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A few posts ago, I mentioned that I had started going through dozens of copper and steel plates that I've taken out of storage. Some of them go back to when I first learned printmaking, in the late 1990s. I mistakenly stored some of them in bubble wrap, without ensuring there was a barrier between the bubbles and the plates. When I cleaned off the protective layers of vaseline from these copper plates, I discovered dark, round shapes all over the surface, seemingly from the bubbles in the bubble wrap. I took a fresh proof print from a plate, fearing that the pattern would show up, and thus probably imply that the plate was now unusable. But thankfully, it didn't: the bubbles are purely at the level of plate tone, so it printed like this:

The plate is from 1997, in a series of etchings and aquatints inspired by the Nighttown/Circe chapter of Joyce's Ulysses. I haven't taken a print from the plate in over ten years, so it was particularly pleasing to see how well it printed. I used Akua intaglio inks, which are quite oily, and I think that must have helped. As you can see from the following detail, the ink sank into all the marks, whether hard ground etching, several layers of aquatint and scraping, and lots of drypoint:

I never took a big edition from the plates in this series (ten in all), so the copper hasn't worn down too much. But I think it's a tribute to the Akua inks, too, which I highly recommend to printmakers for their viscosity, high pigment content, and easy clean-up-ability.


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