Thursday, February 26, 2009

Printmaking - Intaglio Studio

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

Example of incised copper plate. The copper plate first had to be covered with hardground (see image below: a composite of organic materials - unknown constituents) and then incised using a variety of steel-formed tools.

Hardground are made in-house by the faculty and monitors -above are some of the material ingredients (most of them are composite materials).

Etching ink paint in jars: jelly-like. Label: chromium green oxide etching. There was a note reminding students to put the lid back on the jar.

The ferric chloride acid bath - after incising the image on the plate, one needs to put the copper plate in the bath to create certain effects in the copper plate such as glossy areas where the paint will not adhere. Always wear gloves when using this bath....

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.

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