My life changed today. When I first got my Chandler and Price press (a 1909 treadle), I didn't know much about presses. The printing area was 10x15", but it's clam shell press, which means it gives one good smack, and the pressure diffuses across that whole area. So clam shells never print well across their full area. I tried to do a couple of prints on it, was dissatisfied with the results (prints are also much darker than type, which is a large percentage of white space and therefore easier to print), and gave up. I love this press for its ease of use. I can do 500 note cards and other small items easily, but I mentally wrote off doing actual art prints on it.
I finally realized this summer that I have much more experience with it now and could probably get it to do more of what I would like. It inks the prints itself, instead of me hand inking, placing the paper and block together on a diagram to get them straight, carrying both to the proof press, and sliding it across. I can do a dozen prints that way instead of 500.
So lately I've been testing smaller blocks on the press. I started with a 5x7", which worked great when I proofed it (still haven't printed those but will quite soon), and this is a 6x9". I'm going to try an 8x10" next, which is probably about as big as I can go, but still a huge leap for me to be able to do some of my printing in a much less laborious way. I love the carving and creating the image, but the repetitive printing is the least fun for me. Today I did my first block on the C&P and printed an edition of 50 in a couple of hours (including oiling the press, set up, and clean up). Utterly amazing. My prints may be getting a little smaller from here on out...
Here's the proof of the cafe scene I printed today. When the prints dry, I'll be able to scan in a cleaner image that has a background that's whitish, like the paper. This is based on a watercolor done near Montmartre.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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