I've been twitchy as heck to put Elvis through his paces, but there were a few other things I needed to do first.
First I thought I'd like to try making a little registration jig similar to what I use when printing by hand. (I know some other registration systems for working on a press, but want to see if this will work.) I got out some Davey board (book board) and my straight edge and set to work. Patience and planning are two of my, shall we say, under-developed skills, so there were some things about the way I put this jig together that will need to be revisited at another time. But it was good enough for experiments.
Then I needed to hunt down something to use as a tympan. I ordered an entire set of etching blankets with the press, but for making relief prints on dry paper I wanted something rigid, rather than something squishy. Thankfully I've been carrying around a 9 x 12 sheet of plexiglass for about 20 years, thinking some day I'd make a monotype plate out of it. A few months ago I gave it to the Darling Man. Yesterday I took it back. I filed the edges so they wouldn't be sharp on the press, and voila! Just what the printmaker ordered.
Somewhere around here I also have an old photo developing tray that's perfect for soaking paper, but I haven't tracked that down yet. (It's both fortunate AND unfortunate that I'm finally justifying some of the "stuff" that I've been carrying around all these years.) For now plastic kitchenware will suffice for paper soaking.
Blotters cut to size? Check. Miscellaneous odds and ends of paper corralled and torn down? Check. Newsprint sheets torn down? Check. Let's experiment!
I used one of the unmounted linocuts from the map icon project as my test block... it was a good size and it was ready to print. I tried lots of printing variables: dry paper, wet paper, with a tympan, with blankets, in the jig, out of the jig, thick papers, thin papers. (Making copious notes the entire time, of course.) Totally fun, and completely klutzy.
It felt like learning a new dance... and I was the partner with two left feet. Over time my hand-printing routine has become second nature: This goes here, that goes there, and we're off across the dance floor. Today I kept moving things around, trying to find the best arrangement of tools and materials. It's going to take a while to get the logistics worked out.
After a while, though, my movements became a little less stilted and I felt a hint of rhythm in the process. As much as I love printing by hand, I also love the feel of a press...even this little "baby" one. The first time I turned a great flywheel... 30 years ago now... it felt right. I was in love with all of it: the weight of the press bed, the slight resistance as roller met plate, the gentle nudging to get things started and the physical action of turning the flywheel when the press took over the work. Printmaking is a finesse sport. A ballet. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
|Looky here: An inked block printed simultaneously with blind embossing. Cool.|