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The Oculus Press - Hand Pulled Prints

Hand pulled prints are categorized into intaglio prints, (including etching and aquatint, engraving, drypoint, and mezzotint), serigraphs (silk screens), relief prints, (wood block prints, linoleum prints), planographic prints, (stone and plate lithographs). They are categorized according to how the print is made. An intaglio print holds the ink in the recessed portion of the plate and is printed by pressing the paper deep into the plate through a press. Serigraphs are printed by stenciling through an open mesh cloth. Relief prints print the positive or raised part of the block and can be printed by hand with a wooden spoon or inking baren or can be printed on a press. Planographic prints such as lithographs are truly flat. The ink only sticks to the drawn part of the plate or stone because a thin film of water on the undrawn areas resist the oil based ink. There are techniques which combine different types of printing, for instance, an etching may be inked in relief as well as intaglio and with techniques such as viscosity color inking it is possible to layer different colors at many separate depths in the topography of the plate.

The hand pulled print is a way of hand crafting multiples. For each piece in an edition of hand pulled prints the artisan must first craft a pattern which insures the integrity of the multiples. Often this is the most time consuming part of creating an original print. Etching and engraving and mezzotint is metal work. Plates of metal most often copper or zinc must be textured to hold just the right amount of ink in the recessed areas - the valleys, bumps, nooks and crannies below the surface, and can demonstrate a hand crafted control of metal unsurpassed in any other craft. Other intaglio prints such as collagraphs create the plates from layres of glue and things glued on a surface. A serigraph (also known as silkscreen) is a stenciling method. A serigraph must create a separate pattern for each color or blended color. Stencils can be cut from paper or film and adhered to the cloth or the silkscreen can be worked on directly with stop out solutions or photographic emulsions. The final piece is only complete when the shapes from all the patterns created combine on each of the pieces in the edition. Relief prints such as wood cut prints and linoleum prints are created by carving. Individual carvings must be made for each color or blended color. Like serigraphs, each piece in an edition of block prints is complete only when the shapes of all the carved blocks are printed on each print, by the artisan. Lithography also must prepare a separate stone for each color or blended color. These examples demonstrate that the major mediums of hand pulled prints all create patterns to individually hand craft multiples.

Each piece in a hand pulled edition must go through all stages of the printing process one at a time. In none of these processes can the artisan merely "run them off" like a mimeograph machine. Each time an etching is printed all the inks must be reapplied and hand wiped before the next piece can be created. Each stencil must be printed onto each print in an edition of serigraphs before the next color pattern may be applied. Each block in a block print must be printed and re-inked for all the prints in the edition before the next block can be printed. All the pieces in an edition of stone lithographs also must be created individually. Each hand pulled print is a hand made product. Each is a formal marriage of Art and Craft. Each is considered an original.

There are craft origins of each of these mediums. Etching is metal work, developing from the work of the sword makers and armorers dating back to before the year 1431 when a fellow named Jehan le Begue first wrote a recipe for a solution which would etch iron. The techniques used by these artisans are many of those with which we create our plates today. Between the years of 500 A.D. and 1000 A.D. the Chinese and Japanese developed the stenciling techniques which would lead to modern serigraphy (the connection is where the term silk screen came from). They soon discovered that they could attach their stencils to silk threads to hold floating shapes and allow intricate patterns of great complexity. This lead to being able to attach the stencils to an open mesh cloth in modern serigraphy. Wood block relief prints originated from carved stamps and seals in Egypt, Babylonia, Rome, and China. It was the invention of paper in China in the year 105 A.D. that made it the first place where block prints were actually made. In addition, the invention of paper allowed stone relief carvings to be printed. Lithography originally developed as an etching relief printing process invented by Alois Senefelder in Munich in the 1790's. Between 1796 and 1798 it was realized that rather than etching the stone in relief, merely dampening the stone would allow the ink to stick only to the drawn, unetched areas of the stone. Thus, each of these major print mediums have direct historic connections to the craft mediums which must first be mastered to execute the hand pulled print.