In college I had an art major friend who patiently worked with me
as we created block prints for Christmas cards.
Mine was "OK" but mostly I remember the magic of printing AND
the tedious process. This year I decided to revisit the effort.
I have memories of it being difficult to cut into a linoleum covered block of wood so I was thrilled to see these soft cut blocks by speed ball. Advertised as "speedy carve" they looked much easier to handle. (I will add, now in hindsight, that the floppy rubber is easier to cut but NOT easier to print with...just sayin').
Here are some of the carving tools (conveniently sold in the same aisle as the Speedball squares). I sketch my design out on tracing paper with a soft black pencil to the size I desire. Keep in mind that what I carve away will turn out as the color of the paper I print onto. What I leave un-carved will be the color of my ink.
I flip the design over and rub it on the rubber, if my pencil is soft enough the design will transfer. Often I go back over the design on the wrong side just so the image moves to the rubber. Remove the tracing paper and sketch back in any lines that may be fuzzy or unclear, use pen or pencil, you need a clear guide to carving. Above you can see my reverse image carved out of the rubber.
Here's a couple more designs I did. They are like giant rubber stamps except the design is original: mine! AND they are not perfect as yes, I slip and slide while carving and often have to make adjustments. There is no way, I have found, to correct (fill in or cover) an unwanted gouge. We call these little irregularities: charming.
Now I test the image...a lot! Sometimes it needs deeper carving or more work to fill the page or it just doesn't print correctly. It also helps to season the rubber and make sure there are no floating objects (dust, hair, fingerprints) adhering to the ink. I prefer to use ink pads over paint for small prints.
Now I'm into "production." This is a card to go with honey bee soaps at a fundraiser. See what I mean about "charming" irregularities?
Here is another design printed, embellished and packaged as a card. Sometimes I hand write the words, other times I build words out of pre-made letter stamps.
So it should be relatively easy (and cheap) to turn out dozens of cards, no? NO. I am finding that the process of printing requires a lot of concentration and precision...people don't like smeared cards or crooked images. They won't purchase upside down writing or envelopes accidentally printed sideways. And tying all those darling little ribbons? Not so fun. Slippage (or "seconds") is a huge time and money-eater. But I preserve. If it doesn't kill me maybe I will get better at this!
Thanks for coming on this side trip with me....all in the name of creativity!
Covered in Ink,
p.s. It just occurred to me that if I could cut a piece of wood the same size as the rubber block and glue them together I would have the ease of a stiffer printing piece? another day.....