Welcome to the Bracken Press PRINT-workshop website
Intaglio (etching, drypoint, aquatint)
& block printing & wood engraving
(lino-prints, surface printing) & letterpress
Frequently asked questions.
Q: How does one make an etching?
A: When a plate has been cut to size and made ready for use, its edges should be beveled to a narrow angle for the protection of both the paper and the blankets. The plate (copper, zinc, steel) must be cleaned and all traces of grease removed, this is done using ammonia and chalk, the paste is rubbed evenly over the plate and rinsed in clean water. A 'ground' must now be rolled onto the plate in a smooth layer, this acts as an acid resistant barrier; it consists of asphaltum wax and resin mixed together. The plate is heated , the ground melted onto the surface and rolled to a thin even layer, next the plate must be 'smoked' with a lighted taper to darken the ground and toughen it. The design is drawn through the wax using a needle or other fine point, care being taken not to scratch the plate’s surface. Corrections are achieved by 'stopping out' with liquid ground any unwanted marks. The acid used in etching varies as a different metal is used; the most commonly used being nitric acid, and ferric chloride. The plate is lowered into the acid solution, the depth of bite being timed. A 1 minute bite will show a feint line when printed; plates are often bitten to 10 or even 15 minutes. Variety of line tone is achieved by biting different parts of the design for different lengths of time. Once cleaned the plate is ready for proof printing.
Q: Is it messy?
A: Yes it can be very messy, so some sort of protective clothing is advisable, there are several workshop bibs, very inky, but freely available if you forget to bring something with you.
Q: Is etching dangerous?
A: Naturally whilst using chemicals there are hazards associated with them, so every precaution is used, any fumes are extracted, liquid solutions ( like turps) can be absorbed through the skin. A comprehensive list of all hazards associated with printmaking is available to view.
Q : How many prints can I expect to complete?
A: Most of the past students have completed 10 prints in their edition with several more proofs during the process, as you will be editioning them yourself it really depends on how easily you manage to print the plate. Assistance is on hand throughout the days to minimise any problems.
Q: Do you provide all materials?
A: Yes all the materials you will need to produce an etching will be provided, plate, inks, stopping out varnish. All you need to bring is a sketch or design that you wish to print.
Q: Do you provide accommodation?
A: Sorry no, but there are plenty of guest houses locally offering affordable accommodation. A short list appears , alternatively a web search will reveal more possibilities.
Q: Are there any books available on printmaking?
A: Yes there are many, some are listed and most of them are available to read whilst at Bracken Press print-workshop.
Q: My son wants to compliment his GCSE art folder with something different, like an etching. Could he come and do your course?
A: Yes, the courses are tailored to the individuals needs, in the past we have instructed school age children for exactly the reason you state. All he would need is an sketch / design he wants to print.
Q: My partner would like to come along to watch, is that possible?
A: Yes by all means, the courses cater for a maximum of 3 people at any time, the space available for a visitor/ partner would be limited. However the secluded garden and drawing studio are alternative places where one could sit, with frequent visits to watch the progress.
Q: Refreshments/ food ?
A:- As the courses last from 9.30 - 6.00 p.m. all drinks, tea /coffee are available on a self help basis, lunches are not provided but there is a local shop selling sandwiches/ hot pies etc. There is also a public houses( 3 minute walk away) in the village which serve hot lunches. Also a very good serving lunches etc.
Q: Would it be helpful to read about printmaking before I attend your course?
A: Yes, having an idea of what is involved would be helpful, however your course will proceed gradually through the whole process, step by step. At each stage a fact-sheet will be available for you to keep, and the tutor (Michael) will be with you all day to answer any questions you have.
Q: I'm already familiar with the process but do not have access to a press, do you allow access?
A: Any person who has attended any of the courses at Bracken Press print-workshop is eligible for access time at a reduced daily rate. All consumable materials used from stock would be charged at current prices. Several artists already make use of the workshop to edition their prints.