Printmaking & Me - Collagraph

A collagraph is where a plate, usually cardboard, is kind of collaged together. There are lots out there about Collagraph Printmaking  – I’m just explaining my process here. I think the lockdown inspired many people to be creative with materials. We couldn’t get to our studios (first-world covid problems). My inspiration came when the coffee house next to work in the wake of covid stopped allowing us to use reusable coffee cups. So I started using the cups as collagraph plates. I would use my x-acto knives to gently carve into the surface. The top layer has a coating, and beneath it a more papery texture. I may glue  Carborundum Powder to the surface, or score lines deeper. I usually create an intaglio-style collagraph plate.

When the plate is finished I seal the plate with shellac – if you do this, wear gloves, or you’ll end up looking like you smoke 60 Malboro a day. I apply ink with a stencil brush and then remove excess ink with talartan cloth and/or newsprint, run it through my press with dampened paper. I use 300gsm paper which is pliable and strong enough to mould around my plates. Finally, I dry the print. I’d thought I was been so clever, using what was to hand. Recycling. But everyone’s been at it with tetra packs and all kinds of recycled packaging. Some of my favourites, like these by Jenny Mccabe work with an object rather than disguising it. One thing I haven’t seen anyone else do is use old embroidery patches to create plates. If you look at the plate that declares ‘take action’ – that’s an old embroidery patch, turned into a plate with shellac.

Collagraph plates, being made of cardboard, are pretty fragile, so editions tend to be small.  I’ve printed with Hawthorn Inks and with Caligo Safewash Inks – both work well. Hawthorn has beautiful lush colours and Caligo are environmentally friendly. I daub the ink with a brush or stencil brush into the plate, and then polish to remove the excess ink. Very much like a etching, only I use much more colour in this process.

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