Category Archives: technique

State of the Art: Creating a Place to Work

One of the key items in my art making and creative arsenal are my headphones. With these I can create a place to work, make art and be creative, just about anywhere. By extension music helps too.

I’ve used headphones as a way to tune out and tune in since I was in elementary school. Back then I slipped the foam cushions of my Sony Walkman over my ears and tuned out of the world and into my art or homework and later in high school to work. Soon I was using foam covered earbuds and trying to hid the black cords around my ears, through my hair and into a hoodie to wear them in study hall.

My parents had rules on when my brothers and I could wear them.

As I got older I used headphones to tune out a variety of things- the noise of my roommates, construction, late night noises in the neighborhood, the people on the train and other various things. Over time I moved to in ear buds (IEB) and I found they worked better to help me tune out and tune in, and it really kept the noise of the subway out of my head.

At the DayJob I needed to buckle down and get a LOT of paperwork done, some of which I had let build up, so I popped my IEB in and sat in the gallery with my laptop and churned through the work. In the few hours I had I churned through pages and thousands of words of work. The combination of noise cancelation through the DIY plug tips and the music I chose (The Tidal 420 Playlist for giggles) let me tune out of the stuff that was happening around me, while I focused on the music.

Of course when you use true wireless BT IEB it can lead to confusion- one coworker laughed as I pulled a bud out, apologized, then said hello back.

For me, there is something really helpful about being able to isolate myself from the noise around me. I tend to look up when I hear a noise and then get distracted. It takes me a minute or two to get back to what I was focusing on. Headphones means I can ignore all the little inconsequential noises around me, and just focus on the task ahead of me.

It seems dramatic to call this bliss, but as an easily distracted person, being able to focus on just one thing is fantastic. That combined with the controls being on my ears just makes setting up a place to work easy.

In some places, like my home studio, I use a speaker system. That works well enough there since it is a private location, in a more public location, like my DayJob studio, I use a speaker when I’m not feeling distractable, otherwise it’s headphones.

I have to admit, I never really thought much about my use of headphones until recently. I’d been feeling very distracted and popped my IEB in, did my work, then realized I’d been doing this for YEARS of my life, and that I’d unconsciously been making a place to be creative.

It works for me. Do you use headphones or music to make a creative space for yourself?

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DIY Foam Tip for True Wireless IEM or Ear Buds

I want to start this off by stating that I’m not an audiophile, I just want my true wireless in ear buds to stay in my ears, which they just don’t with the typical silicone tips that are packaged with most entry level buds.

My search for tips that stay in my ears began when the collar of my winter coat brushed my new BT earbud and it tumbled out of my ear and onto the train tracks. Luckily the train was still 10 minutes away and I was able to retrieve half my investment.* I’d heard of foam tips before but hadn’t ever needed them for my corded earbuds. Everything I read suggested that the foam tips would solve my problems.

Because I didn’t know what size would fit my ears, I ordered a mixed pack of small medium and large tips from Comply. Be sure to check the Comply website for the right size tip to order for your in ear buds- I ordered the wrong size and the tip would slide off the stem and stay in my ear.  The cost plus shipping for 3 sets was just a hair over $20, you can get them on the ‘zon for about $15.  After that I purchased a package of JLab Cloud- you get 4 sets, 1 small, 2 medium, and 1 large.  The cost for those was around $7 (price fluctuates).

My right ear is sized small and my left medium, so each mixed pack nets me 2 usable sets with Comply. With the Cloud, I can wear medium in both ears. But the small fits well. I like the JLab Cloud– they are super soft and feel great, but they don’t fit my back up pair of Skullcandy Sesh (purchased via Woot for under $15.)

Foam tips stay put and my expensive buds stay put, my cheap Sesh stay in my ear. Also, the noise canceling effect means that my wife can watch TV and I can listen to music while I read.

A major downside of foam tips is that they degrade and after 3 months or so they get mushy and floppy, they still stay put but they are a pain in the rear to put in. You have to have fast hands to get them in place before they expand.

