Amongst proposals and reports and samples and deadlines, I managed to take an afternoon off with my family to attend Alberta Printmaker’s Society PIY: Print it Yourself open studio as part of the Calgary Art Walk on Sunday. 

I’ve had some dealings with Alberta Printmakers before, in my participation on the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild, and my involvement with the community-based project Imagined Texts a couple of years ago.  I’d never quite managed to make it to the studio on the occasional open day, so was determined to get there this year if I could.  I enjoy printmaking and have been wanting for some time to incorporate more printwork into my books.  Phil loves printmaking too, and wants to do more.

I had an ulterior motive . . . I was snooping to see if they had a letter press.  Alas, no.  What they did have was a wonderful group of dedicated and enthusiastic print artists who were eager to share their craft with visitors and help us to produce some printwork of our own.  There was monoprinting, silk screen printing or dry point etching.  All three of us were immediately attracted to the dry point etching.  I had learned copper plate etching in my advanced art class in high school, and have always loved the appearance of the prints.  Seeing them, I was immediately drawn to the softness and richness of the print, and immediately formulated a vision of a print to use in my upcoming book “Cathedral”.

We set to and worked with a will to etch perspex plates with a stylus to our chosen design.  Working from a photograph, I etched my design so that it would print with soft, dark vignetted edges, like a toy camera shot.  I had forgotten the exhilaration of turning the wheel and waiting for the print to roll through the press, the lifting of the blankets, waiting a little breathless for the discovery of the print.  For all of us, the exercise was a success.  My resultant print will most definitely make it into my book.  Phil and I both loved the method and found it much easier and considerably less chemical-dependent that copper plate etching, but offering a very similar feeling to the prints. 

Would you like to know the best thing to come out of this day?  The man is totally sold on how well small press printing can work.  And he wants to buy me a nipping press for Christmas.  I may let him use it.  Maybe.  I have a feeling there are very good things to come.  And one day?  Letter press.  Oh yes.



            Inking the plate







      Turn that wheel! Going
      through the big press. 




             The reveal . . .







         And a first dry etch print.