Drawing and painting are an important part of my creative process and help inform & inspire my printmaking and I often employ techniques from printmaking in my mixed media work. My prints can also be incorporated into mixed media work through collage, details often missed in a big print can be celebrated in the process. Most of the time I print onto paper but occasionally I will also print onto plaster & fabric.
My hand made prints on paper are totally different to giclee & other mass produced reproductions confusingly also called prints........
In brief to print onto paper I need to -
create a plate - it could be done by etching a metal plate, building a collagraph, carving into lino or a combination of techniques
ink the plate
put it on the bed of the press,
cover it with the damp paper I want to print onto,
put blankets on top & wind it through the rollers of my press
lift off the blankets
and even more carefully pull the paper off the plate and discover the resulting print....
Printmaking this way is an uncertain, exciting, frustrating and messy process with no guaranteed outcome!
I only pull a small number of prints from each plate whatever its strength - I will prepare no more than five pieces of paper to use for each plate . As each individual print is made from a plate inked and wiped by hand each print is unique.
If you are interested there is lots more detail below.........
I usually use sheet aluminium and a copper sulphate saline etching solution, but am also experimenting with using a simple copper sulphate solution to etch zinc. The back of the metal plate is protected by parcel tape & various soft & hard grounds are applied to the front and scratches & marks made through them to the metal surface. The plate is then submerged in the etching solution which penetrates and bites into the unprotected metal to produce an image. Often a plate will have more than one submersion with grounds removed & reapplied each time. The plate is then cleaned & polished to make it ready to use.
A collagraph plate is made from a collage of materials glued onto a support which is usually a piece of thin plywood, card or metal. I use different types of papers, fabrics, plastics, fillers, carborundum, plant materials, adhesives, paint and sometimes a even blow torch to produce an image on the plate. I usually seal the plate with a layer of shellac before printing with it. Many collagraph plates I make are fragile and have a very limited life.
I use vegetable based 'stay open' ink from a local printmaking supplier for my printmaking and much fun can be had in the choosing & mixing of colours to be used. Collagraph & etched plates are usually inked using intaglio techniques where ink is worked into the texture of the plate using a range of tools such as brushes, old credit cards & cotton buds & then carefully wiped to remove excess ink. Linocuts are normally relief inked using rollers. But I am quite happy to use rollers on any type of plate & have been known to use intaglio techniques on linocuts!
Using the press
The inked plate is placed ink side up on the bed of the press and damp paper laid on top followed by tissue paper & then is covered with the press blankets before winding it all through the rollers of the press. It is the pressure of the rollers that forces the ink onto the paper - too light a pressure & the plate doesn't print properly & too high a pressure can damage the plate.
You never quite know what you will find when you take off the blankets and carefully pull the paper away from the plate - no two prints are ever the same! Often a plate needs further work before I am happy with the prints it produces. The damp prints are carefully dried in layers of blotting paper weighted under boards to remove the moisture then hung from a drying rack for a few days to allow the inks to properly dry.
When the print is fully dry it is named, signed & given an edition number. For example 2/4 is the second print out of the four pulled from one plate. Where I have chosen to use different colours/inking techniques for each print these are marked EU (Edition Unique) or VE (Variable Edition) in front of the edition number. Occasionally I will designate the first print as an Artist's Proof (A/P), while prints made as adjustments are made before a plate is finalised are labelled State Proof (S/P).
Often printing plates are not very attractive but there are exceptions and a number of plates I have created and printed from have become artworks in their own right - examples can be seen in the 'Other Work' gallery
I have used a sewing machine for many years but no longer restrict myself to stitching fabrics. I incorporate stitching into a number of my prints & am enjoying using an old Singer sewing machine generously lent to me by Paula who lives in the village.