4. Editioning etchings
I have been keen to edition this series of etchings since first making the artist’s proofs from the copper plates in 2010. The difficult part is deciding which colours to work with! Cartology is a two plate copper etching with the bottom plate being inked up both in intaglio and relief. This means that each print has three colours on it – the choices are endless. The first 6 pieces in this series are artist proofs only, and the editioned pieces (Cartology 7 and 8) have been produced in short runs of 10. This year, I decided I loved the effect of this process so much that I would make a second etching along the same lines. The result of this is Chart 9 (pictured), which is slightly larger. Again this has a series of artist’s proofs produced that were made whilst I was deciding which colours to use.
The etchings are made using copper plates and ferric chloride which reacts with the copper to erode it. The bottom plate uses a varnish as a resist to the ferric chloride and allows the exposed areas to be eroded over a number of hours (approximately 6!) until there is a clear difference in height between the area that is protected, and that which is exposed. This allows the copper plate to be inked up by pushing one colour into the lower level, and using a roller to ink up the top layer.
The second plate uses a hard ground on top of the copper. This is then worked into with detail using a sharp point and a variety of other tools. The drawn line is exposed to the ferric chloride and leaves an impression in the plate that ink can be pushed into to achieve a print. The second (detailed plate) is designed to work with the background image so once printed the two different compositions work together.
The printing process requires some organisation, with paper soaked in water and blotted and inks mixed before making a start on inking up the plates themselves. The damp paper allows for the ink to be transferred more easily when put through the printing press. Once everything is organised, the process needs to be repeated precisely for each print to ensure that all of the images in the edition look the same.
By printing with two different plates on top of each other, it is essential that the plates are precisely registered so that the images sit in the same position exactly on top of each other.
To do this, heavy registration blocks are used when replacing the first plate with the second (see images). The paper remains trapped in the press so that the print stays exactly in place.
Once all the prints have been made, the pieces are placed damp under heavy boards between blotting paper to remove the cockling from the paper. All that is left to do now is name and number the editioned prints!