Printmaking requires a harmonious balance between detail-oriented analytical thinking and big-picture creativity. It is meditative and does more to stretch out the kinks in my psyche than anything else I’ve ever tried. I am basking in the immense relief of getting my (tiny) home print studio set up and functioning.
Finding balance between my full-time job, my creative practice and my relationships is a constant work in progress, as it is for many. Lately my creative practice has suffered. With no looming deadline before me, it was easy to push aside in favor of other responsibilities (and, I admit, things that offer instant gratification). But one of my challenges, if I’m being fair to myself, is the space and equipment that printmaking requires. My partner and I share a one-bedroom apartment near Forest Park. It’s beautiful and quiet, but it is small and a little tucked away from convenient lines of public transit.
Traveling to a membership-based print studio proved ineffective. The time it took to get across the river, do some work, and get back again didn’t leave me enough time to spend with my partner, get a good night’s sleep, or even have a proper dinner (by which I mean something other than a slice of pizza).
I tried dedicating myself to drawing – one ought to do it every day. But drawing just to draw, without anything else, felt like an endless parade of unfinished work. I like to draw, but it’s a problem-solving thing for me, not an end in itself. Starting and stopping there felt frustrating and pointless, even as I subjected myself to internal lectures about the importance of practice.
Last month, I pulled my mini press out of its box and dusted it off. Printing intaglio with a tiny press is challenging. It requires an intense amount of pressure to push damp cotton fibers into the fine lines etched, scratched or carved into the plate’s surface. Little presses require elbow grease and often some funky workarounds (your edges had better be well-filed). But I always say that printmaking is creative problem-solving, so I set out to solve my creative problem (wink, nudge). Once I did, I requested a couple of days off from work to get my studio set up.
I bought an electric griddle with adequately low temperature settings (I didn’t expect it to be quite so onerous) to use as an inking plate and carved out a space in our apartment for wetting, blotting and drying. Yesterday I got everything set up; today I printed. I finally editioned a little plate I made in 2012. Tomorrow I will glide into work with much greater peace of mind.
If you use a tiny press for intaglio, I’d love to hear about it – the make, model, and any modifications that were required to coax it into putting out reliable prints.