Even more annoying is that every brand of bud needs a different Comply tip or they won’t fit into their case, then they won’t charge. Annoying.  My search for a cheaper option lead me to the JLab Clouds. At $7 for 3 usable pairs is a better deal for my more expensive JBL buds, but they don’t fit my Sesh well.

I knew I could get a perfect fit from Comply foam, but I have a hard time spending more on tips than I spent on the buds. I could order a mixed pack and get 2 usable pairs, or I can order a pack each of small and medium- which would cost around $40.

Yikes.

So DIY options?

Most that I searched for were for IEM like Klipsch with very narrow posts for the tips or to make large silicone custom tips that lock into the ear. I have a couple of sets of heat moldable material (link to a DIY silicone version) that I use with corded buds, but I’d be into the problem of removing the tips every time I needed to charge. I’ve also grown very fond of the noise cancelling effect of the foam tips. It’s great for when I use the lawn mower or snow blower.

I found a number of DIY options using ear plugs. Which totally made sense- ear plugs are made of the same soft squishy foam as the tips. I also considered craft foam. Which did not work at all.

My reading of the above linked articles and more led me to picking up the softest ear plugs with the highest sound blocking rating that I could find… at the local CVS. I found a 10-pack of super soft plugs that reduce noise by 32 decibels, in hot pink. They had a variety of other colors but they all looked rather medical, other than another version that didn’t reduce noise by nearly as much. I like the hot neon pink though. Package of pink earplugs

I decided to poke the holes first then cut to size. I used 2 different hole punches- a Japanese screw punch with a 2mm and a 3mm bit and a hammered leather punch with a 3 mm bit. Because of how they cut and the properties of the foam, the holes were smaller than the bit themselves. With the punch the middle section and end of the hole are substantially smaller than the first part, which helps hold the tips to the buds very tightly.

I was worried that the plugs would slip off the buds without recycling the interior of a Cloud or Comply tip, but the hole is so small and the fit so tight they don’t. Keep in mind that the memory foam is expanding in all directions- so the compressed foam is trying to compress back into that tiny hole and compressing around the stem for the tip. I’ve been using a set for a week now and not had a problem with them slipping.

After you punch the hole through the height you need to let them expand, this works better if they are warm, so hold them in your hand. After they have expanded to their full height you are going to lay them down and flatten them along the height. Measure a silicone tip, add a millimeter or 2 and then cut the plug with a sharp pair of scissors.

Now be patient and let them expand again, then flatten them like you are punching the hole again. While the plug is flattened pancake style, stretch and pull the donut shaped plug over the stem where the tips usually sit.  Pull the plug down past the end of the stem, the stem should poke out a bit. Let the tip expand, when it is fully expanded, wiggle it around until it’s sitting where you want it. It should not expand too far past the tip of the plug.

Every brand of IE buds will need a little different work. The Skullcandy Sesh were much easier to DIY- the way the plug fit over the stem was easy, and it fits into the case perfectly, so the buds charge without interference. My JBL Tune125TWS needed a bit more tweaking- I had to trim out the tiny hole over the stem so the foam wouldn’t interfere with the sound. I also used the interior of a dead Comply foam for these buds and they worked well. I would suggest, leaving a bit of old foam on the core to keep them put inside the plug.

The ultimate goal here was to create a cheaper alternative to Comply foam tips that fit into the case of my various BT IE buds. This has been accomplished and they look pretty decent and fit in my ears just as securely as the Comply, if not more so. They sounds pretty decent too. Like I wrote in the intro, I’m not an audiophile, but I like it if my buds sound good and don’t need to be cranked up to be heard.

The cost? A little elbow grease and $0.25 per pair. Not gonna lie, I’m pretty excited.

Many of the instructions offered other suggestions for poking the holes- from mechanical pencils to the metal tips off gel pens. Anything will work so long as it is at least a millimeter smaller than the stem on the in ear bud.

