a professional printer.  It is such a unique and fascinating way of working and I’m keen to bring this tradition back.

“I’d also like to work more closely with the local art universities and organisations in West Yorkshire and provide opportunities for young artists to learn lithography. I will keep holding the basic lithography courses at Stone Tree Press and hoping that there will be interest for more advance courses in the future too.

“A long term goal for me is to provide an internship programme to give printmakers the opportunity to really focus on learning the lithography technique in depth. I’m also hoping to spend time on my own artistic work, creating more of my own lithographs and to have exhibitions in and around Leeds.”

Find out more

You can find out more about Stone Tree Press and sign up to its newsletter here: or follow the workshop on social media (Instagram and Facebook) @stonetreepress

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