Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Lost Star - A Titanic box set of prints & touring exhibition

Five months ago I was excited to discover that the Red Hot Press print studios were running a group project to create a box set of prints to commemorate the loss of the Titanic, a century ago this April. Not only could I take part in a group printing project, but I'd get to keep a box set for myself!

After mulling over a few different ideas I decided on a design which attempts to combine the elegance and majesty of the titanic with some indication of the human cost. I've only done a few etchings in the past, but I thought it would be the best medium to use for my quite complex and detailed design. 

Etching - the process

A waxy acid-resist, known as a ground, is applied to a metal plate, usually copper or zine but steel can also be used. There are two common types of ground: hard ground and soft ground. I used hard ground from a tube, which was spread on my zinc plate with a roller, coating it evenly and thinly. The ground was then heated to harden it. 
Once hardened, I used a basic etching needle (you can use anything including a nail) to scratch into the ground, exposing the metal (but not scratching into it). I had already drawn my design out (in reverse) and a roughly traced it onto the ground as a starting point before etching. Once my design was completed I then submerged it in a solution of copper sulphate (much safer than other etching acids) which eats away at all of the exposed parts of the metal.  To test the strength of the solution I had already created a test plate and tried out various etching times. My plate was exposed to the copper sulphate solution for about 9 minutes, which resulted in a good strong bite (the lines were etched deep enough so that they will hold enough ink when printed, and not too deep, so that they are too wide).
The plate was then removed from the solution and rinsed in water. The ground was removed with turpentine.

I used a piece of mount board to push ink into the etched lines of the plate. The next bit was the most time consuming - cleaning the plate with scrim and tissue, to remove all of the excess ink from the surface of the plate. This wiping leaves ink only in the incisions. Once the plate is fully inked and carefully wiped clean it's ready to be printed from. I used heavy, somerset paper which had been soaked and patted dry. The zinc plate was placed face up on the etching press bed, and the damp paper laid over the top (being careful to leave an even edge around the plate). The press blankets are then placed over the paper (usually with some newsprint between paper and blankets to prevent getting any marks on the blankets), and the print run through the press.

My final etching

Captain Smith and Officers ~ SS Titanic


'Lost Star' - Box set overview

Number of Artists involved: 16
Number of Box Sets: 27 (each containing 16 prints)
Number of Box sets for sale: 10 (each containing 16 prints)
Price : £300 (a fantastic price for so many original artworks!)

The 'Lost Star' box set of prints will be on a touring exhibition:

The Concourse Gallery of Southampton Solent University
Michael Andrews Building, East Park Terrace, Southampton, Hampshire SO14 0YN.
The Private View is on 12th April 2012 5pm - 7pm. 
The exhibition continues until 22nd May 2012.

The opening hours are Weekdays 7:30am-9:00pm, Sat/Sun 9:00am-4:00pm
The Link Gallery
West Downs Centre, Romsey Road, Winchester SO22 5HT 

The Private View is on Thursday 5 July 6pm - 8pm. 

The exhibition runs from the 2 July – 6 August. opening hours 9am - 5pm every day.

Here is a sneak preview of one of the other beautiful prints that is part of the set:
 Save our Souls (Collagraph) - Ruth Barrett-Danes

For more info on the Lost Star project and the Red Hot Press see their website

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