I did reuse the interior tubes from a couple of Comply tips, they were a bear to fit into the ear plug material, but once in there, they seem to hold well enough. I get the Comply tips with the added acoustic grate that keeps dirt out of the IE buds. I’m not sure this extra step is worth the effort and work. Continue reading

Process: From Spark to Art

My brain works in mysterious ways, well not really, I know how my brain works but sometimes it puts 2 things together in a way I didn’t expect.

Case in point:

pencil sketch of a fried chicken leg with the words fried 4 life

Not the chicken leg I presented her with!

I work with someone who loves fried chicken. I, also love fried chicken. We talk about all the different fried chicken places in the area. Unabashed love for fried chicken. After a few weeks of fried chicken talk, I doodled a fried chicken leg on scrap paper and presented it to her. We laughed.

chicken leg sketch in paint markers with words fried chicken 4 life around it

Early sketch and color scheme.

Somehow I started to doodle more chicken legs, this time with the words “Fried Chicken 4 Life” in various arrangements. Then with black Posca pens and finally with some color.

Chicken leg with 4 life inside it and Fried Chicken around it

This was declared the winning sketch, and the one that gave the idea of making it a sticker.

fried chicken leg with 4 life inside and fried chicken around it, in final color scheme of red and pink letters with orange and mottled brown chicken on a light blue backlground.

The final color scheme and thick black outline. 7 different colors of paint pen were used.

When I arrived at a final image and color scheme that I liked I took a nice clear photo and then arranged it into a grid in (yes) publisher. After that I printed it off on a color laser printer to sticker paper. Finally the individual stickers were cut out of the sticker sheet.

The sticker paper I used was the most inexpensive I’d found on the ‘zon and has done well with letterpress inks and now paint pens. It also traveled through the color Xerox machine we have at work.

final design arranged in a grid, ready to be cut out.

The final xerox printed colors are a bit lighter than the original, but they look great.

Overall I’m pretty happy with how this ridiculous sticker turned out, even the little hand colored version is great. The color photocopied is awesome. I’ve also run this paper through the letterpress at work with some pretty good results.

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State of the Art: Battling Material Snobbery

Now that material snobbery has taken hold of my brain I battle it in the best way I know how- by focusing on the art.

Last week I had a moment where my entrenched material snobbery hit me head ON. I was taking part in an art prompt with my coworkers when I realized that the paints we’d been provided with were…. not my usual brand. Further we were given only the primary colors plus white and black.  I was having trouble mixing the colors I wanted and was getting frustrated.

I wanted to run to my studio and grab a package of acrylics I ordered for a group and use all the colors I couldn’t mix.

After a bit of frustration I focused on what I COULD do with what I had on hand. The image ended up working pretty well. I used cups to press circles of paint onto my canvas and little creamer cups to press perfect dabs of color all over.

In the end I had fun.

No matter what tools I have on hand I can always find a way to make them work in some way. It might be different than my initial plan, but it’ll work. This is what happens when you let yourself be flexible, and look at the possibilities instead of the limitations of the material at hand.

I try to remember that limitations are possibilities.

 

State of the Art: Art Journaling, Again

Art journaling is something I return to again and again. It’s the best form of expression I know and soothes my mind in even the worst situations. Yet, these last few years when I could have used it the most, I wasn’t using an art journal in its most effective way. I was using a sketchbook and drawing but I wasn’t art journaling in the form that I find most effective. That is to say, with stencils and paint and drawing. 

I’m happy to report that I’ve been art journaling again. I’ve been focusing on short sessions, instead of my old marathons. Though I’ve done some marathon gelatin printing sessions, those are forming the base layers of my art journals. I’m adding symbols and more layers of collage and drawing.

