Entering the intaglio studio, my eyes were immediately drawn to the huge Hazard Information poster up on the wall. It appears that the process of intaglio employs materials both ‘natural’ (meaning can be found as in earth for example, the copper plate that the image is incised on) and composite materials (ferric chloride bath for the newly incised plate), several of which are rather harmful to the human body.The Intaglio Studio
Finally, the paper to print on, a composite material but one that has been in use for a very long time.
The studio was a mix of both modern and traditional equipment – from the huge manual press to the number of bottles and jars littering pockets of the studio. Just looking at the chemicals inside those containers made me wonder how much of these composite materials were newly introduced as new technology was created and how much was retained. There is an entire history of everyday chemicals that I am so unaware of – like all the composite materials that are formed through a chemical process: baby oil, vinegar, alcohol, petroleum jelly, gum Arabic, etc. But there are also natural materials in use such as water, salt and copper. Timing is also critical in this process where leaving the incised copper plate in the acid bath can damage the image or the pressing the paper onto the inked copper plate needs to be done immediately.