T1-MMT-P4 Printing workshop with Claire Brach

Earlier this week I spent a day with friend and fellow OCA student Claire (tactualtextiles.wordpress.com/). We started together on the textiles pathway, and Claire has since transferred to creative arts so she can combine textiles with her new-found passion for printmaking. Claire is currently working on the final project for Printmaking 1 and has participated in workshops and master classes here in Sydney. I asked to visit to see her in action – all those finer details of working, her setup and tool choice. She responded by giving me a full, personalised, one day workshop in her studio.

It came with homework. At our last get-together, visiting the S.H. Ervin gallery for the Destination Sydney exhibition of works by Cressida Campbell, Grace Cossington Smith and Margaret Preston, Claire gave me pieces of lino and pvc foam sheet, each 12 x 18.5 cm.

design for foamex

design for foamex

The foamex was for the first print layers, to be printed in multiple colours. The design instructions:

  • Draw 4 lines edge to edge. They mustn’t cross
  • Draw 3 lines, which must cross others
  • Elaborate with echoing lines, patterning and/or textures as desired
  • design for lino

    design for lino

    The lino would be the top print layer, in a single colour. Instructions:

  • Draw 5 or more circles or parts of circles. They can overlap, be fully enclosed, stay separate…
  • Elaborate with echoing curves.
  • Decide which areas would be cut away and which would print.
  • In doing this, consider the overlap with layer 1. Don’t obscure areas of particular interest.
  • I arrived for the day with designs drawn, paper pre-cut and plate surfaces scrubbed. While I was put to work transferring the designs and cutting the plate, Claire made a “simple jig” (her words) precision measured to my plates and paper, to aid registration.

    work station

    work station

    I was focused and kept forgetting to take photos. This one shows Claire demonstrating the rolling and application of thin layers of ink. Note:

  • Thoughtfully designated work areas. I think the inking area stays constant – tools and inks in place, glass plates (non-skid mat beneath) with regions for rolling main and other inks and for the plate being inked. Drawers below hold less frequently used tools. Turn to the right and there is the printing area – a space to store the blankets etc, right next to a place to build the sandwich of plate, paper, blankets…, right next to her large book press. Additional benches around the room are set up as required. One table was the cutting area. Another was paper preparation.
  • Carefully chosen and maintained equipment. Quality tools are added as need arises and budget allows. In the top right corner above you can just see the wooden stand purpose made for Claire’s main rollers. On the cutting workstation was a home built bench hook and a new wooden holder for her lovely and very sharp cutting tools (see her post 30-Dec-2015)
  • Cleanliness. For example the plate to be inked is on a sheet of newspaper. The glass top remains clean and the plate is easy to rotate for rolling from all directions. A revelation! I knew Claire doesn’t wear gloves while working which amazed me as she is so fastidious. The way she works they just aren’t necessary – a slightly oily rag (kept in its own special container) and her work shirt deal with any small smudges.
  • Safety and ergonomics. Chairs are a good height, blades are kept sharp, turn the plate and cut away from yourself…
  • When printing my sampler plate 8 yesterday (30-Dec-2015) I tidied up and made just a little more space for myself, and had the plate on a piece of newspaper for rolling. Such a small thing, such a big difference. Easier, better work and easier cleanup.

    Claire’s printing shows the same care and precision. We did two test prints of the lino on newsprint.

    test prints 1 (left) and 2

    test prints 1 (left) and 2

    They look very similar in the photo, but it allowed us to build up an even base of ink and to fine-tune some of the carving.

    colour management

    colour management

    For the bottom layers I chose colours for particular areas. We decided to use primary colours, to see what mixes would be produce. We rolled, checked coverage, then colour was removed using paper towels and cotton buds. I had great difficulty – finger prints and stray edges of towel kept marring my almost ready plates.

    The photograph shows the initial inking for layer 1 of print 1. The lino block was already inked and put safely to one side.

    print 1 layer 1

    print 1 layer 1

    Print 1 layer 1 printed.

    Claire is holding the paper up and still in place in the registration jig. My job was to clean the foamex plate and then apply yellow ink over the full plate.

    The paper is mingeshi – quite light and a buff colour. I notice we printed on the smooth side. I should be more conscious of this in my own printing.

    print 1 layer 2

    print 1 layer 2

    Printing from foamex plate complete.

