The press is here!

Not as in “I’m looking outside my front door and my front garden is full of journalists baying for my blood” but as in this:

Yes. There it is, a Polymetaal Ething Press HS-35. Get in.

I’ve hankered after some kind of press since I got serious about printing. Although a good baren does the job for a quick print or for knocking out preview prints, the consistency of colour and tone is hard to get right. There are some very cool ball bearing barens (try saying that with a headful of cider) – and in fact the brilliant Merlin Chesterman (with whom I’ve had the privilege of doing several woodcut day courses) uses one for some of her smaller prints. But – there is nothing quite like having a consistent part of the printing process. There are so (so!) many other variables, from paper to colour to – of course – subject, to layering… that having one thing that always works well is a bit of a godsend.

Anyway, Sophie Fordham (another amazing printmaker and my teacher for these last few years) has a Polymetaal (as well as an absolute monster press – one day, one day!) and I’ve always liked it for its simplicity and ease of use. The other nice thing is that I can get back into intaglio – I’ve been dabbling with an Xcut Xpress for a year but it’s really hard to get the pressure right and it’s not nearly tough enough to do anything other than relief printing.

Haven’t had nearly enough time to properly play yet but here’s a couple of intial rough’uns:

I’m experimenting with paper and inks. The ink here is Cranfield Caligo Safe Wash but in those plastic containers you need a gun for, like you get for DIY silicon. The upside is the inks never really get exposed to air, so don’t crust up.

The ink quality is really lovely – it’s oil based ink but easy to wash. How they do that, who knows – but the payoff is normally between depth of colour and ease of washing, whereas these seem to deliver both. I’ve yet to play properly with combining colours, will report back on this!

Paper: real experimentation here that I thought wouldn’t work – but am using 160 gsm cartridge paper. When it arrived I discovered it has a real sheen to it, which I thought wouldn’t work but actually it has a lovely finish.

Anyway – more to come!

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