Monday, 24 September 2012

sugar lift and ex libris .....

I have had a break from etching for a while and last week, after working in a studio in Brisbane for a couple of days, I remembered why it is that I love printmaking so very much.  I came home from there and re organised my studio so that one side of it is a printmaking studio, one corner is my office and the rest is there for book making etc.

One of my absolute favourite techniques with etching is the sugar lift - or the  'lift ground' process.  In order for this to be effective your copper has to be really clean and free of grease.  The whole process is time consuming and laborious but the marks made are worth the effort.  You then draw your lines on with a sugar or lift compound, wait for it to dry before applying a hard ground and then immerse the plate in boiling water.  The sugar compound dissolves leaving the copper plate exposed and then this can be covered in rosin, heated and baked onto the plate, before the whole thing is 'bitten' in acid.

These photos show what the plate looks like before it is immersed in boiling water  ....... all the speckled lines then dissolve and those areas become your marks. I actually love the photographs with the fluorescent light reflecting on the plate.

The heavy textured lines are those made with sugar lift and then toned by using rosin before placing in the acid.  The finer lines were made by re-grounding the plate and using etching needles.

I love the varying lines in combination.  This plate is the first of many that I am making that will then be printed together in differing arrangements.  I am hoping the next couple of days will see me having time in the studio to work on some more.  Some of the plates will be embossed, some bold with sugar lift marks and others very delicate.

I actually went down to The Studio in Brisbane to work on my ex libris project.  I am one of thirty printmakers who have been asked to produce and print 40 book plates.  These will all then be tipped onto larger sheets of paper and collated into solander boxes.  Each artist then will receive a boxed set and the other 10 boxes will be sold to libraries or other collections.  A fun project and I am looking forward to receiving my box of ex libris designs later this year.

Having ummed and ahhed over a number of different designs, I decided to go with a contemporary look in my design - a small plate using sugar lift technique once again.  At first I thought I would print the plates on Japanese washi paper but have since decided to use a lightweight Magnani paper - Velato Avorio 120gsm which is at the upper limit of the allowed weight of paper for this project.  My book plate will be on the smaller side of our allowance which will compensate for the slightly heavier paper.

These proofs are done on the washi paper but the Magnani will be whiter and more crisp.  The finished plate, though having this design, will look quite different when complete.  I am ordering a professional embossing stamp with my initials which will then be added to the design ........ watch this space and I will post a copy of the book plate once I have printed them.  I must do some other work before I can allow the couple of days I will need to set aside to do the printing.  Yet it must all happen before the middle of October.


  1. Again, I so enjoy seeing your creative process.
    I would love to learn all these techniques.
    I'm going to try and do some of my work today but that will depend on my hands.


  2. Replies
    1. Welcome to my blog Connie and thank you for that positive comment about my prints. it is exciting to be getting back to print making. I will have to visit you in your blog - will go and say hello there now!

  3. Hi Diane - hope you did manage to get some of your own work done today. It is such a joy spending time creatively isn't it!

  4. Gorgeous plates and such wonderful mark making, but what I love most is the color of the ink and how it takes to paper. Look forward to seeing them printed on the Magnani, though i love the soft /dreamy feel of the washi.

    1. Thanks Liz. I do love blending the inks on the plate - best done on a warm day or with the use of a heating plate. I will post a photograph of the completed book plates once they are done - waiting for a special embosser I am having made to arrive.

  5. I too have always loved the marks and lines and such from printmaking.. I took a class once on monoprints.. but the process and techniques are so labor and time intense.. I have decided to become an appreciator instead.. of your work especially.

    1. thank you Donna. You are so right about the intensity and labour of the process in intaglio printing in particular. One would think that this would make the marks very mechanical and laboured and yet the thing I love most is the spontaneity of the marks. Strange.

  6. Hi there Susan I have only just come across your lovely blog - my it does look very smart !! What I am interested in, in particular - is what you used for your 'sugar lift' and did it have some kind of grit of some sort in it as the plates as you say have a lovely speckled character to them ??? Please do respond and let me know as I am doing some sugar lift currently.

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