Thursday, November 25, 2010

Safer etching with copper sulphate

This has been a really slow week for me again, as I’ve had to take some time to recover from attending a workshop last week-end. I have a number of things I’m keen to share with you all but I just couldn’t spend much time online, and even commenting or replying to comments has been too much.So please accept my apologies if you have posted recently and I haven’t been it touch.



Do you remember that wonderful blue liquid in the science lab at school? It was my favourite colour at the time, and I always remember it was copper sulphate. We didn’t often use it in the experiments we worked on, but it was a personal favourite (I know, who has a favourite chemical? I was a weird kid!)

So it was quite nice to find that copper sulphate can be used as an etch for printmaking and that it is one of the least toxic options.

These past few years I’ve been quite enamoured of etching, while at the same time being a bit scared of the chemicals involved. I realize that ceramics involves some nasty things too, but the thing that worries me about etching is it’s acid (ouch!) AND it gives off fumes.

I’ve been very hesitant about delving into etching because if it’s going to work for me, I need to be able to set myself up here in my home. A lot of people with CFS/ME have severe chemical sensitivities, and while it’s not really a major problem for me, perfumes have been known to make my nose run and give me a bit of a headache. I don’t need to add to my problems by exposing myself to further potential neurological damage by introducing toxins to my home.



So when I saw that Impress Printmakers were holding a workshop on Sunday on etching aluminium with copper sulphate, advertising it as a cheaper, low-toxic alternative, suitable for the home studio, I was quick to enrol. After the workshop I did some research online, particularly here and here, and discovered that the process really is low toxic. A very small amount of hydrogen gas is created, but it really isn’t considered dangerous, even inside, and I am planning to work out on our covered patio.


plates tunnel

So perhaps I can really get on my way with printmaking now. Above I’ve posted scans of the two plates I made at the workshop. They both need further work to develop some strong blacks, but it was great fun getting this far. I’m actually really drawn to the plates themselves, and can see they may become artworks/book covers themselves. Has anybody else tried etching with copper sulphate?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Creative for a Second…or Two

Just under two weeks ago a parcel arrived containing Journal #5, one of the journals travelling the world as part of Creative for a Second.
If you haven’t heard, this is the second time this project, which is for people with CFS/ME (PWCFS/ME) has run. If you follow the link above you can look through the first edition which was published through the print-on-demand service issuu.
And below is a video of Kirrliy Anderson who initiated the whole project. She is speaking at the launch of the tour which the first project made.

To keep the project rolling along, once the journal is in your hands you can only keep it for two weeks. In order to work quickly and also because I wanted to make something that was “recognisable” as my work, I decided to dig into what I call my “collage box”.  This is where I keep test prints from previous works, a stash of Japanese papers and a few very select pieces of ephemera I’ve collected.
I began by physically putting different imagery together and when I had made a selection, I moved onto the computer which allowed me to work with the same imagery but to alter the scale and translucency.
I was aiming to make work that spoke about the experience of living with CFS, without being blatant and in a way which incorporated both the loss and grief, as well as the hope and potential. Below are the results.


I really enjoyed this process and found that there is a lot more work to be done with the imagery that I’ve developed in the past. It was very satisfying to bring together some of the work I did for my masters with more recent work. It also seems that this is a productive and effective way to work when I am quite low on energy.
There’s quite a lot that I could say about the imagery, connections that I can see and interpretations that could be made, but I think I’ll let the work speak for itself.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Experimenting with Hilke’s Headbands

I’ve been continuing to test different bindings for my friend’s wedding album. I’m looking for something which will allow me to use an open spine with exposed stitching, but still provide enough support to the album which will be quite heavy.

I think I will need to use some cords, but while I wait for Keith Smith’s third volume with the instructions to arrive in the post, I thought I would try some headbands. I popped over to Buechertiger’s site, thinking I would need to buy her self published book on coptic headbands, but I found that on her blog there is a detailed post with step-by-step photos explaining how to  make a “Simple Two Coloured Coptic Headband”. Thank-you for your generosity Hilke! This is much appreciated as I haven’t really been sure how much I like the look of headbands.

As you can see, they turned out quite nicely, and I think I can say I do like them now! And if you look closely you will see that they are in fact two colours, but they are very similar shades, as I thought the pattern on the fabric was complex enough.

Watson-Will: celtic and coptic binding with headbands


I also tried out a couple of other new things with this book. I made my very first book fabric, backing it with tissue using wheat starch paste. Inspired by Paper Chipmunk’s recent successes, I took my method from this video on youtube, but don’t be misled by the ease and expertise you see here! What a kerfuffle! Talk about “paper wrestling”!*

I was amazed when later that evening I ended up with a beautifully stiffened sheet of fabric which covered the boards really nicely. I can definitely see the difference (previously I used an acid free glue stick to attach the fabric directly onto the book board).

I also used a different paper for the book. I was thinking of a book for writing, rather than drawing or painting, and so I chose Mohawk Superfine Text. It is beautiful paper, but not as strong as the cartridge, watercolour paper or BFK I’ve used in the past. As a result I tore one of the signatures, and marked some of the others at the top when working the headbands. I think I might leave this paper until I am more proficient with these particular bindings. A good lesson learnt.


* See Claire Beynon’s poem “Paper Wrestling”