My kingdom for something flat

The odyssey to expand my printing press began in the amazingly hot Midwestern sun, and has come to completion during a cold spell that has delayed schools. I imagined myself jumping up and down when it was finished, and inside I think I am, but outside I am simply relieved. Here it is…

My new expanded press!

What you see here are the old sides and gearing of the press with new rail extensions on either end to support the 64″ bed. Most of the construction process went without too much trouble — no emergency room visits but some serious bruising — and I did once have to assume the position of a Soviet-era weight lifter to get the top roller into the gearing. My husband did a great job fashioning extensions to support the new bed.

If there was one trouble spot in this whole process, it was the bed. One of the most important criteria for a press bed is that it be flat. And to the naked eye, lots of things appear flat. Our quest for just such a bed involved numerous layers of hardboard, rollers and wood glue, cinderblocks and solid core doors for weight, and a tremendous amount of middle-aged muscle. What we discovered was that each of our two attempts yielded a bed that was not flat. And thus, the obligatory winter dump run…

So in my twenty-first century problem solving mode, I scoured the internet for advice. People recommended something called phenolic resin, but it didn’t come in anything longer that 48″. I corresponded and visited with a plastics supplier, and learned that plastic is not nearly as rigid as we might think.

At this point I had been without my press for a month and was feeling panicked. Miraculously I found an old post from Dean Smith at Graphic Chemical who recommended a composite material called Arboron. Arboron is made of papers impregnated with melamine and phenolic resins and formed under extreme heat and pressure to create a very flat sturdy surface.

The 36″ rollers glide smoothly along my new Arboron press bed.

Google-fingers at the ready, I started searching for a supplier, putting in nearby states as I struck out with my own. I finally found Woodcraft Mfg. Co. in Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Jim and his family kindly let me come for a visit, test the material for flatness and cut a beautiful piece of Arboron for me to take home. They even gave me a great deal, and the visit with the shop Boston Terrier, Scooter, completed the day. The Abroron fits the press like a glove, and it the flattest thing I have come across.

The larger Rives BFK paper (30 x 44″) arrived and I am steeling myself for my first large print. I’ve been doing a small test print to see how the press handles, and how I deal with the new press size. So far so good.

Many thanks to the Indiana Arts Commission for making this adventure possible. Now back to printing…

And now in the news…

One of my goals in expanding my etching press is that I want to be able to create larger images. Right now the widest print I can manage is about 20 inches high. My reasons for the need for size are two-fold. Because my work centers around patterns, the more room the pattern has to repeat, the more effective the print.

Elizabeth Busey, Vernal Paradox. Linoleum Reduction Print, 14 x 28in, 2012.

But I also want to create larger art for larger walls — specifically walls that might be in hospitals, medical centers and places of healing. Being sick is such a tremendously stressful event in a person’s life, and researchers have found that a stimulating, nurturing aesthetic environment can be helpful in the healing process.

I recently had a show in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan Health System in their Gifts of Art program. I had the pleasure of having my art reviewed by Angela Son of Art Animal. Read the entire article here:

I am off to the metal shop to work on the second roller. My goal is to have the press finished by New Year’s Day – and plan a press party for the New Year.

Is it tedious…or meditative?

“That looks tedious!” exclaimed a tall fifty-something man recently as he watched me carve a linoleum block. I was working at Gallery North, the cooperative gallery to which I belong. I find that between visitors I can sometimes get some carving done.  After a deep breath, I smiled and replied, “On a good day, it is meditative.” He harrumphed and finished his browsing.

My newest print at an early stage of carving.

I get asked the question”how long does it take?” all the time. I envy the people who can participate in the “a sketch a day” or “daily painting” rituals. There is simply nothing quick about my work.  Here’s a list of the steps involved in making one of my prints:

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Getting out of your comfort zone keeps you young

Women should all learn how to use power tools.

Getting out of my comfort zone keeps me young. This week I gained a new appreciation for people who fabricate things out of metal. My husband and I have been working on the parts for my expanded etching press.  We purchased new steel rods, about 1-1/2in in diameter, and I learned how to use a lathe to reduce the diameter to about 1-1/4in. Using the lathe is pretty meditative, as you slowly turn a small wheel to guide the point of the lathe along the rod. You know you are doing the best job when the small metal curlicues it removes are very long. But boy they are hot when they hit your arm.

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