I have had a week of highs and lows.
One following on from the other, which got me thinking about the roller coaster ride that is trying to live a creative life.
Thursday was an 'up' day.......
I have previously shied away from printing, as I find it messy, smelly and physically hard work; but the chance to work with a professional, very talented artist was not to be missed. Much time is spent rubbing and cleaning, and paint gets everywhere.
I generally prefer cleaner activities. Book making is perfect.
Nick and I worked on making a solar plate etching, using layers of ink on a photopolymer etching plate.
If you are wondering what on earth a solar plate etching is, then read here. It works well for me as a form of printmaking, as I can use my photographs as the subject of the print. The print above started as a photograph of branches reflected in a stream.
All of these good things lightened my spirits, and as Friday dawned I convinced myself that I should have a go at printing on my own. Spurred on by the idea that I could create something to submit for the Society of Women Artists annual exhibition ( they don't take photographs), I braved the print room at Rye Creative Centre alone.
What could possibly go wrong? I had my notes from my session with Nick, and felt confident that I could create something worthwhile.
Old trousers on.
Rubber gloves ready.
First; soak paper in water bath.
I filled the tray with water and threw in three enormous sheets of Somerset Satin paper at £3.60 per sheet.
They immediately took on a spotted brown appearance. The tray was dirty, and the dirt floated up and laid itself carefully all over my pristine sheets of beautiful deckled edge 300g paper.
I needed to empty the tray , clean it out and start over.
The tray was too heavy to carry, so I used a jug and a bowl to empty out some of the water, turned my back to empty the bowl, and heard the tray tip off the end of the table onto the carpet.
Water everywhere, A very large puddle on the concrete carpeted floor. No mops to be found.
Not a good start.
I sorted this out, with the help of friends, towels and a bucket, and began again.
One sheet at a time now, carefully, I soaked the paper for printing.
Next to choose some ink. It comes in guns....
The traditional colour for etchings is a dark blue or black.
I chose Vermillion.
I thinned the paint with what I thought was extender, but later discovered was vegetable oil for cleaning.
My prints will probably go mouldy.
I inked up the plate and rubbed off the excess paint with scrim and tissue paper.
I got through a lot of cloths.
And tissue paper.
Replacing inky gloves is almost impossible.
Trying to keep the paper clean likewise.
I made a print. It wasn't bad, but it was far from straight on the paper.
It was also very orange..... vibrant is the word that comes to mind..... or possibly 'garish' depending on your view.
I was getting confident, and decided to make sure the next print was square on the paper.
Sums and a template ensued. I was precise.
This time I chose a deep blue; a bit more conventional.
More scrubbing and rubbing.
Cleaning and wiping.
I was getting through a lot of tissue paper. tearing off little pieces for the final polishing of the plate before printing.
I set the print up on my hand crafted template and started to roll the press,
which is when disaster struck.
I had a crease in one of the blankets, and as I rolled it ruched up and got more and more stuck under the roller. I was worried now.
I called for help. Help came. Help loosened the roller and out came two very creased blankets.
And a creased print.
No more etching for me today.
I cleaned up as best I could , and made a mono print by hand of my cleaning rag. A reminder of how the best laid plans can go to waste.
Three and a half hours of hard labour.
Three wasted sheets of very expensive paper.
A flooded floor.
Two imperfect etchings containing oils that may degenerate with time and will prevent proper drying of the ink.
Two damaged press blankets ( very expensive to replace).
Time to call it a day, go home and wash the blankets in an attempt to redeem myself.
I hand washed the blankets and laid them out on my garden table to dry.
They appear to be salvageable.
Not my greatest hour.
The happiness of the previous day's workshop almost forgotten.
But not quite.
I learned so much from my mistakes, and am detemined to have another go.
I even have an idea for a book made with tiny etchings.
One thing leads to another, always. I just don't always know what is coming next.
Caroline Fraser - an ordinary life
on life, suburban living, art, creativity, photography, book art and travel.
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Welcome to Caroline Fraser Photography
Colourful abstracted and traditional photographic landscapes, book art and workshops. Capturing the moods and beauty of nature whether in wild open places or in small sanctuaries in suburbia.