My arm is throbbing from pulling the prints through the press, but I had a productive day!
Not everyone is familiar with the old ways of Intaglio print making so today I will show you the printing process. Keep in mind hours have already been spent treating and etching the plate – this is just the inking process!
First you take a rubber squeegee and push the thick ink into the lines of your drawing. You need to push the ink into the grooves from all 4 directions.
Next you take a special fabric called a tarlatan and you rub the plate in a clockwise direction. This removes excess ink while rubbing desired ink into the plate. It takes quite some time to carefully remove unwanted ink.
At this point as hard as you worked, there is still a film of unwanted ink. You now very quickly, in a circular motion, rub the plate with newspaper. It almost feels like a heated friction. You are lightly skimming the surface to remove the last of the unwanted ink. If you are good you are still keeping the ink in those lines… we won’t talk about getting good…there’s lots of trial and error!
OK. all 8 plates are inked and ready to be printed…
You place them image side up, center them and then carefully center your paper on top of them (Did I mention the struggle to keep everything clean at this point? Think of this sticky ink all over your fingers no matter how clean you try to be!)
The paper has needed to soak in water for 20 min – to an hour so that the metal plate will not tear the paper when squeezed through the press.
You put newsprint above and below your plates and paper. This keeps the messy inks off your press. In this photo I have already put the paper and blankets down on the plates, rolled the press over it and then opened it up to see the plate marks on the paper. Plate marks are the creases caused by the force of the rollers when metal meets paper. This is how you can tell it’s a real print and not a photocopy!
Alas the new prints are left on a rack to dry. All in all, I am astounded at how labor intensive print making can be. We take for granted our new electronic friends spewing out images at the press of a button!
But there is a difference. It’s how you feel when you lift the printing blankets and flip your piece of paper over to catch first glimpse of your print. It’s thrilling! And it really looks hand crafted. Going through the entire printmaking process allows you to connect with the artisans that came before you. The true work involved gives you new-found respect for their advances and artistry.
A lesson wonderfully learned.