Here’s an example:

I made a few foam tray blocks (I’ll have to detail this classic printmaking method later) and stamped them onto my page with black water soluble block printing ink. The ink stays wet for a long time and even after drying remains soluble with water. I sealed these with a low odor sealant to keep them in place as I worked. foam block printed brains

Then I attempted to transfer a color photocopy of a selfie I took. It transferred poorly to this surface- the combination of gesso and gloss gel didn’t like the toner. You can see this ghost under all the other additions to the page. I pulled another image- a skull with a hole cut in it, and attempted another transfer, another bust, though this one left an image that could be reworked with ink. the 8 is also a foam print but het skull is a transfer

After that I layered in a skull from a sheet I keep on hand. I like to draw skulls and they have no particular dark meaning to me, but I understand that the combination of skulls tends to lend a dark look to this page. Though I see skulls and bones as a metaphor for underlying strength. Anyway, I carefully cut out the skull and glued it in.

I considered drawing on the rays from the skull’s eyes, but instead went with another collage style. In this case, I used another gelatin printed sheet, this time, on sticker paper. Pro-tip: Pick up some sheets of sticker paper and gelatin print on them. This creates some awesome badass sticker sheets for collage. It’s super easy to cut out stripes to use like washi tape. I was quickly able to cut and assemble the rays from the sticker sheet.

After applying the sticker paper, I added in some orange colored pencil. This was to push the rays up and off the page and make them pop. It worked, mostly.skulls for days

Overall, I like this page. As with all art journal pages, the process is the most important aspect of the page, but it’s nice that I was able to create an interesting visual page.

Techniques: Tools and the Marks They Make

An aspect of learning any new art process it learning about your new tools and the marks they make. Each tool in a new material makes a different mark, add in something new and it alters the mark made. Learning these marks is a whole new visual language.

Enter in my exploration of drypoint via the use of recycled materials. each material responds to the tools of dry point- etching needles, needles, sand, grit, and other tools in a slightly different manner.

This plate is a good example of how the substrate changes how the coffee bag responds to my tools.small drypoint of a cabin in the woods

I glued the coffee bag to a piece of old binder board, one I never liked for books because it has what I can only describe as a “soft fluffy” texture. It indents wit a finger nail and though it cuts with ease, I’ve used it as a base for collagraphs in the past and hated it. But here, it works great. I did run it through the press a few times, each on successively increased pressure to compact the soft fluffy fibers.  It is still soft, but less fluffy.

This soft texture allowed me to press into the board with some decent pressure, giving nice bold lines. Light pressure allowed me to get the finest of fine line. I used some sandpaper with varying amounts of cross hatching to create some very fine lines that created a nice depth of texture and darkness. It really evokes the depth of the woods in that area. the plate for the previous print

The sandpaper wrapped around a finger and then with the plate spun under it gave the swirls of lines in the branches. I really like the look and hope to make a few texture tools with sandpaper to give more control.

Anyway, now that I I know I like the coffee bag on a substrate as a method of printmaking I’ve been able to experiment with the look that each tool makes as I use it in different manners. I’m having fun with it and developing a visual language of marks. I’m learning each and every tool.

State of the Art: Trash Printmaking and Plastic Coated Everything

The great thing about trash printmaking is that you become hyper aware of plastic coatings on everything. I mean, okay, that’s not great. So many things in our world are coated in a thin film of plastic and that means they can be used for making prints.

At least I can reuse many of the plastic film coated things.

I picked up a meal at a fast food chain. (Don’t judge, we all have our weak moments.) The cups were made out of paper card and the ice cream pie I added on had a plastic coated card container. I decided to test them out to see if I could print with them.

Results were varied.

They had a super thin film of plastic, soft and pliable it feels more like a membrane than anything else. I washed and dried them then cut them into flats. Any glue layers were removed as was the cup rim and bottom seal for the cup. I should have taken pictures of this process but, alas, I wasn’t thinking of documenting the process.Skull etched into flatten hershey pie carton

I used a variety of tools- needle, needle scribe, and an Exacto knife to scrape and score into the surface. It was clear that all the tools were raising a burr and breaking through the surface of the plastic film. I could feel the paper fibers raising up through the scores. The plastic film began to peel a bit as I cross hatched lines. Peeling back the plastic film was surprisingly easy it revealed super smooth cardstock, peeling that back left a fiber-y ink soaking surface. Brain and blames etched into a paper drink cup from BK

Both stocks felt similar but the ice cream pie box felt softer and thicker.

