Tuesday, 28 May 2013

ALAW ... at last!

Back in January I posted enthusiastically about my plans for my first ALAW alphabet.  Well, the best laid plans.... but at last I have made progress.  I had a session with the laser cutting studio at college last week, which resulted in two complete alphabets, upper and lower cased from 2mm black/white card.   I used the hand-written font which I created using yourfonts.com who ran a free offer on National Handwriting Day on 23rd January (who knew?).

I had planned to use these cut-out letters in various ways including relief and collagraph printing.  But I realised this might make the completed alphabet seem rather muddled, and - on the basis that simplicity is often the best solution - I decided to blind emboss instead.

I played around with several different approaches and made four complete alphabet sets, just using the lower case letters so far.   I tried both embossing and de-bossing (i.e. where the letter shape is depressed into the paper rather than raised from it) and using different papers.  They are all interesting, but for the purposes of ALAW 2013 I've settled on the set which are embossed into Somerset Smooth 300gm in a slightly creamy white.

Embossing was quick and easy - no inky fingers!  I rather like the results, including the slightly darkened edges of the letter shapes and their individual surrounds.  This comes from the smoky residue from the laser-cutting process, which will wear off after several pressing.  I also like the irregular and wobbly edges of the letters - the result of enlarging my wobbly hand-drawn original script.  This shows especially well on a few - e.g. the lower case b, whose tall upright is wrinkly, like a slipping-down sock.  Or the wonky interior outline  of the letter o, where my pen has overlapped itself at the top.  IN normal writing you don't see these imperfections, but the enlarged scale, and the embossing, exaggerates the wobbles, in what we are so used to seeing as tidy, regular shapes.

The idea with ALAW is that you make and post one letter each week.  But as I'm now so terribly late (it's week 22 already...) I'm catching up with a bumper crop, and will do the rest in orderly weekly posts from now on.

The second rule of ALAW is that one of your two alphabet relates to the theme of Peace.   Blind embossing seems to me to be about silent language, gentle text, whispered words.  Embossing also reminds me of tombstones and memorials, remembering the events of the past and those who have gone.

So these embossed and silent, gentle, tactile letters are my letters for peace.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

ALAW 2013 - Embossing and catching up

At long last, I have found time to think about my ALAW letters.  The first efforts have been sitting on my work-table looking hopefully at me for weeks, while other things have taken precedence.  I am therefore way, way behind, and need to work fast now to catch up with the year's first alphabet: other contributors have been keeping more or less to the one-a-week schedule.

Today I cleared space and made a stab at using the first cut letters for blind embossing - in effect, printing without any ink.  I hadn't done this before, so played around with different types and weights of paper, which I soaked for just a few minutes.  I don't have very many papers to choose from, so tried a couple of cartridge papers, some relatively light-weight Somerset paper, and some heavier drawing paper taken from a commercial sketch pad.   I rolled them through my small etching press.

This was my first attempt, using cartridge paper and the 2mm grey-board letters.  There was an immediate problem with the paper pulling and wrinkling at the edges of the embossed shapes.

These (below) were done using the thinner 1mm card shapes, and on softer paper.  I think I could have got better impressions with slightly greater pressure on the press, but the letters seemed to be floating rather uncomfortably against the background.

I decided to try using the other part of the cut-out shapes, including the square base-plate of each letter, to give a border to the prints.  Once again, I used the thinner 1mm card versions.  I was quite pleased with the results.

The laser cutter burns the card slightly and leaves a sooty residue round the edge.  This came out, a little, on the embossing - the image here shows slight discolouration around the edges of the embossed shapes, which i rather like.

I tried also using the hand-drawn italic letters, which gave a crisper result.  

This was a useful rehearsal for printing a full set of letters.  I will, next week at college, prepare and cut two sets of letters in the thinner card, one from each font.  I will also, if time permits, cut a set of etched letters, but in reverse so I can use those for intaglio printing.

I think a set of blind embossed letters, in either font, will work well, and could also perhaps be my "letters for peace" for ALAW - as in blind embossed = almost invisible = silent = peaceful.

I think these will also look good made up as a simple book,  so will begin thinking about designs.

I know I am still way behind with ALAW, but I feel I've made some proper progress now, and have a realistic plan for getting the letters cut and embossed quite quickly and definitely before the mid-way point of the end of June.