Printmaking is a method of making art which allows artists to make copies of original designs. In making or "pulling" prints, they cover printing blocks or plates with special ink and press them onto paper or other flat surfaces. The artists just re-ink the plates and repeat the process to make more prints.
There are many different ways to create prints, but engraving is most like the method we'll use. In this type, the artist cuts a design into a metal, wood, or plastic plate with a tool called a graver or burin. Rather than using these materials, however, we can recycle polystyrene trays from the grocery store or supermarket.
Polystyrene is a type of plastic which is commonly used in packaging meat, produce, and baked goods. Using it as an art material helps conserve the natural resources and energy needed to make new art supplies. Not all recycling centers accept polystyrene, so making art with it helps save landfill space, too.
Make the Design:
Apply the ink:
Print the block:
You can combine a print with some other materials to make a greeting card such as the one pictured above.
You can print a message on your greeting card, but you must make the letters in reverse for the words to read correctly on the finished print. An easy way to do this is to draw the picture or design, including the greeting. Then, working at a window, turn the art so it faces out, and trace it. Attach the paper to the block with the backwards letters up, and transfer the lines as described above. When you print the block, the words will be readable and in the correct order.
Reuse a piece of hard or rigid plastic for an inking tray. The material is ideal, because it's smooth and will clean easily. Ask for a scrap at a window replacement company.
It's preferable to use a polystyrene tray from the bakery or produce department, because a meat tray can contain bacteria. If you use a meat tray, be sure to wash it in hot, soapy water before working with it.
Experiment with other colors of ink and different kinds of paper to see how they print. You can get preconsumer waste in the form of end rolls of newsprint from your local newspaper, and try using postconsumer waste such as brown grocery bags, the classified section of the newspaper, gift wrap scraps, and wallpaper from sample books.
When restocking card racks after holidays, the clerks remove the unsold cards and return them to the manufacturer for credit. Usually, the envelopes are thrown away, but sometimes employees will share them with customers. Try to recycle envelopes for your greeting cards. Using envelopes in this way is recycling preconsumer waste.
Watch for these colors after the holidays:
To learn more about printmaking, visit Printmaking Links at the site hosted by Middle Tennessee State University.
© 1998 Marilyn J. Brackney
Volume 13 No. 1
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