Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reduce Reuse Reevaluate

© Hannah Phelps
Maine Wave
jigsaw reduction relief, 10" x 12"

Earlier this week, I shared a quote about what a print edition is and we talked about reduction methods automatically limiting an edition because the block gets destroyed in the process.*

When I start printing the very first color, I have to decide how many prints I want to make. Say I choose to print 50 in the first layer. As soon as I carve the block, I can't go back and make more because the block is different. Now I have 50 pieces of paper with my first color on them and I will add layers to them as I go - as many colors as I need until the print is finished and the block is all carved away.

If you are thinking that I automatically have an edition of 50, you are.....


If everything goes perfectly during the printing process, I would have 50. How likely is that?

I have to make enough impressions in the beginning that I can afford to lose some to registration problems, uneven inking, a tiny spot of black in the yellow ink I don't notice before I roll it on the block, or any number of other problems.

Mistakes early in the process - just a few layers into it - become "proofs", or test prints I can play with when I mix new colors. Proofs are useful, but they are not part of the final edition.

Now the edition number is 50 minus the number of prints that became proofs. Say we had 5 mistakes during printing, that would mean we have 45 impressions left. But we still don't have our final edition number.

Those 45 survivors have one more inspection to pass: The Conformity Test. Are they similar enough to make an edition?

They won't be identical - I am not a machine. My prints will all be a tiny bit different and I will always be able to point out the idiosyncrasies. But will you be able to tell? Are the differences kinda charming in some way?

The print above is done now, but I will look at all of the impressions and decide how many prints will be offered in the edition. Soon.

This isn't the only edition issue in my studio right now. What happens when the printing process is more intense and the resulting blocks are as beautiful as the prints?

Stay tuned art fans...

*For a great description of reduction relief, read this by printmaker Sherrie York.


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