Saturday, June 14, 2008

Artistic Media You Never Heard Of: Embossed Prints

For my second installment of Artistic Media You May Have Never Heard Of, I have chosen embossed prints. A striking example of this medium is shown in the banner at the top of this blog. This medium comes under the category of printmaking because the image is transferred to the paper by running a plate of some sort through a press with a piece of damp paper. If you would like to read more about printmaking in general, please go to my lens on Squidoo entitled Printmaking in the Modern Era. While there are various methods for embossing an image into a piece of paper, this method allows you to emboss a permanent image cleanly, create a reproducible image many times, and even gives you the option of adding color to parts or all of the image at the same time. The paper used for this medium is specifically printmaking paper, I like Stonehenge or Rives BFK, because you want to have a fine art paper that can be soaked in water without curling or drying unevenly. This paper will be soaked thoroughly, excess water gently blotted off, and run trough the press with your plate or matrix.

The plate can be practically anything that can be safely run through a printing press. You can use an etched metal plate (the two koi fish in the banner at the top of the blog were created using a deeply etched zinc plate), a linoleum block plate (The Green Man featured in this article was carved out of a linoleum block), a collagraph plate, which is basically a collage of stuff (paper, plastic, found objects, lace, fishnet stockings) glued together to create texture and depth, or even just a simple flat layer of stiff board or flexible plastic (I once saw an embossed print of an angel where the plate had been cut out of a Pringles can lid!). The materials you use for your plate will determine several things: How many prints you will be able to make before your plate is no longer good, and what sort of control you have over the depth and detail of your image. Metal plates will last practically forever and make hundreds, if not thousands of prints, but the etching process requires a great deal of time and monitoring of the etch and the etched lines are decidedly sharp. Linoleum blocks are very versatile, easy to carve, and one can achieve subtle patterns and deep lines, but the force required to emboss the image is strong enough to destroy the plate after a few dozen prints. Plates created by a collagraphic process, where the 3D image is pieced together with found objects, is as versatile as you can make it, but the plate is only as strong as the materials that make up the plate, so it is this strength that determines how many prints can be created.

Whatever materials make up the plate, this method of embossing has the advantage of being rather permanent because of the quality of the printmaking paper. These beautiful papers will hold their images forever unless creased or bent, and make beautiful displays in shadow boxes.

Here are some embossed prints from my Etsy Shop to get you started!
Green Man, linoleum block print
fishy.fishy, a zinc plate etching
Coiled Snake Card, a handmade blank card printed from a linoleum block


Pfeiffer Photos said...

Very neat blog, like your approach. I have the benefit of a number of art history classes so I have heard of many of these lovely techniques. You're doing a very good thing by spreading them to others and teaching what they are about...keep up the good work!

Smashgirl said...

Very unique and quite beautiful!