Work is piling up but the heat is starting to get to me. I didn't engrave at all yesterday but did do some planning towards V&A - I must make up for it today, hopefully starting the last spot. I have given myself a choice of either a snail or berries and may go for the latter now. If I really crack on, I may do both and leave the choice to the Barbarians. I still want to stick to posting the small blocks after the weekend.
I really had to drag myself to the press last night but did make fifty copies of the "surprise" bookplate. This would be nothing on a motorised, self-inking press but its a slow business on the Albion and, I suppose, I prefer it that way.
Once the block is fixed in the bed of the press and the makeready has been sorted out (see a recent post and photo) then I start to print the edition. There is a lovely sense of ceremony to this, even when the heat is making me wilt. Firstly, I spread some ink on the slab and roll it out to "open" it and establish that lovely "hiss" as the roller (brayer) is moved over the ink. I tend to leave the ink for a few moments and carry out the paper tearing ceremony.
I have a draw full of my favourite Zerkall paper. It is smooth, off white and perfect for printing engravings. Each sheet is torn into different sizes, depending on the job. This is a 2" x 3" bookplate which will be trimmed close to the image so I was making 3" x 4" pieces. I made about 100 pieces - more than enough for tonight - and set them out in piles of ten.
Printing, in itself, has a wonderful rhythm and routine. I often use ambient music to set the mood but, last night, I chose the Yonder Mountain String Band to lift my flagging spirits a little. I set down a steaming mug of tea (yes, even in the hottest weather) and inked the block.
Starting in the centre, I push the brayer into the corners and then make a few single strokes down the block. Setting down the brayer, I take a piece of paper, check that the slightly smoother side is down and deftly lay it on the block - a slow deliberate movement to minimise the change of smudging. The card tympan is layed over and the bed is slid on its rails to a position underneath the platen. I brace my knee against the rail and pull the bar towards me until I can feel the pressure build. I judge the point to stop and let the press dwell there for a moment. I gently returen the bar and slide the bed out to a point where I can flip back the tympan and carefully peel off the paper.
I inspect the print and anything that it substandard is rejected and torn into the recycling bin. I print in batches of ten. If there is a reject, I take a separate sheet so that the finished pile of prints has the full ten. I worked through five piles to achieve 50 prints - half of the edition. I rejected four prints. More thanI would like but, perhaps, not bad under the circumstances.
And that, beloved readers, was my evening. Another fifty to go tonight!