Wednesday, December 9, 2009

To carve or not to carve, that is the question...

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of engraving a piece of hard wood or Resingrave with sharp chisels... Sorry, Will, that was a little uncalled-for. So, what are my choices?
          I could engrave blocks of Resingrave or wood, plywood or lino, and use either oil or water-based inks, and print on a press or hand-burnish with a baren. So many choices, just the one life. All of these choices are going to be just as difficult for me, bearing in mind the previous injuries to my hands and elbows, so I have to find a way to make and print the blocks that is not going to damage my puny body. The best way I can think of, which will enable me to print on the press and cut down on the carving, is to have polymer plates made up that will replicate the 'key-block' in the coloured woodcut method, and then to cut some lino blocks for the areas of colours. Lino is softer to carve than the other types of blocks. It doesn't hold the detail as well, but that's OK because the detail will be on the polymer.  I may even be able to print some of the images by the reduction method. In my internet searches I haven't come across anyone using the polymer/lino combination, but there is a first time for everything. (Have you tried it? I'd love to hear.) The difficult bit will be getting the correct registration of the lino blocks with the polymer. Well, challenges are good. I'm still not sure about the inks but that will become clear when I start to experiment.
          I re-drew "Tormented..", scanned it in and resized it to the page size of the book, ready to send the digital file to Boxcar in Syracuse. I also decided to have a test plate made with Brioso Italic Light, to try out with the handmade Griffen Mill paper. That way I won't waste too much money if my Prince of Fonts turns out to be a toad after all. The photopolymer plate process 'etches' away the plate in the white areas of the drawing leaving the black areas raised and printable. One of the good things about polymer plates is that you can cut them apart like puzzle blocks and print the parts separately, for different colours. I would really have preferred to make this key-block in the traditional way, but I do want to finish this book before my ninetieth birthday. Here is the cleaned up and re-drawn version of "Tormented by visions of flight and falling"...I have used coloured pencils on the black and white image to

show how it might look. The actual size of this image will be 70 mm high, 55 mm wide, (about two and three quarter inches high by two and one eighth inches wide),  the same size as the book pages. The plates have been processed, I'm now waiting for the US Postal Service to do their bit.
          Here comes a shameless plug for the Fine Press Book Association, our only association of its kind in North America, and possibly in the English-speaking world. (Please correct me if I'm wrong, I'd love to hear of the existence of something similar in say Australia or New Zealand.) Like all great cultural things, it is in need of support in these times of economic hardship. I know, you can't eat it or put it in your tank, but...They say a nation is judged by its culture, so let's make sure we have something left to judge us by when the dust settles. New members and donations welcome.
          The President of FPBA, Bob McCamant, wrote an article for The Caxtonian which was published in June 2008, on interviews conducted with several BC Private Presses. De Walden press is pleased to be included. Fine Press is alive and well in North America. End of shameless plug, thanks for reading, and Many Happies for the coming holiday season.