Paper is amazing stuff. Historically very special and magical, but it’s so much a reflex these days to think of it as extremely cheap. We say “cheap as chips”, and don’t even think about the paper the chips come wrapped in.
The art papers I use are rather more expensive – I’ve been doing some research to compare what I use to some more traditional jewellery materials. The results surprised me a bit!
Griffen Mill Akbar Brown 115gsm handmade paper : £261/kg
Judd Street decorative paper: £101/kg
“Elephanthide” parchment style paper: £60/kg
Arches Velin: £45/kg
Khadi Atlas White 400gsm handmade paper: £43/kg
Gmund bierpapier: £26/kg
Daler-Rowney Studland mountboard (the base layer I use for most of my standard lines) : £12/kg
Of course, when you consider that a kilo of silver will set you back £860 and a kilo of gold £34,000 (spot prices at time of writing) then even the best & most wonderfully complex of papers are an utter bargain in comparison.
I carved this block quite a while ago, but was disappointed with the effect just using printer’s ink. When I decided to try the gold I’d mixed up, though, it looked much better – the texture and gleam give the design much more depth. Of course, I’m also using heavily textured handmade paper here, so that makes a difference too. This is some rather nice khadi paper – it’s not even slightly lightfast, sadly, but I don’t think that makes a difference here.
I’ve just taken half a dozen prints from the Brigid’s Cross block I posted about before, since I finally finished carving it tonight.
It’s always an amazing feeling to peel off the first print and see the results – once it translates itself from vinyl & wet ink to paper (and reverses itself in the process) it makes it really easy to look on my work with new eyes. It stops being the piece of vinyl I’ve had on my table for the last month, and I can finally see how all those awkward curves and chunky lines, the unexpected holes and the scars where the sankakuto slipped, transform themselves on paper.
I experimented for a couple of them, going back to the serving spoon (solid, sturdy 1950s EPNS) I used when I first started doing this. It’s much harder and gives a very solid line, and unlike the baren it doesn’t have a grain, so that changes how you use it. Also unlike the baren, it wasn’t designed to be used in that position, so it leaves my right hand and wrist aching. And rather warm, because the friction of the plated steel across the back of the paper gets it hot enough to be uncomfortable.
Tomorrow, when they’re dry, I’ll post pictures for comparison.i
There’s something special about using white ink – I’m not quite sure what it is, but it’s there. This particular ink – Daler-Rowney FW – works well on leather, which is why I originally picked it up, but of course it’s ideal for black paper too. (And much less cliched than using silver ink.) This is some particularly nice handmade paper, very heavy and rough-textured, from Nepal. The design’s much more open, with fewer & thinner lines, than I normally do, but I think it works.
It looks like the ink transfer from the block to the paper is much more sensitive to bumps in the paper surface than it is to the permeability or otherwise – I prepared a silver-blue background the other day, on black handmade paper with quite a rough texture, and even quite a thick layer of paint didn’t smooth things out enough to get even a halfway useful ink transfer.
I did a print from my cartouche block onto it, and got very scrappy, patchy transfer – you can just about make out the design, but not much more. For comparison, I dropped a sheet of printer paper on the block afterwards, without re-inking it, and took a clear if very textured impression, so it obviously wasn’t anything to do with the amount of ink on the block or what I was doing with the baren.
When it’s dry (which will take a few more days, on an impermeable acrylic surface) I’ll scan them both for comparison.
I did this last night, on some faux-parchment paper I had lying around. It’s done with Japanese carving vinyl, and I’m quite pleased with the way most of it turned out – the four styles of interlocking lines distinguish themselves nicely, and I managed to get cutlines where I wanted them and not where I didn’t. (Cutlines – the traces from clearing vinyl from the blank areas, rather than the relief outline forming the main design.)
However, I managed to do something bloody stupid, which is that I forgot completely that the design would be mirrored. Normally it doesn’t matter with my work, but this particular one completely fails to work when the pattern goes anticlockwise instead of clockwise.
Here’s a version flipped sideways in the Gimp, to show how it would have worked if it had, you know, worked at all.
I did half a dozen prints onto different papers, and learnt one other thing doing this – the flower petal inclusions in the nice handmade paper aren’t very firmly included.
I did this as a substrate for mixed-media pieces – specifically, I wanted one to put on the cover of my laptop. It’s done from katsura onto some rather nice Indian paper (this piece has cornflower petals – I also did plain white, grey, and medium grey-blue, and haven’t decided which I’ll use yet) without dampening it.
Originally, I was intending the network to be much more vine-like, but I’m not unhappy with the way it turned out.