Book Press Restoration: Round 1

bookbinding, bookmaking, Uncategorized

My antique nipping press has been reeeaaal squeaky lately—it squeals every time I turn the handle, and it’s been bugging me for a while. So I decided to take it apart in hopes that I could oil and clean the moving parts.

Turns out it was filled with grime and rust, which isn’t surprising given how old it is. It looks as though it was repainted at least once during its life, but I can’t tell how long ago—luckily the outside paint has held, so the only rust is on the enclosed pieces.

Now to get it cleaned up and reassembled!

Free Ink Sample!


I’m a creature of habit. I will use the same product for literally years, even if it doesn’t work particularly well, just because I hate change. (Hello, 9 year old Converse sneakers I wear to work every day!)

So I’ve used the same brands of ink forever. I still use the same two pots of Akua Intaglio ink that I bought before I graduated two years ago. But I’m on the market for something new.

Akua is great stuff, but it doesn’t work very well on the lighter papers I like to print on–my last batch of prints on kitakata and mulberry have turned out all greasy, with oil stains that leach out from the ink onto the paper. Caligo’s safe wash oils have been a little bit better, with the added addition of being easier to clean up than other oils (or even Akua’s soy-based ink). And Speedball, though I do use it occasionally, is just… not what I’m looking for. The colors don’t mix well at all, and half the time it dries before I can get it off the block and onto the paper. It works great for teaching art classes or for when I need a really quick drying ink, but for the most part, it just lacks the richness and depth of color I need.

That said, I’ve been reading a lot about Gamblin lately. I’ve never heard a bad thing about this brand, and they have an oil based relief ink I’ve been curious about for a while.

And oh hey, McClain’s Printmaking Supply, the best printmaking supply company ever, was offering free samples of a Gamblin ink recently! It’s a limited edition grey that they apparently make every year with the Pacific Northwest College of Art, which I secretly still long to get my MFA from someday. Here’s the McClain’s description of their Gamblin Watershed Grey ink:

PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art) in Portland, Oregon worked with Gamblin to create a limited edition recycled ink. The mix of recycled pigments is different every year, so Watershed Grey is always unique and never repeated. When it’s gone, it’s gone until the next year’s batch so order soon. This year’s Watershed Grey is a very dark grey.

Guess who was lucky enough to score a sample of this year’s Watershed Grey.

2014-09-12 20.57.20McClain’s doesn’t skimp on their sample sizes, this is a good 4oz of ink. I couldn’t manage to get a decent picture of the ink color in the pot (it just comes out looking black) but I’ll post a photo once I’ve gotten to print with it. Very excited to try it out.

Thanks, McClain’s!


WIP Wednesday: Deer Skull Embroidery

anatomy, art, embroidery, skeleton, work in progress

For the past few months I’ve been working on a new embroidered piece. Here are some progress photos!

Step one: initial sketch.

2015-04-22 21.54.01

Step two: make a photocopy of that sketch and trace it onto some fabric using carbon paper.

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Step three: stick it in an embroidery hoop and get sewing.

2015-04-30 07.46.38

At this point most of the outlining is done, but I still need to get the shading finished.

Printed Embroidery

art, corvallis, embroidery, Prints

A few days ago I made a post about my collection of vintage printing blocks, with a teaser about a new project I used them for.

typecut embroidery.06It’s probably pretty self-explanatory–I used them as embroidery patterns. By taking them through my Challenge proof press with carbon paper, I printed them on unbleached linen, then embroidered the images.

typecut embroidery.04

Printmaking and embroidery are two mediums I don’t often get to combine. Somehow using antique printing blocks as a base for a similarly antiquated medium like embroidery seems kind of right.

typecut embroidery.02These are each in either 3″ or 5″ hoops.

typecut embroidery.03And right now, they’re all available for sale at the Corvallis Art Center’s Art Shop!

typecut embroidery.07Bonus Oregonian tree embroidery:
typecut embroidery.05

Type Cuts

art, corvallis, embroidery, Prints

On the shelf above my workbench there’s a box.

DSC_0602That box contains my collection of type cuts–also known as printing blocks, or letterpress cuts. They’re images etched into wood or lead, meant to be printed alongside letterpress type.

Christy Turner type cut collection

It’s an eclectic mix of images that I’ve hand picked for one reason or another. These are a few of my favorites:

Turner typecut collection.01

Turner typecut collection.02

This one is a simplified line etching of a traditional platen press–the kind of printing press used for traditional letterpress printing.

Turner typecut collection.03

As a Pacific Northwest native, I do love trees.

Turner typecut collection.04

And crabs.

Turner typecut collection.06

By far my strangest cut is this one–it’s about 3″ across, and was presumably used for creating dental records. Can you even imagine something as mundane as dental records being hand printed?

Turner typecut collection.06

But this one is my favorite. Surrounded by intricate images of elk and horses and trees and other oddities, this pointing hand is the jewel of my collection. It looks like metal but it’s not–this is my only wood etched type cut, carved from a single piece of wood rather than from lead (or lead mounted on a wood base).

The hand itself is probably recognizable–this design, called a manicule, has become popular in modern graphic design. They were originally used to draw attention to important text in documents and books dating back to the 12th century, a common form of marginalia on some of the earliest letterpress printed materials.

Given its history and delicate line quality, it’s hard not to love. I mean look at the individual carved lines–so much information in such sparse, elegant detail. This is what you think of when you think traditional woodcut design.

I recently used a few of my favorite cuts for a somewhat eclectic project, which I’ll explain in a later post. For now, here’s a teaser:
typecut embroidery.06

Happy Friday!

Neck Muscle Study, 2015

anatomy, art, corvallis, embroidery, skeleton, work in progress

In the spirit of my New Year’s resolution, I finally finished the muscle study I started way back in October. The original sketch for this stemmed from some neck issues I’d been having, which got me thinking in terms of muscles–a departure from my usual focus on skeletal structure, but just as interesting.

Neck Muscles.05

Neck Muscle Study, 2015

I’m still trying to decide how this will be displayed–either in the hoop, as shown here, or stretched around a wooden frame.

I’ve been both praised and criticized for showing embroidery in the hoop. Personally I don’t think there’s a problem with displaying it in a way that reflects the utilitarian tradition of the medium. That’s half the reason I do it: to connect the artwork to its roots. An embroidery hoop is a simple, elegant item, rife with history, and used in the right context, it can add another layer of meaning to the work it holds. Why shy away from that?
Neck Muscles.01

Love it or hate it, you have to admit that it’s visually striking to see a piece hanging like this: the raw edge of the fabric, the wrinkles, the shape of the whole thing. I’ll probably clean this up a bit before it’s shown anywhere, but if I’m being perfectly honest, I prefer it this way, loose threads and all.

Neck Muscles.04
What about you, fellow embroiderers? How do you hang your work?