    Clearly my plate cleaning wasn’t entirely effective. The initial pink/red has all been covered to produce an orange.

    print 1 layer 3 before and after

    print 1 layer 3 before and after


    Claire’s press screws down onto the plate (can’t believe I didn’t take a photo). You can see above how complete the ink transfer was.

    print 1

    print 1

    The completed print. The colours are subdued due to the colour and weight of the paper. I’d also chosen a yellow paint with less pigment than Claire’s other printing inks. For later prints we mixed this with a brighter, more heavily pigmented yellow. All the red has mixed to orange and there is very little clear blue as the first layers almost completely covered the image.

    The areas where I’d scratched into the foamex work well. I like the interference patterns where the lino carving was a bit shallow, but there is a bit too much of it. We carved away some of the higher areas and cleaned those parts of the plate after inking in later prints.

    There’s a lot happening in the design but I think it holds together well and creates a lively, engaging image.

    For print 2 the basic sequence of printing was the same. The red regions are slightly different. The yellow was adjusted. We also cleaned part of the yellow plate so some red remained uncovered.

    print 2 layer 2

    print 2 layer 2

    print 2

    print 2

    print 2 detail

    print 2 detail

    The print is on white cartridge paper. Together with the stronger yellow and some clear red this makes a much brighter print.

    The detail photo shows the different colours achieved in our layering of the primaries. I particularly like the yellow on orange herringbone. I didn’t do a lot of extra scratching in the plate, but it really brings in some extra energy.

    For our final print we changed things around a little. Blue and yellow were used on the foamex plate and red reserved for the top lino layer. We also did some fading and manipulation of colours on the foamex, not keeping strictly to the individual boundaries. We used cartridge paper.

    plate inked for print 3 layer 1

    plate inked for print 3 layer 1


    print 3 layer 2

    print 3 layer 2

    I really like the print at this point and almost wanted to stop there. Strong colours and you can appreciate the strength of the lines and the little fussy details.

    Still, there was more to see and learn.

    print 3

    print 3

    New areas of the combined designs have been revealed in this print.

    I think overall it is less balanced and well-integrated than print 2. It’s certainly darker with more of the brown of the three colours mixing. I really like the area centre top, with a line of herringbone, the lozenge marks above and the red sweeping in.

    Altogether a wonderful day full of fun and learning. As well as working hard on the printing we talked about our studies with a wider perspective. You can read Claire’s account of the day here.

    Distance learning is difficult and I’m enormously lucky to be sharing the journey with Claire. I just wish we lived on the same side of the city. The drive can be 1.5 hours or more each way depending on traffic, and that’s a big chunk out of talking time.

    T1-MMT-P4 Printing with Claire Brach
    Textiles 1 – Mixed Media for Textiles
    Part 4: Mono and collatype printing
    Printing with Claire Brach

    6 Responses to “T1-MMT-P4 Printing workshop with Claire Brach”


    1. 1 Nola December 31, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      I really like this series of prints, and it’s good to hear the design parameters. It’s an experiment I’d like to try myself some time. I need practice with working in an abstract way and this would also help with conceptualising layers of colours. The results you’ve achieved are really interesting prints. How did you feel the foamex printed compared to the lino? I’m about to start experimenting with foamex sheet, as I find it hard to cut lino now.

    2. 2 fibresofbeing December 31, 2015 at 1:30 pm

      Claire recommended working a little more slowly, and with that it was easy. It was all straight lines on the foamex, which makes a difference. Claire has good tools that she keeps sharpened.
      I like that this can be combined with the techniques we learnt from Jet James, embossing etc. The only warning I remember from him was about hot cars.
      I like this design system. I also like the series Claire did in a workshop layering different parts of the same drawing (Alcatraz), and want to try something similar.

    3. 3 Lottie December 31, 2015 at 7:06 pm

      Looks like you had a very productive day. Thank you for sharing so much of the process as I now understand the layering which I couldn’t visualise before.

      • 4 fibresofbeing January 2, 2016 at 10:23 am

        Glad it helps. There are so many variations possible with two plates and three colours. I found the mixing results of multiple layers impossible to predict.


    1. 1 T1-MMT-P4 Mono and collatype printing: Review | Fibres of Being Trackback on January 3, 2016 at 4:57 pm
    2. 2 T1-MMT-P5 Sketchbook update 20-Mar-2016 | Fibres of Being Trackback on March 20, 2016 at 7:50 pm

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