I’ve long been told that it’s difficult to print intaglio on unsized handmade paper, so it was time to give it a go.
I always print on quality cotton rag paper, usually 250gsm BFK Rives, so my failures can be expensive and wasteful. Years ago I started recycling these prints by separating the print from the blank surround, shredding, pulping and making new sheets to use – but the process washes away most, if not all, of the internal sizing.
This means I’m unable to soak paper to create good collagraphs or etched prints but I can spritz them with water instead. What I like about my handmade sheets is that they retain the feel of the original commercial BFK Rives; the soft, slightly spongy texture that slips so well into the recesses on collagraph plates, transferring the ink easily. My hope is that my own spritz-dampened paper will mimic my commercial paper results.
I’ve tried this before using an intaglio solar plate. It was well cured before use but the results were a complete disaster.
My handmade paper is essentially created from cotton rag pulp, and pressed before rolling onto a flat surface to dry. It’s the cellulose that, under pressure, binds together to form the sheets when dry. However, in usage, anything tacky it comes in contact with risks the paper surface lifting and sticking, or even just raising the surface ‘hairs’.
The photo-polymer surface of a solar plate holds on to the paper so once you’ve run a print through the etching press and try to remove the paper the surface layer remains behind adhered to the solar plate. Not only is this a disaster for the print but, in my case, I’ve been unable to remove this residue from the plate, necessitating it be thrown away.
Now I’m trying collagraphs, which I prefer over solar print plates anyway. I picked an old but favourite plate, something well varnished with a very slick surface to avoid the paper sticking.
I couldn’t have hoped for better results. The paper easily peeled away from the print base, the ink adhered well and the surface of the paper remains smooth with no lifting.
So that’s a winner. The paper has curled a little while drying but that can easily be resolved.