Friday, June 10, 2011

THAT is an etching.  It is not a piece of jewellery.  I was very excited this past week, to take an etching and aquatint class from Philippa Jones ( at St. Michael's Printshop here in St. John's.  Etching in jewellery making is one thing, but I suspected that etching in printmaking was entirely another.  In fact there are a lot of similarities.  But the differences are what have excited me to now bring this new knowledge across the chasm into my jewellery making.

Here's the process, abbreviated.  At right is the drawing I prepared ahead of the class.  We were instructed to utilize both line and tonal values.  If you are a regular reader, this image may look familiar.  I do not count myself amongst the talented draw-ers of this world.  I can however, given enough time, produce a reasonable replica from a photograph.  This drawing is an amalgamation of three pictures I took during our studio tour on the Southern Shore, and some of which I shared in my last post.  I had sincerely hoped that there was a way we would directly transfer our drawn image to the copper etching plate, but that was not the case.

The copper plate is coated with "ground" (resist in jewellery-speak), and then I redrew the image onto it using the tool pictured (which is just a sharpened piece of steel).  It is only necessary to scratch through the ground, not into the copper.  And then it is etched.  Once it comes out of the acid you apply ink to the plate, and then "pull a print".  Simple as that.  The result is the image at the top of this post.  Etching reproduces the line values in a drawing, not the tonal values.  For that you then do an aquatint. This is a secondary process done on the same plate.  Using a "painterly" technique, ground is applied in stages to the plate, blocking out the lightest areas, then the next lightest, and the next, and so on, with a brief etch happening in between each.  (I likened it in my mind to making Ukrainian easter eggs.)

At right is the plate after a couple of these layers of ground have been applied.  The ground is the dark brown part, and they are covering the areas I wanted to remain the lightest in the finished print.  It was difficult to separate in my brain the application of a dark brown covering that would result in a light area when it was done.   Philippa emphasized the importance of realizing that the aquatint would not exactly replicate my drawing, no matter how hard I tried!  With an aquatint I had more freedom in the application of the ink to the plate than with the etching, so the image can be more or less dark, as desired.  Below is the finished plate and aquatint.

I loved the workshop.  I think my patience lies more with the etching than with the aquatint process, I would prefer to take more care with my line values to convey the illusion of tonal values, rather than go through the repetition of painting ground and etching required to create an aquatint, but I have only done it once, so with practice the aquatinting might become easier.  

But this blog is about jewellery, so now what.  Well!  I loved the detail I could get with the printer's ground, and I intend to seek out some of that so I can refine my etched designs in jewellery.  That is the biggest and most immediate result of this workshop.  Down the road I may try making mini etchings that become art jewellery in some way, or the mini etched plate would become a piece of jewellery, and in partnership with it maybe would be a print from the plate itself.  So many possibilities....  

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