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  • Writer's pictureChiara

Mission Embossing

It takes me several attempts to figure out the necessary steps for an embossed plate. First I try using a small ellipse for the inner soft-ground handprint and a larger one for the border, but printing one over the other ruins the embossing. So, I will need to get all the information onto a single plate.

My next attempt shows up some more issues. Foul bite in the soft-ground areas is a problem. And my normal etching needles are too fine to give me the embossed effect I'm looking for.

The hatched marks I made to mimic the texture of whitework embroidery don't work well. I need wider lines for the hard ground line work and a more consistent soft ground for the handprints.

For the soft-ground I go over my technique carefully:

  • warm the plate,

  • melt the ground,

  • roll it out--quite thick

  • cool it down

  • add more ground while the plate is cooling

  • re-warm the ground on the hotplate to eliminate pinhole faults

  • press in my hand when it is cool enough, but still warm enough to capture the details I want.

For the hard ground I try using a bamboo nib pen.

  • It makes a line a couple of millimetres wide while still feeling easy to control in my hand.

  • When it gets gummed up with ground I can clean it on a piece of fine sandpaper.

  • It is hard enough to mark the hard ground, but soft enough not to bite into the copper.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with it.

To make an embossed image I need to etch the plate for a very long time. This is particularly risky with the soft ground, so I am constantly checking the plate as I etch it. The plates need about 50 minutes in the ferric for a deep etch.

Stopping out the border with liquid ground means I only have to worry about the central area while I etch it. I find a happy medium of a thick enough layer of soft ground to survive the long etch.

I clean off the soft ground and apply hard ground. I need to trace off the floral border and then use my bamboo nib. The hard ground is tough enough to protect the inner area without needing to be reinforced with stop out, but I have to really work the roller into the deep etch in the handprint.

From here it's time to wash off the hard ground and file the edge of the plate before proofing it.

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