Laser Expands Print Boundaries

Recently I heard about an interesting project exploring 'Intaglio',
in particular, the boundaries between traditional and contemporary printmaking technologies,
using laser to cut and etch in printmaking.

The course was being taught by Lynn Taylor and Chris Fersterer at Otago Polytechnic
with students studying design, fashion, communications, interiors and product design.

Student work: Relief print by Finn

 Traditional intaglio etching often conjures up notions of craftsmanship and tradition,
with costly metal plates, dangerous acid processes and carcinogenic resist compounds,
of applying ink into the surface of a printing plate
 then forcing the paper into the surface of the plate to transfer the image.

Student work: Horse with map etched into surface, inked

These students were encouraged to explore how the intaglio printmaking process
may be integrated with contemporary tools and processes such as laser etching
to provide a new expression of the printmakers' art.
The intaglio press was also used to produce art works on paper
including fine detailed etchings, coloured woodblock images, embossed surfaces and more.

Using laser provides a quick and safe way to cut and etch different materials, 
allowing for creation of images from digital sources.
This process integrates old and new technologies,
with qualities that are an amalgam of both technologies rather than one or the other,
enabling generation of unique images, as well as the production of multiples or a series.
Students were given plenty of scope to fully experiment
with a variety of applications for the process.

Student work: Ashley's books using hand-cut stencils

The students worked with Adobe Illustrator and AutoCAD to create vector files
that would cut shapes right through or etch into the matrix.
Simple laser cut cardboard plates were very versatile – fantastic for embossing and relief printing.
Perspex plates etched quickly at a lower dpi worked the best for intaglio printing.
Higher dpi images had too many ‘dots per inch’
and printed like an over aquatinted plate (the ink did not hold well).

Student work: Olivia's paper cup and inked perspex plate

The first week was experimenting and the next two weeks they were working on their own projects.
They were asked to make up their own individual projects considering consider: 
the viewer, the process, as well as their conceptual concerns.

The students gained ideas from artists and designers
such as Cardboard Safari, Anthony Roussel and Tord Boontje.
Although these artists use laser cutting to produce the final product,
the students also explored printing, and how both the print and the plate could be used.

Student work: Danielle's acrylic piece (white) 
and shadow (black) inspired by a cameo brooch

Student work: Danielle's 'cameo'
translated into fabric

The most revolutionary part of the learning experience was when students asked 
 ‘what will happen if I do this…?’ and the answer was ‘I don’t know, let’s find out’.
Asking questions when they didn’t know the answers became exciting,
and it was liberating for the students to realise there was not one right answer but many.

Students work: Richard's Lamp
with mix of real, printed and laser-cut leaves

A lot of student work is based around an interface with the computer as a tool.
By creating imagery on a laser cutter and then printing with it
the 'mark of the maker' became apparent.
Some students were hesitant to leave the virtual world
but experienced immense satisfaction when they did!

Thanks to Lynn Taylor for allowing me to share this with you NZ Printmakers.
I hope it inspires you to experiment with utilising new technologies
in your printmaking, along with and enhancing traditional processes.
I'm looking forward to experimenting with this myself! Looks fun!!!


Lynn Taylor said…
An abstract relating to work from this unit and aspects of desgin led research in press building has been accepted for the International Arts Symposium in Turkey. Chris and I are currently writing the paper: Phenomenology and Function.