02 03 The World in Relief: Adventures in the New Language of Chine Collé 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Adventures in the New Language of Chine Collé

I have been toying with some ideas for a few months. I have visions of layering and new materials. Of well, something different. But something too different can be scary or frustrating, so perhaps something somewhat different would be a good place to start. This was the conversation I had with myself this morning. When you work alone, you have to be your own motivator and artistic therapist.

Pine Cone on Rives BFK with Chine Collé.
Indiana University has a terrific Fine Arts Library in a building designed by I. M. Pei. The university allows me to borrow books for a month as a state resident. I recently brought home a book by Brian Shure called Magical Secrets about Chine Collé. Chine collé is a printmaking process where a thin paper is printed on, while being simultaneously (usually) adhered to a stronger paper. It is most commonly used with etchings. It is rarely used with relief printmaking. But I was fascinated by the possibilities...

Shure is the expert on this technique and his book comes with a DVD in which you can watch him do some amazing processes. Amazing, and dreadfully complicated. Etching uses dampened paper, and the chine collé needs this as well. I am simply not set up for wet printing, and frankly didn't want to deal with this. Surely there is another method, I thought.

Ginkgo leaf on Rives BFK with Chine Collé.
An extensive internet search led to some very interesting information, but really no guidance on how to do chine collé with dry paper and a relief block. I've been listening to Seth Godin talks recently, and in one, he advised that at some point you have to close the search windows and just get on with it. So I did.

A quick search of my studio yielded some scraps of thin Asian paper, plus lots of old maps. I had some square four inch blocks that I had created for demonstrations during the past year. The blocks were perfect because much of the block had not been carved away. This is important, because the technique relies on the pressure of the plate (or block) to stick the thin paper to the thick.

I used some leftover green ink to do some tests. I have had trouble in the past using any kind of water-based adhesives on Rives BFK. When gluing down items, the paper immediately rippled. I chose acrylic matte medium as my adhesive. After inking the block and placing it on the press bed, I quickly applied the medium to the back side of the thin Asian paper. The non-gluey side of the Asian paper was then placed on the inky block, and a piece of Rives BFK placed on top of the gluey paper completing the sandwich.

I used only regular pressure, and didn't have any trouble with the printed paper releasing from the block.  One attempt had too much medium, which was forced through the thin paper and stuck to the block. I tried the technique with old maps, but the result was confusing. Thicker handmade papers didn't give me the cohesive look I wanted.

My various experiments with Chine Collé. Some day I will find
a use for these maps!
The best result came from thin cream Asian paper. It was just different enough from the warm white of Rives BFK to give the block printing some depth. Eureka! Something new and different,  but also somewhat familiar. I will have to ask forgiveness from the chine collé purists, or maybe not!

What rules have you broken lately?

P.S. A check on the prints after 24 hours shows that the chine collé is holding well. A trip to my local art store yielded both natural and green Kitikata paper. Perhaps I'll try some gold ink...

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