I’d been to a book talk by Macy Chadwick, and really been taken by her work. It was the first time I’d heard of pressure printing, or at least the first time I’d associated the term with specific pieces of work. She also did a demo, which further piqued my interest, so I kept my eye out for an opportunity to take a class from her. One came up at SFCB recently, she also teaches at Academy of Art and other Bay Area locations.
After introductions – there was one other student in the class(!) – Macy gave an overview of the process and showed a bunch of examples. Then we were turned loose to try things out – with the directive to go for an anti-masterpiece, which I thought was great. That is, not get hung up on trying to make Something, but experiment and play. I’d brought some materials, Macy also had a bunch of stuff to use. Whatever items you are using get affixed to a piece of paper, giving you a flexible low-relief plate.
Macy mixed up a warm and a cool color ink and set up two presses – this process is done on a cylinder press. A sheet of plexiglass on melamine was set up to be type high on the press bed. The plexiglass got inked up, then the plate (collage) was run through behind a piece of paper, transferring the ink directly to the paper.
It was surprising how little it took to make a mark. Even tape and thread used to affix materials showed up! At the same time it’s not super detailed, some describe the overall effect as atmospheric or ethereal. There’s a distinctive glow or halo around objects that can be adjusted with the amount of pressure. A ghost is left on the plexiglass, which can also be printed.
It’s possible to get results very quickly, but you could also do really involved complex work. Macy has been using this process for twenty years. The print is the same way as your plate, so you don’t have to think backwards. Another cool thing is that the plate doesn’t get ink on it so you can print things you wouldn’t otherwise – Macy mentioned someone printing their grandmother’s lace gloves.
As the day went on I made another plate, and played with printing both colors. Fun new tool: screw punch! Macy also showed us using a stencil burner on mylar, which can be used for line work or for cutting out shapes.
The class was actually Pressure Printing and Wood Type, the other student did set and print some type, but I stuck with the pressure printing since that was the part that was new to me. But the combination of a pressure printed layer and some sort of type or sharper element can really enhance each other and pull a piece together.
Macy mentioned another student calling this “you never know what you’re going to get printing” – which I did see quite different results from different amounts of ink and/or pressure, but I can also see all sorts of possibilities and have been thinking of several different themes I’d like to try with it. Ah, another rabbit hole to fall down…