I used Speedball Supergraphic black ink. A water soluble but oil based ink. It’s a favorite but relatively stiff and sticky. Even with the first print of each small thin slivers of the plastic from cross hatched areas peeled up during the wipe. The sticky ink pulled it up despite the warmth of the day and my studio.

The printing went well and the plate released from the paper well.

The second printing is where things got… rough. The soda cup survived the second print, loose slivers of plastic stopped peeling up* and the second print was as good as the first. The pie box, well not so much. The membrane started to peel even during the adding of ink.  I used a soft piece of waste cardboard and scraped the ink over, only to have the membrane peel of in some areas. When I began wiping, well larger areas peeled away. This lent an interesting effect to the print. Some areas that had had ink on them duding the previous print, printed deeply dark while newly revealed areas showed a paler area of dark- charcoal gray. And areas that peeled away entirely were fresh and white showing the etched in areas in great contrast.

Flattened hershey pie carton

You can see how the box started to break down in just warm water when I washed it.

This means that the box and the cup create monotypes with etched in details. Which is fun, but, I greatly prefer that if I’m going to go to the effort of etching in details that I get more than 2 prints were piece of trash. detail of the second skull and circles print

I do wonder if the oils in the ink broke down the plastic and if a loosened up waterbased ink would work better. I have some Speedball waterbased inks so I might try some of those with them. It is also tempting to mix up some paste and black watercolor to test these pieces of trash.

Anyway, even if it is a single print it’s better than just tossing the stuff in the trash. (This sort of packaging is not recyclable in my area.) The plate is also a work of art and can be mounted and framed. Some won’t be as successful.

With regards to using Akua inks. I know that a lot of blogs and sites call them “water-based.” They are not they are made of a modified soy oil that is water miscible, which means they are oil based and water soluble. If it is the oil that started the break down of the plastic film the same would happen with Akua inks.

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State of the Art: Recycling in Printmaking

Most folx know that I’m devoted to recycling. I started to explore recycled items as part of my printmaking process with the use of heavy card packages- like cereal,  frozen pizza, and seltzer can boxes. As I was flattening the boxes in our bathroom recycling bin, I realized that most of the boxes had a plastic coating, and thus could be used much like aseptic packaging. We’re talking things like facial toner and toothpaste boxes.a stack of flattened packages from toothpaste and beauty supplies.

To start I opened up the boxes and trimmed off any torn or wrinkled areas. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to leave the flaps on the boxes or cut them off, but using the mini press constrains my efforts, so for these, I trimmed them off. They just wouldn’t fit on my paper or press. After that I wiped then down with Simple Green. Finally I ran them through the press to flatten and smooth them.

Some people like to trim off the folds and just use the parts of the boxes that are smooth and flat. I chose to leave the folds to get a larger space for creating images. I ended up with plates roughly 4 x 6 inches.

I’ve been wanting to use toner transfer for awhile so I printed some skulls and brains. I used my chartpack blending marker. It smells like hell and uses xylene but it’s the one thing that I have found that works flawlessly for the toner in my Brother B&W laser printer. I made the mistake of trying to run the whole thing through my mini press between my plates and it hazed the clear acrylic top plate, so that’s fun.

Anyway, no need for the pressure of the press, the marker does the work on its own. I ended up with pretty good transfers on most of the packages. I combined these transfers with some freehand sketching with a sharpie. The sharpie doesn’t seem to transfer from this packaging to the final prints. It does with other plates.

Finally I scratched and scored into the card with an Exacto and a needle. I also used a ball embossing tool. All worked pretty well. For larger dark areas I cut into the plastic and card with the Exacto and peeled away areas of the plastic and card. Most of this packaging has the plastic layer, plus a super smooth very sealed layer of card, then the pulpy fiber layer of card. Finally the plates were sealed with a top coat of water based varnish. Normally I seal the edges and back of the cards, but wanted to get printing. This was a mistake. The edges of the cards hold a lot of ink and can make for a VERY mess printing experience.

