Saturday, November 04, 2006

Illustration and Introducing "The Days Between"

I am interrupting my bookplate work to take on a couple of small illustrations. Far from being an unwelcome intrusion, I enjoy this work; apart from any other consideration, it puts vegetables on the table for another couple of weeks.

I always keep a day or two free in my weekly schedule to take on this type of work - illustration is unlike the rest of my work in two respects: there is usually a strong design brief and the deadline is generally very tight. Since most of my work involves lengthy planning and, perhaps, days of engraving, I enjoy the change of pace. Its a bit like being on a long walk, with its steady pace and rhythm, and then breaking into a run - a sprint. Afterwards, you are happy to get back to the usual pace for a bit.

I often get "bogged down" with longer term projects. Invariably, taking a break to spend a day on an "illie" allows me to go back to the job in hand refreshed.

As usual, with commissioned work, I will not show it here. Instead, here is a view of Ely cathedral across a sunny, but slightly misty, fenland - viewed from the bedroom window a few minutes ago.

I have started a new blog "The Days Between" to allow readers who are interested in engraving to continue to read "Studio Diary" without having to put up with the tedious details of my everyday existence. If you are interested to find out how this journeyman engraver spends his days, then you will find it here:

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Printing Bookplates

One of the reasons that I post infrequently is that most of my work is commissioned and so is either for publication or - very often - a suprise. I have spent much of the day printing a bookplate and I asked permission to share the process with my readers. Thank you Katy for giving me the go ahead.

For most of the images, you can see an enlarged view by clicking on them.

Here is the block when it was almost finished; before the first proof was taken:

The next photograph shows a view of the studio. The block is fixed in the bed of the smaller Albion Press. You can see the orange sheets of packing and makeready taped to the tympan. To the right is the inking table and, in the background, my engraving desk. This configuration works well as I hardly need to take any steps during the printing.

Here is a closer view of the block on the bed of the press. It is held in place by "furniture" which is tightened by "quoins".

In the next photograph, I am using a brayer to roll a thin film of ink on the block. For engravings, it is generally better to print with a thin layer of ink under high pressure.

Next, I am placing a small piece of Zerkall paper into position on the tympan. I have developed a method of holding small sheets without the need for gauge pins. I will reveal all on this blog in a few days.

The pressure is achieved by pulling the bar towards one, as can be seen in the next photo below. The beauty of this method is that the printer "feels" the pressure through the bar and so can control the printing pressure. The date 1865 is stamped into the bar; This Albion was built in the year that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

The next step is to wind the bed out from under the platen and carefully lift the tympan. This pulls the paper off the block and I can inspect the work.

Finally, I place the printed sheet up on the drying rack. Adter drying, the plates are carefully inspected and then they are trimmed, reeady for dispatch.

And that, as they say, is that.