Friday, April 29, 2016

Getting Ready For Web Sales

Yesterday I launched my first printmaking web sale. Here are some snapshots from the day that it took me to prepare for it.

First, I had to spend an hour signing prints and getting them quickly into cellophane for protection. Every minute that a print spends loose in the studio is a chance for something to damage it - ink, coffee, finger grease, etc.

Once they were safe I had to shoot photos of the chosen dozen. You can see that space is a little tight for such a large setup, but it's the easiest way I could come up with to hold so many light fixtures. The pipe rig barely squeezes between the sewing machine and the (currently empty) loom.

[Lighting rig in situ]

Smooth, even, bright lighting is crucial to photographing flat media. With four fixtures suspended just two feet above the prints, it was very bright.

[Lighting setup]

Then I had to design, print, cut, and insert the Certificate of Authenticity before sealing the envelope.

[Prints and Certificates]

At the end of the day I had two very satisfying stacks of prints, twelve to sell online and even more to put directly into my booth inventory. It's my goal to do this process once a week to get my web store full of interesting work and keep the cost of my materials covered. I won't really make any profit until I'm selling in higher volumes and experienced enough to charge higher prices, but covering my ongoing costs is the first step!

I sold 5 of the 12 on my first day. Thanks, y'all! If your favorite has already sold, keep an eye on this space. I'll soon being hosting a variety of sales and publishing them a little earlier than I did with this one. This series of work is all original so I won't duplicate a color scheme, but I'm sure that you'll see something that you like in one of my future sales.

[Two stacks of prints]

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Woodblock Print Intro Sale, $10

Update: Only 7 left! Scroll to the bottom to choose yours.

At last, the time has come for a series I've been waiting to post to the blog. It's called "What's new and ready for sale?" It'll be a chance for me to offer my print work to my blog readers before it goes to the general market.

A few months ago I decided that I can't afford to just pull test prints forever without having some way to cover my expenses. Paper and ink are expensive, say nothing of studio overhead and, drumroll, please... my time. So instead of pulling diagnostic overlapping circles to learn my color lessons, I switched to geometry that I find interesting.

I've been working in an 8x10 format for a few weeks now. Each piece is a unique set of colors, hand printed on archival watercolor paper, signed, and backed with matte board. It will include a certificate of authenticity, and arrive sealed in a cellophane envelope.

[5x5 blocks on 8x10 paper]

[Certificate of Authenticity]

The way I'll structure these posts will be to show the best dozen prints on my blog once a week. These will be available for mail order - first come, first served. Prints after the best dozen will only be available in person.

Additionally, if you see an image go across my Instagram feed, speak up and you can get it as soon as the ink is dry.

I'm starting the 8x10 prints at $10. If you need them shipped, I'll just charge you what it costs for supplies and postage, $5 per padded envelope, which can include multiple pieces. All of my prices will, of course, increase as I become more experienced and my work becomes better and more sought after.

I'll update this page to mark them sold as fast as I can, but there is a slight chance that I'm not fast enough. Any that are left after a week will go into my show inventory or my Etsy store.

Please remember that these pieces are so affordable because they are student work. Some of the ink is too light. Some of it is way too heavy. Sometimes the registration is off. Sometimes a dark color of ink got trapped in the wood grain and squeezed out into lighter prints. These are the kinds of mistakes that I won't make when I become more experienced, so these early pieces might just end up being the ones that collectors want.

And, please remember that computer colors are never a good representation of the colors in the real inked print. While they look perfect on my screen, your screen may show the colors very differently from the actual print.



[#3 - SOLD]

[#4 - SOLD]






[#10, warm white paper - SOLD]

[#11, warm white paper - SOLD]

[#12, warm white paper - SOLD]

To place an order, simply comment on this blog post or email me and tell me what number you want.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Borderless blocks and pressure-evening rails

Yesterday I was confronted with an issue related to printing with borderless blocks. The pressure was applied unevenly to the plates because there was no border to keep it even. Then I realized that I could add block-high supports on either side of the paper to take up the excess pressure.

This is another case where I am very glad to have invested in the CNC router and the time to learn how to use it well. It makes the creation of precision wooden tools relatively easy. There is a certain complexity to it, though. To carve on an existing piece, I needed to create a point that I could locate exactly in the computer. I chose a point 1/2" down from the center of the paper recess.

[The new center]

[Bit on center]

Once the slots were cut, I grabbed some pieces left over from cutting down plates and sized them for the rail slots. They are exactly the same height and composition as the plates and the slots are cut exactly as deep as the recess that holds the plate.

[New rail slots and rails]

Rail height, just enough to consistently receive the pressure.

[Rail height]

The results are beautiful. The pressure looks consistent, even on the new, complex plate with no borders.

[Nice pressure!]

In this image, you can also see that I am designing the geometry plates to be used together for varied and interesting effects. I'm designing and carving two or three new block designs each week so soon I'll have a large palette of shapes to choose from while I continue to experiment with color techniques.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Borderless blocks, first test

In an effort to keep expanding the horizons of possibility in printmaking, I'm testing the waters of a new skill - printing blocks without solid borders around the edge. This is another basic, foundational skill. When I remove the requirement to have a solid border, there are many more design possibilities available to me.

There are some of the reasons why I put borders on my blocks in the first place:
  1. I need a solid edge to clamp down the pieces on the router table.
  2. Solid edges help in rolling out the ink.
  3. Solid edges ensure even pressure across the block on the press.
And here are some reasons to remove them:
  1. In multi-layer prints, ink builds up quickly if every layer has a border.
  2. Borderless blocks can be cut into pieces to be inked separately and assembled on the press
  3. and, of course, I can use the lack of a border as a design element.

Here's the process of removing the borders...

First, I cut my blank blocks with a little extra space for the clamps on the router table. A 5" block is actually 5 1/4", leaving 1/8" on each edge for the clamps.

[Clamped edge]

After carving, there is a solid border, but since my measurements are careful, I know exactly how much space is left on the edges.

[Geometry block freshly carved]

Then I go to the table saw. Yes, I have the anti-kickback mechanism and blade guard removed. (Trust me, I'm careful. I know that it's much easier to master a new craft with all of my fingers attached.) I've also gone to great lengths to ensure that the blade and fence are absolutely, perfectly parallel. With a careful width setting on the fence, I slice off the edges, ensuring that the blocks are oriented the same way so that any minuscule error shows up on both blocks, keeping them in register with each other when it comes time to print.

[Carefully slicing off the edges]

Since there was only 1/8" of extra space on the edges, I couldn't drive the router into the border and had to remove the outside bevelled edge by hand. One day, I'll be doing a lot of hand carving on the plates, so this is just a taste of things to come.

[Trimming off the leftover bevels]

[All trimmed!]

After trimming and cleanup, it was time to add one more layer of shellac. This seals the bevels and the low-lying areas of the plate against ink absorption.

[One more coat of shellac]

If you've been following along, you know that the following image represents two substantial milestones, successful ink transparency and borderless carving. (The lavender is not mixed with white - it's very transparent.)

[two firsts]

I did pretty well at rolling out the ink without a border to depend on. It just takes concentration and a steady hand, but I'll probably eventually build an inking jig so that I can ink irregular blocks faster and more accurately.

The pressure is another matter. If you look closely at the top and bottom of the image, you'll notice that the blocks are digging into the paper. This is because the total pressure of the roller is concentrated in a smaller area, leading to extra pressure per inch.

Concentrating pressure like that will quickly compress parts of the blocks, causing them to wear out after just a few impressions. This is a real problem and one that I'll need to solve before I can make heavy use of the borderless printing technique.