Inking was done intaglio style. I used a brush to lay down ink and push it into my lines. I ended up using a silicone scraper to push more ink in and scrape off the surface ink. After that the surface ink was wiped away leaving behind a bit of plate tone to make a more interesting print.

Skull and flames

I really dig the dark flames at the top. They were cut and peeled. You can also see where the package imprint wiped cleaner than the surrounding area. If I’d been thinking I’d have carved and peeled this away too.

skull and forked tongue

I’m not pleased with this one, the tongue doesn’t slide through the sockets properly and is distorted. I probably won’t print this one again.

nerves

This one is fun, I’ve always liked the image of nerves running through the body. I just embellished. You can see the embossed details of the package.

brain, skull and flames

meh. I won’t be printing more.

As you can see from the pictures these little plates make really interesting images and print surprisingly well. With the exception of the Pixi box. That coating seemed to get a bit sticky with the ink. It might do better with Akua or other watersoluble inks. But it did not like the Speedball Supergraphic Black ink.

It was a lot of fun making these plates and printing them. It’s very freeing to use trash to make art.

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State of the Art: Return of the Mini Press

Yesterday marks the Return of the Mini Press! As much as getting the press was a pain in the rear, the customer service person who I dealt with was lovely.

Now that I know more about the press, and I’m checking pressure with EVERY plate change, it’s working great. I spent a few hours and inked up a few plates and it was really nice to work on the prints.

I wanted to focus on one print and plate. The inked plate.

The plate is made up of 3 sheets of cardstock cut from a pizza box. I laminated this together with regular old white glue (PVA if ya fancy) and put the whole stack in my book press for a few hours. I then let this dry in my drying rack.

I sketched directly onto the plate with pencils. I went over that with an extra fine Sharpie. This was okay because I knew I’d be sealing the plate. I have found that under pressure and with the use of the Speedball Supergraphic ink, unsealed sharpie lifts onto the print. It makes a halo the color of the Sharpie. Annoying.

After that I cut shapes and peeled the paper back. I etched into the plate with a needle and craft knife. When I was happy with my base image, I went back into the image with a liquid matte medium and sand mix*. I brushed this onto areas I wanted to be deeply dark. I used a q-tip (cotton bud) to move the sandy mix around a bit. Then I wanted to try something fancy, I coated the light area in the sky with that white glue. I knew that with the amount of moisture in the air (it’s been humid AF here) that when I coated the sky area with the acrylic based varnish I use, it would crackle, but be mostly white. I was right. Even if I hadn’t been I had known in advance I wanted that area light. The crackles  were purposeful and look, to me, much like thin branches you see in the sky when you look up through a tree canopy.detail of the crackle sky detail of the crackle sky

A thing that I noticed is that the rough areas of the plate- in the trees and large swatches of dark, it starts to break down. That card from the recycling bin is very absorbent. I’ll start adding a thicker layer in those areas from now on, but I’m going to reapply more varnish over those areas. detail of the cabin

I also need to “wet-pack” my paper. Basically, Spritz down the paper I’ll use for my printing session with clean water, stack them together in a plastic bag, and then print with the resulting soft damp paper. I’ve been printing with dry paper or paper that has been lightly misted just before rolling it through the press. Since I’m cutting quite deeply into my card the paper has to be soft enough to make it into every nook and cranny. small print of a cabin in the woods, small cabin is overshadowed by large trees Mini press, purple and white press Continue reading

State of the Art: Alternative Presses for Printmaking

A few posts back I mentioned my deep dive into YouTube and how it woke my interest in alternative presses for printmaking.

Back in my undergrad years I’d heard about people using a variety of different tools to make prints, top among them the tortilla press! Way back then I attempted to make my own press from scrap wood my Dad had laying around and it was a pretty dismal failure. I know a lot more now than I did then. I probably should have asked my Dad for help in building the little press. After that I built another press with 2 thick slabs of crappy plywood, 4 long bolts, some wingnuts, and a handle. It worked well enough but I soon used it more for pressing notebooks than anything else.

