Friday, June 24, 2005

Wilting and the Printing Ceremony

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!

1 comment:

yochanan said...

hello andy

just stopped by to say hi.

I have noticed that the humidity does effect the way plank grain maple carves. Have you noticed any effect on how wood engraving blocks react to excessive humitidy besides cracking along glue lines like a certian English block sellers would during our dry winters.

john c.