Thursday, October 14, 2010

printing solo

press bed with news print and a metal plate

Yesterday, I was very excited to use the print shop at Pyramid Atlantic Studios for the first time as a solo printer. I finally managed to get certified to use the press, the chemicals and all equipment in their studio alone. I wanted to do this as much as ten years ago but it didn't seem possible then. Now, thanks to a lot of people, but mostly Keith, I began with a refresher course in how to make the plates and print this year. Then I went to twice monthly open print shop nights and printed with a monitor to build up my experience. I have been building up volunteer hours making book boxes for the Moving Parts project for over a year now to get time to redeem in the shop. Thanks to Kelly O'Brien for inviting me to volunteer on that project.  Last week after talking with the print shop manager Jake Muirhead he gave me his approval to go ahead and use the intaglio print studio solo.
It was very exciting to actually get in there and set up and get to work on my own. I got some materials from the Art supply across the street. Thanks to my sister Jenny for the gift certificate that bought these tools and materials I had been without. Now I am making setting up to begin printing them on my own. I set my fine print paper to soaking in a tray of water. I turned on the hot plate to warm my etching plate and covered it with newspaper to protect it from ink. Then I plugged in the lights over the inking area. I dug out my plates, ink and fresh ink wiping tarleton, a sort of stiff cheese cloth used just for etchings.
Finally I set up my iPod with the portable mini speakers to John Lenon first to hear my newest songs Yoko released last week for his 70th Birthday. I was on a roll. I had my clean news print ready and damp print paper.

printing press with blankets rolled back

On the press I placed three felt blankets I selected to pad the steel roller. I set the press bed pressure with a clean plate sandwiched between blankets and press rollers. I chose a pressure toward to lighter side of what felt right on the bed to begin printing.

tarletons, newsprint & daubers in front of the large hot plate for metal plate warming 

Suddenly I remembered that the Plexiglas plate I was preparing to print did not need to be heated! Swiftly removed it from the hot plate and set to work inking it up. Only the metal plates get heated to soften the ink. The Plexiglas plate I was using started to warp on the hot plate so that was clearly a first mistake.
The black oil based ink is smeared all over the top of the plate almost like icing on a cake only much stickier and thicker than icing. Then slowly with the stiff tarleton I wiped off the ink leaving the lines I made in the plate full of black ink and the surface almost clean.
Once the edges were wiped clean I take it to the press and set it on news print then cover it with a sheet of blotted damp print paper and that gets covered with another new print sheet and the blankets. Then comes the fun of rolling them all slowly through the press. At last on the other side the print will be revealed by pulling up the blankets and peeling the damp print off the plate. This is when I see the results. Not bad for the first one moving on to the next repeat the inking, wiping and place paper then roll it again and the next was a little lighter?  I change how much ink I wipe off in the next few prints. Trying to get it darker. I stop for a break and show someone the results who passed by discussing how I wish it were darker. Then suddenly I thought to myself maybe I need to add more pressure? I ink up the plate again and get it ready to pull through the press then turn the screws three notches tighter or a quarter turn on the dial at opposite ends of the roller. Run it through and voila, I get a darker print! Wow I solved my first problem but not as soon as I had wished. So much for not having an expert around but next time I will know to try tightening the screws sooner.

I ended up printing 9 prints in three hours, more than I expected but not all as good as I would like. Clearly I need more practice which is why I wanted to get in there to print alone. I collected my prints from the drying rack and sandwiched them in a folder to take home and press flat to dry. Then I began the important process of cleaning up the studio. It is paramount to leave it clean so it will be ready for the next artist to begin with a clean studio and not get surprised by ink on a surface that will ruin some expensive paper or the clothes of unsuspecting visitors.  Everything cleaned and put away all the tools returned to their proper places, the lights and hot plate turned off. I came home very happy to have completed my day of print making solo at Pyramid Atlantic studios! Now I hope to go back and print and burn my new plates in the acid about once a week so I can build up a portfolio of etchings. Thanks to everyone who supports my creative printmaking.
Next up I will be working at home on the metal plates I covered in hard ground yesterday readied to begin drawing new lines that I will etch in the acid the next time I visit the Pyramid Atlantic Studios to work solo or otherwise.

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