Somewhere along the way I bought the little 5×8 Speedball press. Back then they were a more reasonable $30, currently they run $90! (Though available at most discount art suppliers for around $70!)  Good investment. Though I had initial terrible luck with getting smooth even prints with it. Live and learn, literally. It needs a pusher to even out the pressure from the lid if you are going to print in the upright traditional manner.  The Speedball relief press works on the same idea as a tortilla press- hinged lid and a lever for pressure. That’s all you really need to make a relief print.

Then there’s the Open Press Project, which is a miniature (very tiny) 3D printed press. You can print it yourself for the cost of time and filiments or buy one ready made. They offer them at cost and also at a bit of a profit- a pay what you can offering. Even at the base cost of just materials, it costs well over $100. I’m not sure what it would cost if you were to 3D print it your self. There’s also a proofing press, called the F-Press that you can purchase from the designer. YouTube and instructables are littered with instructions for building your own presses.

Of course there is the good old wooden spoon or rolling pin. If you want an upgrade from a rolling pin, there’s the stainless steel Akua pin press, aka a fancy stainless steel rolling pin.

Or homemade barens? I’ve wrapped a few cardboard rounds in news paper and fabric and secured that with masking tape to burnish the backs of prints. I’ve read about people putting flat head push pins into a block of wood and burnishing with that. Or gluing a fist full of toothpicks into a cardboard tube!

All of these ideas allow you to put pressure onto the back of  the art to get a good relief print. Sometimes they work for intaglio process, sometimes not.

But the idea of a craft embossing press as an etching press? That was new to me.

This led me to looking into other ideas for getting the slightly higher pressure needed for intaglio style printing.

Pasta makers!!! You can feed small thin intaglio sheets and paper with felt through the largest setting of a pasta maker!

Other folks still will print their work by sandwiching their plates between pieces of plywood and running over it with their car a few times! Often printmakers will have an event where they’ll rent a steam roller for a day or two and spend a day making massive 4x8ft prints in parking lots. I’ve never been to one of these events but I’m always interested when I see the resulting images and photos of folx having a ton of fun.

Or what about those cold roll manual laminators? I saw a guy on youtube using one for relief prints, he reported using it for an etching but couldn’t say that it would last. But he’d made over 4000 lino and relief prints on the one inexpensive cold laminator!

If you are old enough you remember “knuckle busters” or the old school credit card imprint tools that were used at check out. You’d get a little carbon copy of your receipt. One person has repurposed a knuckle buster (So called because cashier often ran their knuckles over the store’s info on the bed of the machine, which hurt… a lot!) to print little relief prints.

Learn from my mistake- most of these alternative presses can give you the pressure you need for collagraph and other intaglio style work, but you need to take care with the amount of pressure you apply and adjust it for every material (my big error) you run through it. If you are pressing relief prints you don’t need intaglio pressure! The press roller just needs to exert enough pressure for an even print, and most can do it at a lower pressure than you expect.

Because I had a rather traditional printmaking education I was stuck in the idea that I needed wool felt blankets for printing intaglio style. I’ve since learned that this isn’t the case. Almost any material with little grain or pattern will work. So craft or fun foam, mouse pads, yoga mats (any pattern squishes out of them), cheaper recycled plastic craft felt, neoprene rubber, and a variety of other less natural materials will work. They are also significantly cheaper than traditional wool blankets. With the little craft presses or cold press laminators, you may even need less packing than in a large press. IF the rollers are rubberized then they may give a bit of the cushioning you need to get a decent imprint and adding additional blankets actually decreases the pressure.

Wool blankets are so expensive that a kevlar blanket protector was developed by Keith Howard (1998) in the 90s to protect them! I have distinct memories of fellow students getting worried about getting ink on the blankets and hoping the professor wouldn’t notice. When I first read about using foam and other materials I balked then realized that use of these new materials opens the door for more people to be able to take part in printmaking. Cheaper newer materials opens the door for more people to explore and enjoy printmaking.

Anyway, if you have used anything interesting to make prints, leave a comment and tell me about it!

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